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Toronto Mayor John Tory asks feds, province for more financial help

In a statement today, Tory says there is "increasing concern" among business leaders and others about "the future of downtowns in major cities across Canada.". THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

TORONTO — With many businesses continuing to operate at limited capacity, Toronto Mayor John Tory on Thursday called on upper levels of government to provide additional economic support for Canada’s downtowns.

There is “increasing concern” among business leaders and others about “the future of downtowns in major cities across Canada,” Tory said in a statement.

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He asked the federal and provincial governments to take a number of steps to protect businesses — particularly ones facing a slow recovery, such as hotels and restaurants.

“For the first time in memory, Toronto’s downtown is essentially devoid of activity, except for residents,” he said.

In a letter to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Tory asked the Liberal government to launch a review into reviving main streets and downtown cores, as people continue to work from home.

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He also called for the replacement or extension of several federal programs introduced during the pandemic.

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He asked that the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, which provides relief to small businesses experiencing financial issues due to COVID-19, be replaced and given a simpler intake and application process.

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The federal government should also extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy past Dec. 31 and improve the Business Credit Availability Program loan guarantee for larger firms, Tory said.

In a separate letter to Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips, Tory urged the provincial government to support hotels and attractions — and help keep municipal finances afloat — through property tax deferrals.

“Carefully done and targeted, additional investments in businesses now will save jobs, will preserve businesses and will ultimately speed up and strengthen our recovery. That in turn will allow us to fix our public finances faster,” Tory said in a statement.

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A spokesperson for Freeland noted that Ottawa has invested more than $2 billion in municipalities through the Safe Restart Agreement.

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“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government has worked closely with Mayor Tory and the City of Toronto, and we will continue to do so,” press secretary Katherine Cuplinskas said in a statement.

Phillips did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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