Gilles Bisson MPP Timmins

Government of Ontario

Official Opposition to amend bill to prevent all commercial evictions during COVID-19

Published on June 15, 2020

TIMMINS — Official Opposition House Leader Gilles Bisson says far too many businesses are still at risk of unfair evictions if the Conservatives’ new legislation is passed as written. On Monday, the NDP sent the government two critical amendments it insists must be included.

The bill, as written, only protects businesses who qualify for the federal CECRA, but whose landlords refuse to apply for it – meaning they must have a whopping 70 per cent reduction in income. The bill is also retroactive to just June 3, leaving out all the commercial tenants whose eviction notices arrived between March and June 3.

“Small businesses owners are the engine of our local economies, and we have to save those businesses and those jobs. Right now, they’re being abandoned by Doug Ford and the Conservative government,” said Bisson.  “Instead of banning commercial rent evictions three months ago, and providing direct support to small business, Ford worked to exclude thousands of businesses from relief and protection.

“If the Ford government doesn’t accept our amendments, he will be choosing to let many local businesses fail, through no fault of their own, at a time when the province desperately needs them to succeed to create jobs and rebuild the economy.”

The NDP’s amendments, proposed by letter on Monday, would include all businesses in a legislated moratorium on commercial evictions during the pandemic; and would make that protection retroactive to mid-March.

If the government is willing to make these changes, New Democrats are ready to expedite passage of the legislation as early as Tuesday.

If the government moves ahead with the legislation without changes, New Democrats will insist on an opportunity for the House to consider amending the legislation and address these serious shortcomings, including offering evening and extended debate throughout the week.

“New Democrats won’t stand by and let Doug Ford and the Conservatives get away with hanging thousands of valuable Ontario businesses out to dry. Small businesses are too important to the economic health of our communities, and to the families they employ,” said Bisson. “We’ll do whatever it takes, including sitting around the clock, to convince Doug Ford to do the right thing, and spare businesses hurt by COVID-19 from eviction.”

 

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Background

 

June 13: the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association told the CBC the June 3 retroactivity date for Ontario proposed commercial evictions ban was too late. "It really should be retroactive to March 15," said executive director Kay Matthews. "That's when they stopped making revenue."

June 9: Bar owner Christopher Hudspeth, who owns Pegasus on Church Street in Toronto, says the government’s proposed commercial evictions ban is “ a little late and only for a short period of time … We’d rather see that go to the end of the year to give people the ability to restart.” While not stated in the bill itself, according to media reports the government plans to repeal the ban on August 31.

June 9: Better Way Alliance agrees that the eviction ban should not end arbitrarily in August: “Business is not going to return as quickly as it as we’d want it to,” said co-ordinator Gilleen Pearce. “(The measures) need to take into account not just when the stages of reopening happens, but the number of months that we’ll need to get back into the swing of things, economically and financially.” Better Way Alliance has called for immediate commercial rent relief and a freeze on evictions during the crisis, along with other longer-term measures to protect commercial tenants going forward, including commercial rent control.

May 26: Canadian Chamber of Commerce (Ontario Chamber of Commerce was a co-signatory) sent a letter asking the federal and provincial governments to fix flaws in the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. The biggest flaw is the fact that landlords are not required to participate in the program. The letter also urged: “Put in place a temporary moratorium on commercial evictions at the provincial and territorial level for tenants who were in good standing with their landlords prior to March 1, 2020, until improvements to the CECRA program are implemented.”

May 25: several business groups write a letter to Doug Ford calling for a ban on commercial evictions “for tenants who were in good standing with their landlords prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Signatories include the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, Restaurants Canada and the Retail Council of Canada. The letter also called on the federal and provincial governments to fix flaws in CECRA.

May 22: According to a survey by savesmallbusiness.ca, 38 per cent of small businesses will default on their commercial rent by April 1, and 70 per cent by May 1. On May 22, group founder Jon Shell wrote in Maclean’s that the hope generated by the April 16 announcement of the CECRA had faded because of Doug Ford’s failure to enact a ban on commercial evictions.

April 27: Laura Jones, executive vice-president and chief strategic officer at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says there are three big problems with CECRA: landlords don’t have to participate; the application process is too complicated; and the threshold to be eligible — a 70 per cent drop in revenue — is too high