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Premier Doug Ford announced yesterday in his daily media briefing that the government will be introducing legislature to ban some commercial evictions in Ontario amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement comes after Ford revealed plans for parts of Ontario to enter Stage 2 of reopening and economic recovery this Friday, June 12.
The new legislature will temporarily ban commercial evictions who qualify for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) and "will take effect on evictions on or after June 3rd and last until August 9th," says Ford.
The CECRA program, which was formally launched two weeks ago, offers commercial property owners 75% of rental costs from April through June, allowing tenants to pay only 25% of their usual monthly rent.
However, many landlords have refused to apply for the government rent subsidy simply because they weren't interested, could not afford to bear the losses or because the application process was "too complicated".
“We’re listening to small businesses and have their backs. Preventing landlords who are eligible for CECRA from evicting tenants can encourage landlords to apply for the program and give some temporary relief to businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” says Ford.
Despite the Premier's warnings to "greedy landlords" and commercial tenants to work together, a recent report by the Globe and Mail indicates that only 16,000 landlords of the country's 1.2 million small businesses have agreed to take part in the program -- equating to just about 1.3% of the nation's small businesses. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) suggests that a whopping 40% of Canada's small businesses qualify for the CECRA program.
As we roll into the third month of closures, small businesses across the province have been struggling to meet their rental obligations with revenues having dropped at least 70%.
While the ban is a step in the right direction, many are calling Ford's decision "long overdue" and "too restrictive", as it excludes businesses who are not eligible for CECRA but are in crisis-mode, as well as those who have already been locked out by their landlords prior to June 3.
Nonetheless, the new legislature will hopefully encourage more landlords to participate in the rent subsidy program and protect and support the remaining small businesses who make up the backbone of our communities.