Small Businesses during COVID-19: Need for Federal Support Program

Typically in November, I take the opportunity in this column to commemorate Remembrance Day and honour those who served and sacrificed to protect and preserve Canada’s sovereignty. I welcome the occasion to recognize the contributions our men and women in uniform have made, either in wartime or as peacekeepers furthering our contribution to peace, stability and the advancement of human rights at home and throughout the world. It is also a time to highlight how we as Canadians must honour those who died so that we may be free, by actively defending the democratic principles and societal values that we have chosen to define us as Canadians.

Therefore, this November, I wanted to share the challenges small businesses are facing during this pandemic and the lack of an open and transparent democratic review of Canada’s federal COVID 19 response.

Oct 19-25 was small business week. This year, even before COVID 19, my team and I received significantly more concerns from small business owners in our community and across the country. We then decided to conduct a survey of small business owners to determine if the concerns that we had received directly were shared more widely. Anecdotally, we found that since COVID 19 over 73% of small businesses are struggling or in decline, with 58% showing that their revenues have significantly decreased. Small businesses are critical to the economic success of all of our communities. These statistics are startling and indicate why federal support programs during this health crisis are important.

However, many small business owners, while grateful for the federal government support programs, have stated that the programs have fallen short and failed to provide the support they urgently needed. With 40% of respondents highlighting that the government programs were very helpful or helpful, while 33% didn’t’ qualify for any support. Consistently, small businesses have indicated that they feel that the way the government support programs have been structured and applied doesn’t always appear logical and “fair”.

Furthermore, our survey indicated that for over 84% of respondents the future outlook is not positive, with 40% responding they don’t know where their business will be in 6 months, and 44% believing their businesses will either be closed or significantly scaled back. Finally, almost 40% of respondents are not confident that their businesses will survive without further government support.

Addressing the pandemic is a marathon not a sprint, and even when the health crisis is over it is likely that federal support programs will be required for a longer period to achieve economic recovery. It is essential that these future support programs are the right ones and achieve what is required. This is impossible without reviewing and understanding the effectiveness of existing programs. However, the Liberal government has frustrated all attempts to conduct any review, from filibustering at committees, to refusing to provide documents, to invoking national security exemptions for items that have never previously been categorized in this way.

The opposition in an attempt to break through this information brick wall tabled a motion to create a special House of Commons “anti-corruption” committee to study Canada’s COVID 19 response. While the title of the committee may have been inappropriate the intent was sound. A special House of Commons committee would have been an effective forum to conduct an integrated and detailed review of the $160B COVID 19 response. The Liberals and NDP voted against the motion. There will be no committee and therefore, it would seem, no comprehensive review.

Hastily implemented federal support and emergency response programs must now give way to thoughtful and intelligent program design and management as we endure and ultimately emerge from this pandemic. An in-depth, open and transparent analysis of the COVID 19 support programs, followed by a robust discussion and debate on how these programs should be restructured is critical. Only then can we ensure that the almost 40% of small businesses receive the support they need to survive and the entire country is positioned to recover and thrive in the future.

It is what Canadians expect of their government. It is what I, as your Member of Parliament for Aurora—Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, am committed to do.

As always, my team and I are here to help and can be reached by email at Leona.Alleslev@parl.gc.ca or by phone at 905-773-8358. To review the complete survey results, visit my website at LeonaAlleslevMP.ca

Originally published in the Auroran Newspaper