NDP CALLS FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF SMALL BUSINESSES WHO INVESTED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO BE ABLE TO OPERATE DURING THE THIRD WAVE
CALGARY – Alberta’s NDP is calling for immediate support for restaurants and bars, and other small businesses who invested thousands of dollars to follow the previous health orders, and are now being forced to shut down with little warning and no ability to recover the costs.
Businesses speaking to the NDP have said they took assurance in the words of Premier Jason Kenney when he told media at a briefing on April 29 that, “There is not a risk of transmission for a family that goes and eats outdoors distanced from other tables. What concerns us is cases where individuals from outside the same house socialize or who are not identified as close contacts of a single individual might end up socializing at a patio.”
“These establishments had no warning, in fact they took encouragement from the Premier’s remarks that they would be able to keep patios open,” said NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous. “Jason Kenney has continuously overpromised and under-delivered throughout the pandemic.
“He ignored the reality of the third wave and failed to act until it was too late. Now, we have the highest case rate in all of North America and we are shutting restaurants and bars completely as a result. Kenney promised to give these establishments a warning if they were to be closed again. Instead, he gave them false hope and they spent hard-earned money to keep their operations afloat.”
Alberta’s NDP believes closing outdoor patios is necessary, given the rampant spread of COVID-19; but does not believe it’s fair to the restaurants and bars that made investments in patio infrastructure in an attempt to stay open.
As such, the Official Opposition is calling on the UCP Government to:
Reimburse small businesses the bulk of the cost associated with the renovation required for them to operate under the previous public health orders that barred indoor dining but allowed for outdoor dining
Subsidize 75 percent of the cost of renovations and expansion of their business to be in accordance with the previous health restrictions, up to $10,000
Increase the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant (SMERG) to $25,000, up from $10,000 currently
Reinstate the previous payment calculator so that more money will make it to the hands of struggling businesses
Since the UCP announced the additional $10,000 of support back in February, small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19 and additional public health restrictions making the current $10,000 of support inadequate.
“Many of these establishments invested thousands of dollars they do not have, to be able to restore some of their lost revenue,” Bilous said. “Now they are shut again and they’re on the hook for their investment with no additional revenue.
“Let’s be clear as well that the meagre support announced by the UCP previously did not account for the massive closure of establishments that was implemented Tuesday. We need to increase funding support for small businesses. We need to help them cover the bills while they keep their doors closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“In April, when the announcement was made that patios would continue to be an integral part of the recovery, we, like many others, doubled down, made plans, and invested in our space. We have spent thousands in the last month ensuring the space we have will be a draw to customers and we can start to build back up,” said Benjamin Leon, Co-Founder of the Dandy Brewing Company. “Now, just like in December, with the busy summer season around the corner, we are returning to heavy restrictions. We have to lay staff off, and the patio will sit empty just in time to finish paying for the upgrades.”
“The government encouraged restaurants to invest in patios and health and wellness services to rehire staff,” said Annie MacInnis Co-Chair of Alberta BIA Alliance. “Thin profit margins and economic challenges of owning and operating a small business during a prolonged economic downturn were already challenging prior to COVID-19. Now the added cost of investing in outdoor dining and other costs have pushed many to spend money they did not have. The government must do more.”
Deron Bilous also reiterated previous calls for additional small business supports, including a 15 per cent cap on third-party delivery app fees, a reinstatement of the ban on utility shutoff and commercial evictions until the third wave of the pandemic is over, utility payment relief, and a 50 per cent reduction on business insurance.
“We would be willing to work directly with the government to develop and pass the necessary legislation to get these emergency support measures in place for struggling small businesses, but Jason Kenney will have to remove the padlock from the doors of the Legislature,” Bilous said. “We can’t afford to wait.”
NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir also said he’s deeply concerned that the UCP has given a pass to restaurants and bars who have continued to ignore the laws and put the broader community at risk in the process.
“Alberta families and businesses are making huge sacrifices to keep themselves and their communities safe,” Sabir said. “All of this is for nothing if Jason Kenney continues to look the other way while dangerous anti-mask events are being openly organized and publicized.”
“The Kenney government has failed to uphold the rule of law during a deadly public health crisis. By allowing these recent events to proceed, he has only encouraged more of this reckless and unacceptable behaviour. Jason Kenney must act to stop these upcoming events, and prove that his words were not simply another hollow promise.”
A continued list of calls to action to support Alberta workers, families, businesses, students and more by the Official Opposition can be found at https://www.albertasfuture.ca/