VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With stronger “circuit breaker” restrictions now in effect for B.C., local small businesses are pleading for more support to survive the latest round of measures.
The new restrictions ban indoor dining at bars and restaurants and indoor group activity at fitness centres for at least the next three weeks.
As of midnight Monday, Whistler-Blackcomb was also closed and there is a return to restrictions on indoor religious services that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had announced would ease last week.
The tougher restrictions are in response to worries that more infectious variants are driving exponential growth of COVID-19 cases in the province.
There has been an outcry from the restaurant and foodservices industry, warning of lay-offs and possible closures, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling on the B.C. government to balance the clampdown with more more support.
“This is going to have a huge additional negative impact on so many sectors where businesses are already struggling because of many of the restrictions that are already in place,” says Dan Kelly, CFIB president.
“Across British Columbia right now we only have 18 per cent of restaurants that are at their normal staffing levels. Only 12 per cent are at normal revenue levels. There are thousands and thousands of businesses that are simply not going to survive additional restrictions at this late stage,” he tells NEWS 1130.
Kelly does acknowledge the provincial government has “tried to be more reasonable” in allowing more businesses to remain open compared to many other provinces, but he says the targeted restrictions will still hurt.
The CFIB says existing federal and provincial programs have been a life line for many businesses over the past year, but small business debts are growing and the federation would like to see additional measures from governments, including tax deferrals, flexibility in payments, and more access to grants, that do not inflate those debts.
Specifically, the group wants to see the B.C. government reduce the school tax in 2021 so that the average business sees a 25 per cent reduction in their overall property tax bill, as well as give businesses more flexibility to make payments by deferring payments of provincial taxes.
Kelly would also like to see the province put off any new taxes or increases.
“We need to ensure that more businesses are not facing a huge drop in customers and a big tax hike at the very same time. The other thing that needs to happen is that these restrictions need to be reviewed daily and, at the very earliest opportunity, lifted so that B.C. businesses can get back to serving customers,” he explains.
Kelly argues that as the government moves to shut down business in order to protect society, it needs to make sure that it steps up and provides the financial support to keep those businesses alive.
“Many other provinces have expanded their small business grant programs, especially as they’ve had to lengthen some of the restrictions.”