Saskatchewan small business advocate sounds economic alarm over COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Small business advocate sounds economic alarm over COVID-19'
Small business advocate sounds economic alarm over COVID-19
WATCH: The CFIB is calling for a wage subsidy of 75 per cent, in some cases, for small businesses – Mar 24, 2020

The Canadian Federation of Business called the economic effects of COVID-19 a disaster and said the federal government needs to do more to prevent it from getting worse.

“Many small business will be forced to make additional layoff decisions in the next couple of days,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, the CFIB vice-president for the prairies and agri-business, on the phone from Regina.

According to CFIB survey of approximately 11,000 businesses, nearly one-third of business owners say they can’t survive more than a month with things as they are during the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey also shows that the average cost of the outbreak for a business owner is $136,000.

Story continues below advertisement

“At this rate,” said Braun-Pollon, “the only way to prevent massive additional unemployment is for the federal government to introduce a much larger wage subsidy program.”

Last week, the federal government introduced an $82-billion financial aid package for the Canadian economy. On Wednesday, it received Royal Assent.

The aid package includes expanded employment insurance and benefits for workers and employers and a wage subsidy for small businesses up to 10 per cent.

“The idea is to make sure that nobody is forgotten, that nobody slips through the cracks in the system,” economic development minister Melanie Joly told Global News on Tuesday.

“We’re Canada [and] we believe in the importance of having strong social programs. We believe also in having a strong public health care system,” she said, adding that changes had been made to the Canada Child Benefit plan and that tax payments had been deferred.

She also said the Business Development Bank of Canada was prepared to give more loans.

Story continues below advertisement

Braun-Pollon said the CFIB welcomes the plan as a first step but calls for more money to be spent helping businesses retain employees rather than supporting those laid off.

In a statement the CFIB called for a plan where the federal government covered 75 per cent of wages for all employers, up to $5,000 per worker per month, and that self-employed people and small business owners be included.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

The proposal mirrors a plan being implemented in Denmark, where the government would spend as much at 13 per cent of the country’s GDP to pay for 75 per cent of some workers’ salaries.

Kevin Waugh, leader of the Conservative prairie caucus, said he didn’t agree with a number that high but did say he wanted the amount increased.

Story continues below advertisement

“We know workers cannot survive on 10 per cent of their wages,” he said, adding that we was calling for a portion of GST that companies paid to be refunded.

Joly said the government would continue to take other measures as the need arises and would ensure Canadians have access to other forms of support.

And she will substantial powers to that end, at least for a few months. The aid package included a clause that allows ministers to spend any amount of money they deem necessary in a public health emergency until September 30.

— With files from Mercedes Stephenson, Amanda Connolly and David Lao.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

Story continues below advertisement

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Sponsored content