In My Opinion: When it comes to helping small businesses the time has come to start taking action

Beaches-East York Councillor writes about the supports small businesses need now and in the future in his In My Opinion column.



When April 16th came around we started to hear about the first small business evictions taking place.

The Shore Leave on the Danforth become a GTA lightening rod for discussion after pictures of the landlord’s notice were put on social media.

I’m going to miss the Shore Leave. Like so many of you, I’ve spent time there with friends and family. I have fond memories and personal relationships with that place.

Losing a local favourite is always painful – no matter how, when or why it happens.

Business is really tough on our main streets at the best of times – including for the good landlords.

In the middle of a crisis, for too many it will be impossible to survive. We need to take decisive action. Small business is too big to fail.

Since COVID-19 hit, I’ve been spoking with hundreds of businesses across the City of Toronto and presented an eight-page report to the Mayor’s Economic Support & Recovery Task Force.

Based on the clear feedback that rent and mortgage payments were the biggest challenge, I called on the Premier to stop evictions for small businesses.

A lot of what I heard was familiar from the incredible amount of advocacy that our community has been doing over the years on the vacant storefront issue.

Many of you have been involved my Strong Main Streets initiative and supporting my work to investigate a vacant storefront tax at City Hall back in February.

Now is the time to drive transformation on the other side of this pandemic – it’s not a time for denial, but a time for actions.

Go back to the perennial policy problems, like our commercial tax system, and fix them.

Grow jobs by simplifying our city processes. Lower the barriers for young entrepreneurs to invest in our communities.

We need to stop describing the problem – we need to go from analysis to action.

This pandemic is an opportunity for that.

In the coming days and weeks we need to take all of those discussions about investing in beautification, working with the Province of Ontario to stop assessing mom and pops as condos, and looking at our own City of Toronto property tax bands for commercial properties so we can tip the scale to help local business so main street isn’t taxed at the same rate as the glass towers on Bay Street.

The first phase of our COVID-19 response has been about saving lives.

The second phase will be about saving livelihoods.

This situation is a classic example where the risk of doing too little is greater than the risk of doing too much.

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