Local groups urge temporary commercial eviction ban
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/06/2020 (1094 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As other provinces implement temporary bans on some commercial evictions, local business groups are urging Manitoba’s provincial government to do the same.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that small businesses eligible for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program won’t face eviction until at least Aug. 31. Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C., Quebec and Nova Scotia have implemented similar plans.
“We cannot continue to deliberate and wait for relief to come in two months down the road (from the provincial government),” said Shaun Jeffrey, the executive director of the Manitoba Restaurants & Foodservices Association. “We need the province’s help now.”
On May 27, a letter was sent to Premier Brian Pallister from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the Retail Council of Canada, Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservices Association, and Restaurants Canada calling for a moratorium on commercial evictions through September. A similar letter was sent to Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s premiers, and those governments announced moratoriums last week.
“Thus far in Manitoba, we have only received confirmation that the letter has been received, and they are actively working on the issue,” said John Graham, the retail council’s director of government relations for the Prairie region. “It’s been discouragingly slow, however, we hope to finally hear something in the next few days regarding what actions the government is considering to support Manitoba retailers, restaurants and other tenants facing threat of eviction to COVID-19-related reasons.”
The CECRA program was launched last month by the federal government as a means of additional rent relief for tenants who’d seen revenues drop by 70 per cent or more owing to the pandemic. Successful applicants are then required to pay 25 per cent of their rent for the three-month period of April through June, with landlords receiving 50 per cent of the rent through loans.
However, the program’s application process is designed for landlords to apply rather than tenants, and the uptake has been slow, said Jonathan Alward, the prairie director for the CFIB. The Globe and Mail reported that only 16,000 applications were filed during the program’s first week, and Alward said many landlords and tenants have been confused by its terms and conditions, including whether they qualify at all.
Plus, he said the 70 per cent figure was proscriptive, and some tenants worry their landlords won’t apply.
Although provinces including Manitoba are moving forward with reopening efforts, Alward said many businesses are still operating at a loss, and CFIB estimates as many as 12 per cent of businesses nationally and 10 per cent in Manitoba are considering declaring bankruptcy or closing down.
In Manitoba, some small businesses and restaurants have already announced permanent closures, and Jeffrey said it’s an open secret that many more could see a similar fate without further protections. Alward said the CECRA program has imperfections for both tenants and landlords, which makes the provinces filling in the gaps all the more important.
Karl Littler, the senior vice-president of public affairs for the retail council, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the Manitoba government will follow other provinces’ leads. He said there are examples of landlords who’ve worked with their tenants to apply for CECRA relief, but some others have treated the situation like “ostriches with their heads in the sand.”
Littler said there’s been a tendency for some landlords to look at short-term economic gains as opposed to those that come with keeping current tenants in their buildings, even while eating some costs on a short-term basis. “The supposition that there’s another tenant waiting to knock on their door is unreasonable at this stage,” he said.
While CECRA still hasn’t had much time to take effect, Littler said it’s fair to say many provinces are moving forward with commercial eviction bans because they’ve noticed the program’s shortfalls and heard the concerns of the business community.
“Two weeks in, I think the provincial governments are getting the picture,” he said.
Jeffrey said he hopes similar protections are announced in Manitoba soon. “To not have any relief (like that) is extremely disheartening,” he said. “Our provincial government has to step up and fill in these gaps.”
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.