At the recent Stittsville Business Association virtual call with several Stittsville business owners participating, Goldie Gharmari, MPP for Carleton and Pierre Poilievre, MP for Carleton, responded to a multitude of concerns and questions pertaining to the recently announced federal and provincial supports available during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wesley Smith was the call moderator and started by posing the question of how the Conservative’s would approach the reopening of the country safely. The reopening of Canada is under provincial jurisdiction. Poilievre, in his response, said he is concerned that the federal programs in place to support workers should not ensnare people financially when returning to work, however, he does support the safety net programs currently in place. He also expressed the need for more COVID testing needs to be completed and that a focus should be put on the long-term homes.
Gharmari stated that released guidelines to reopen would be a roadmap for businesses. She added that Premier Ford shares the frustration of business owners with the closures, but is concerned that a second wave may occur. Gharmari indicated that people should visit the provincial website on COVID-19 to learn of the best practices published there and the themes are also posted on her website. She added that the provincial and federal governments have collaborated on the rent relief program for small businesses and encouraged the owners to apply to receive this financial assistance.
The Stittsville business owners are concerned for the health of their customers and staff upon reopening. PPE is in short supply and the testing numbers for COVID are not meeting targets. Goldie responded that the province is not relying on international companies to provide the PPE and are continuously sourcing the equipment from Ontario companies while acquiring approvals for the new PPE more quickly. She said to follow the best practices and continue the regime of physical distancing, washing hands and staying at home. She asked everyone to respect the directive.
Pierre cited the countries where there have been successes in tackling the COVID-19 — Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore — and that Canada should learn from their success through lock-down, avoiding events, and tracing back COVID patients to the people they have been in contact with to perform further testing. Common sense and self-isolation are the key factors he said.
The wage subsidy and CEBA programs in place by the federal government were discussed. With an end time frame of June, how can businesses be assured that the new norm is not filing for bankruptcy? Both Poilievre and Gharmari outlined in detail the detailed intricacies of each program. They did say that there are pitfalls. Smith noted that anomalies exist and revisions would have to be made.
Concerns were expressed on the opening of our local community garden and how can it be sanitized — must be based on science not politics — said Phil Sweetnam. Home builders are experiencing a difficult time as they deal with the fact that new home buyers can’t get mortgages. Goldie said that the applicant’s credit rating should not be affected by the refusal – the loans are based on debt load and payment histories of the purchaser. People who have received government funding are finding that due to their enrollment in programs, their income is not being accurately reflected when applying for a loan and home builders can foreclose on the new home being purchased.
Questions arose regarding banks and are they doing enough and should airlines be forced to provide refunds? Pierre indicated that the banks are doing very well during this pandemic. That the quarterly mortgages provided by CMHC are being purchased from the banks. He said banks should be more generous, but did allow that the banks have been quick in getting the programs in place quickly to allow for Canadians to receive the government funds being offered. Poilievre went on to say that airlines should have a condition on refunds because of the taxpayer support (government bailouts) that each will be receiving.
There undoubtedly will be businesses that fail during this time of COVID-19 due to debt load absorbed, the lack of customers due to lockdowns, savings drying up, credit cards and bank accounts drained to keep the business afloat, but with stimulus programs from the private sector and not government alone, there will be successes.
Community support is integral to the success of any local business — something important to keep in mind upon Stittsville’s reopening. Before you go to those big box stores, support local and shop local – we have everything we need right here in our own community!