Local MP Elizabeth May would like to see the federal government help local businesses through rent relief and hopes that locals will help pick up the slack from the loss of tourists visiting the region.
“I have been pushing for much better rent relief,” said the Green Party MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. Rent is a significant fixed cost and really affects cash flow, she said, adding that available rent relief funding should go directly to tenants of commercial properties rather than their owners. “So there are ways to do this that could have made more sense,” she said.
While civil servants have worked hard to develop programs, the government’s approach has been piece-meal, she said in calling for additional relief for local businesses, specifically but not exclusively, the tourism and related industry. “Butchart Gardens needs way more support,” she said. “Our tourism operators definitely need more help.”
With various travel restrictions still in place because of COVID-19, local experts have predicted a softer tourism market, a prediction May shares.
“We have to hope that friends and neighbours decide to really support our local businesses,” she said.
Overall, she has received positive feedback from constituents at large when it comes to the overall response of the federal government to the pandemic. This said, blind-spots remain, she added.
“There are still people falling through the cracks, there are still businesses falling through the cracks,” she said. “It’s particularly difficult in the service sector. I’m very concerned about our restaurants. As they are reopening, they have to maintain physical distancing and they lose half their tables. So I’m hoping that a combination of federal, provincial and local decision-making can increase the area that local restaurants have available.
With a federal budget looming, May expects additional help, but also notes that the overall recovery will depend on a number of factors, starting with the medical situation and the state of the U.S. economy.
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