The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce has penned a letter to the prime minister, premier, minister of finance and minister of middle class prosperity to ask for greater supports to help businesses survive in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the provincial and federal governments have announced measures to help Canadians financially – such as the deferral of taxes, help for renters and an expansion of employment insurance – the Chamber says these measures are not enough to ensure the survival of businesses.
“We are adding our voices to the many across the country saying it is important to help businesses rapidly reduce costs so they can continue to exist, and then recover from the drastic stoppage of economic activity due to government measures to control COVID-19,” the letter says.
The Chamber letter says businesses need help retaining staff and that current measures to enhance employment insurance are an incentive to lay off staff instead so they can access these payments. Instead, the Chamber suggests “higher levels of subsidy for wages to employers affected by the COVID-19 measures so they can continue to employ as many workers as possible.”
Reducing “federal and provincial business tax costs of all kinds rather than just deferring payments” is also “critical,” according to the letter, in order to avoid debt and pushing bankruptcy and closure to a later date.
Financial support for business owners to pay their rent or support commercial property owners to pass along rent reductions is another ask from the Chamber, which says “rent is the second-highest cost for most small businesses.”
The final point in the letter touches on the loss of an entire tourism season in the region, which the Chamber says means the loss of majority of the year’s revenue for businesses that depend on tourism.
“We need a very generous emergency recovery fund to provide financing to these companies at no interest and with a long payback period as it will take them years to recover,” the letter says.
The letter was signed by Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce chief executive Catherine Holt, Destination Greater Victoria chief executive Paul Nursey and Downtown Victoria Business Association executive director Jeff Bray.