July 3, 2020

Winnipeg
25° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

WEATHER ALERT

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Small business struggles with virus closures

Federal wage subsidy increase welcome

People walk along the Clear Lake Marina pier in Wasagaming on a sunny day. Spring break is usually a great time to visit the town but the pandemic is having a crippling effect on hospitality businesses there and across the province. (Tim Smith / Brandon Sun files)</p>

People walk along the Clear Lake Marina pier in Wasagaming on a sunny day. Spring break is usually a great time to visit the town but the pandemic is having a crippling effect on hospitality businesses there and across the province. (Tim Smith / Brandon Sun files)

The Free Press has made this story available free of charge so everyone can access trusted information on the coronavirus.

Support this work and subscribe today

Spring break is usually a great time to visit the town of Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park.

The 15 rooms at the Lakehouse would be full and so would another 33 rooms at the Arrowhead. Karly McRae, who co-owns the two hotels with her husband Jason Potter and their partners, Mike and Julie Collyer, can’t say that in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a crippling effect on their small business empire, which also includes Danceland, a Wasagaming institution. McRae and her partners shuttered their buildings on March 19, six days before Parks Canada officially closed the park to all traffic.

With no guests, McRae and her partners were forced to lay off their entire winter staff of 22. In summer, their workforce usually increases to more than 90.

"It’s been brutal to have to lay off that many people that we were close with and work with every day and care about a lot," said McRae via phone Saturday afternoon. "That’s been tough for sure... It’s normally a really busy time. We’re losing a ton of money, right now, as many other people are now."

McRae isn’t alone.

READY TO SERVE

Click to Expand

In a bid to help restaurants, mom-and-pop shops and other local companies hurting during these trying times, the Free Press has launched a new service to help our community connect with companies still open for business.

In partnership with Bold Commerce, the Free Press is hosting the listing service buylocal.ly on our site. This free directory enables businesses still operating to provide details on how to order and what pick-up and delivery options are available.

We encourage businesses who are still operating in any capacity to use this new service to reach customers — and we encourage our readers to use this directory to shop local, eat local and buy local.

Visit wfp.to/buylocally to get started.

In a survey conducted between March 20 and 25 by the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, 80 per cent of the province’s small- to medium-sized companies (those up to 50 employees) were reporting significant financial impact. A further three out of 10 small companies (those with between one and 10 employees) feel the pandemic could put them out of business.

"The hospitality businesses are being hit so hard just simply because it’s impossible to operate safely with the physical distancing recommendations that are in place right now," said McRae. "Every business in Wasagaming would fall into that category because, in addition to how hard the entire tourism industry is being hit, we’re also controlled in a sense by what Parks Canada ends up doing.

"So, when we have a complete closure of Parks Canada sites, we can’t even (do) like other restaurants — offer take-out service and take-home meals."

Was chamber president and CEO Chuck Davidson surprised by the poll results?

"No, not shocked at all because I’ve been having these discussions with businesses for the past week about really that uncertainty that’s out there," said Davidson. "And talking to so many small businesses that are fearful in terms of how they get through this. It is a huge challenge. It’s not just a Winnipeg thing, this is throughout the province and that’s what the survey results showed."

Recently unveiled federal subsidies should help, Davidson added. Breaks for businesses from provincial and municipal governments could be next.

"Announcements like what happened yesterday with the federal government in regards to looking at a federal wage subsidy of almost 75 per cent will have a significant impact on a lot of these small business owners," he said. "Part of the challenge is they have zero revenues coming in. There’s no way you can pay your employees and so a lot of them have been forced to lay off their employees. So the reality with this subsidy and help them potentially do is to weather the storm."

McRae is hopeful but has concerns. Parks Canada has suggested a May 1 reopening date but there are no guarantees.

"If we start accessing the 75 per cent subsidy, well 75 per cent of zero payroll is zero — it doesn’t do much to help us," said McRae. "What I’m hoping they announce we can start to access it as of May 1 or June 1 and that would have a real benefit if we’re able to open up at that time."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us