By Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Catherine Holt
Things are changing daily in these unprecedented times. We know we’ll get back to normal at the end of this pandemic and one critical factor will be how much governments have stepped up to financially support businesses to allow them to recover quickly and make up for lost revenue.
To support businesses during these difficult times, The Chamber, Destination Greater Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Premier and their two finance ministers on March 16. We asked for all levels of government to provide immediate relief for businesses suffering economic consequences due to the public health measures instituted by government to combat COVID 19.
Specifically, we asked all governments to not charge late-filing penalties and instalment interest on balances owing to government from today until COVID-19 is under control. Additionally, we requested that Canada provide immediate access to interest-free loans to business through the Business Development Bank of Canada.
The loans are a key part of the federal government’s plan to help businesses get through financial shortfalls. Details are still being ironed out, including what, if any, interest will be charged.
Many businesses are struggling to survive the profound loss of revenue caused by requirements for social isolation and restrictions placed on travel.
Governments can also help businesses facing financial uncertainty and severe cash-flow reduction by being flexible regarding the timing of, and consequences for, payment of taxes.
For the federal government, this includes payroll instalments, GST and corporate income taxes. Payroll being the most onerous of these.
For British Columbia, this includes Employer Health Tax, PST and WCB premiums. We also ask the province to remove the requirement for BC municipalities to charge 10 percent on the late payment of property taxes.
The world is facing an extreme situation, and businesses are being asked to carry the economic burden. I encourage everyone to proactively help by continuing to support businesses in your community — order locally – not through Amazon -and purchase gift certificates that provide cash flow now, while it’s critically needed.
We will get through this and I have no doubt our economy will fully recover. But it will take time and we’re still waiting to see what course COVID 19 will take in this country.
Until we know, please heed the direction of our health officers. Protect your mental health by going outside, getting physical exercise and avoiding the misinformation and hysteria cluttering the facts. Stay safe and let’s all do our part to protect the most vulnerable among us.