Sixty per cent of Canada’s hardest hit businesses will not survive to the end of the year if the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) supports are not renewed beyond their June 5 deadline.
This is according to a March survey released by the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses, an industry-driven group of more than 100 stakeholders representing a variety of sectors, including tourism, travel, arts and culture, events and festivals, accommodation and hospitality.
“Our businesses were the first hit by the pandemic, the hardest hit by closures and will be the last to recover,” says Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. “With extended support, we can thrive and survive. Without it, Canada’s tourism, culture and hospitality industries will be devastated for a generation.”
Based on the survey results of more than 1,700 respondents from across the country, the coalition is formally appealing to the federal government to provide certainty and announce an extension of the CEWS and CERS programs to the end of the year in its 2021 budget.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is scheduled to deliver the federal budget on April 19.
“For businesses that find their recovery impaired by the lingering effects of mass gathering bans and other public health policies, the CEWS and CERS programs will be a lifeline,” says Susie Grynol, president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada. “Their continuation would make the difference between a vibrant tourism and cultural industry in Canada, and a breakdown of the critical infrastructure that supports the travel and tourism sector.”
Before COVID-19, hard hit businesses that make up the coalition employed more than 2 million Canadians, which equates to approximately one in every 10 jobs. The membership is primarily Canadian-owned small or medium-sized businesses providing significant employment while living in the local community. Employees are predominantly women, young people, Indigenous and new Canadians — populations whose employment has been particularly impacted by the pandemic.
“We hope that by summer we will see an easing of restrictions and a modest return of leisure travel. However, the decisions to cancel conventions for this fall have already been made and business travel will not recover in the short-term,” says Potter. “Where the recovery is quick, these businesses will not qualify for government support. But if there are protracted restrictions from COVID, we will need to know this support is there.”
The coalition also stressed that efforts to safely stimulate domestic tourism, lower interprovincial travel barriers and reopen international borders are critically important. But such measures must be accompanied by critical support programs to ensure that highly affected sectors can bridge to the other side.