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Coronavirus: B.C. tourism and hospitality sectors call for freeze on commercial evictions

A Lululemon store with boarded up windows that has been closed due to the coronavirus, is seen in downtown Vancouver, on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
A Lululemon store with boarded up windows that has been closed due to the coronavirus, is seen in downtown Vancouver, on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A coalition of groups representing Metro Vancouver’s tourism and hospitality sectors want to see a freeze on evictions of commercial tenants.

The Metro Vancouver Tourism and Hospitality Response and Recovery Task Force, which is made up of 50 groups in the travel and tourism sector, pitched the concept Thursday.

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B.C.’s tourism industry has been hard hit by the pandemic lockdown, shuttering thousands of restaurants while hotels and other businesses that rely on the postponed cruise season and international visitors have seen revenue dry up.

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“[We] appreciate that all levels of government have worked to address the impact that pandemic containment strategies have had on so many British Columbians,” said Ingrid Jarrett, President and CEO of the BC Hotel Association and Task Force Co-Chair in a media release.

“Unfortunately, many of the initiatives which governments have launched have been inaccessible to most of us in the travel and tourism sector, and the biggest issue for our members — that of immediate-term liquidity — has not been addressed at all.”

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The group points to an initiative by the Australian government which has put a six-month hold on commercial evictions for businesses hit by the downturn.

The Australian program also creates a mandatory code of conduct for landlords and tenants, which includes the requirement to reduce rents, either through waivers or deferrals, in line with businesses revenue declines.

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The Metro Vancouver task force is also calling on the federal government to boost the portion of the Canada Emergency Business Account loan that businesses don’t need to repay, and extend the repayment period for the rest.

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Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal and provincial governments were working on a plan to provide rent payment support for struggling small businesses.

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Asked about the possibility of a commercial eviction ban Thursday, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said she was waiting to see details of the federal rent support plan.

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“We’re awaiting details. I’m feeling very positive that the federal government is looking at this, but obviously we want to see the details and see what kind of support is coming.”

On Thursday, the province also announced a further 25 per cent cut in average property tax for B.C. businesses affected by the downturn.

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