As Ontario prepares for lockdown easing, businesses call for help

CFIB is urging the provincial government to extend grants for small businesses

As Ontario prepares for lockdown easing, businesses call for help
Steve Randall

A cautious reopening of more of Ontario’s economy will take place this week but it may not be enough for struggling businesses desperate for recovery.

After the lengthy restrictions on lives and businesses, there are fears that allowing more freedom from July 16 will not stop some businesses from drowning in debts that have built up during the pandemic.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) is calling on the provincial government to extend its Ontario Small Business Support Grant to help those that have been impacted but have not been eligible for previous iterations of the program. These include dry cleaners and restaurant suppliers.

CFIB says that businesses have accumulated an average $200,000 of debt during the pandemic and that not enough support was provided during the longer than expected third-wave lockdown. The economy is not set to fully reopen until early August.

Business confidence

While things look bleak for many businesses, a survey of businesses from sole traders through to large firms shows that spending intentions are rising.

The American Express Canada survey has revealed small signs of renewed confidence in the 2021 economic outlook.

Business travel, entertainment, and expense spending all increased in the first quarter of 2021, but businesses only predict a 0.1% year-over-year rise in the second quarter.

"Canadian businesses have plans to grow in 2021, and that is going to boost the health of the Canadian and global economies," said Paul Roman, VP & general manager, global commercial payments at American Express. "While it is important to recognize that the operating landscape has changed dramatically, overall spending levels suggest that recovery is evident for businesses."

Technology, driven by automation, is one of the key focuses for business spending intentions.

Over the next 12 months, Canadian businesses in the survey cited remaining competitive (36%), increasing profitability (34%) and securing new business (34%) as being among their three most important goals.

"The future for Canadian businesses is looking brighter and the resilience of these business owners continues to amaze us here at American Express", said Roman. "The past year has certainly presented unforeseeable challenges, but the tenacity and strength felt among Canadian business owners is truly inspiring."