CFIB and Restaurants Canada issue open letter to Premiers calling for more business support amid Omicron fears

Published December 21, 2021

Toronto, December 21, 2021 – The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and Restaurants Canada issued a joint open letter to all Premiers urging them to provide financial support to small businesses facing renewed lockdowns, restrictions and loss of business in the face of the Omicron variant. The full statement is copied below.

Dear Premiers: 

We are writing to ask for your immediate help. With many public health officials ringing Omicron alarm bells across Canada, many small businesses are, once again, deeply affected. Most provinces have now announced a fresh round of restrictions, on top of the ongoing restrictions like vaccine passport requirements that exist across the country. In addition, the panic that has set in among the public has meant that, even in areas that have not added fresh restrictions, many more consumers are staying home, cancelling reservations and events and doing their shopping online. 

Even before Omicron fears, nearly two-thirds of small firms across Canada have not seen sales return to normal levels. And of this group, nearly a quarter report their business may fail within the next six months. 

The need for significant and immediate financial help is critical. You may have been led to believe that with the passage of Bill C-2, the federal government has renewed the wage and rent subsidy system that has helped tens of thousands of businesses survive the pandemic so far. This is incorrect. The new federal support programs are incredibly limited in scope. CFIB’s pre-Omicron data showed that 80 per cent of small businesses in need of help will no longer qualify. The more generous Tourism and Hospitality Program requires a 40 per cent loss both in the current month and over the past 12 months. And the Hardest Hit Recovery Program for other businesses requires a 50 per cent current and 12 month loss to qualify. Consider the following: 

  • A restaurant that has a 35 per cent revenue decline will now receive zero support from Ottawa. 
  • A retailer with a 45 per cent revenue decline will now receive zero support from Ottawa. 
  • The federal “lockdown” support, which increases the amount of subsidy, is only available to businesses that have much of their operations fully locked down. Those facing a 50 per cent capacity restriction, are ineligible. 

Put frankly, tens of thousands of small firms across Canada will receive no support from governments while government restrictions dramatically reduce their ability to serve customers and public health warnings frighten many consumers into staying home. 

We urge you to ensure public health officials do not heighten the panic and fear among the public. We urge you to reconsider new or existing restrictions. We urge you to lift restrictions at their earliest opportunity. 

But as Omicron panic has now set in and consumers are cancelling travel, events, reservations and shifting purchases once again to large online retailers, more than anything, we urge you to ensure proper support funding is in place to help small businesses survive. We need you to: 

  1. Immediately announce a fresh round of provincial small business grants. 
  2. Urge the federal government to return the wage and rent subsidy to the levels used in the spring of 2021 (available to all firms on a sliding scale as a percentage of their revenue losses to a maximum of 75 per cent). 
  3. Urge the federal government to revise extra “lockdown” supports to ensure they are available to businesses facing significant capacity restrictions. 
  4. Urge the federal government to reopen the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan program with a larger loan, a larger forgivable portion and delayed repayment requirements. 
  5. Urge the federal government to ensure new firms are able to qualify for all programs. 

As rapid action is critical, we urge you to push both privately and publicly for these measures. CFIB and Restaurants Canada stand ready to work with you in the days ahead. 

Sincerely, 

Dan Kelly 
President and CEO 
CFIB 

Todd Barclay
President and CEO
Restaurants Canada 

cc. Finance Ministers, PM Trudeau, DPM Freeland

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB
647-464-2814
public.affairs@cfib.ca 

Roberto Sarjoo, Restaurants Canada
416-649-4213
media@restaurantscanada.org

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 95,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.

About Restaurants Canada
Restaurants Canada is a national, not-for-profit association advancing the potential of Canada’s diverse and dynamic foodservice industry through member programs, research, advocacy, resources and events. Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s foodservice sector was a $95 billion industry, directly employing 1.2 million people, providing Canada’s number one source of first jobs and serving 22 million customers across the country every day. The industry has since lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in sales due to the impacts of COVID-19. Learn more at restaurantscanada.org.

Roberto Sarjoo

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