This past summer, my NDP colleagues and I worked hard alongside many small businesses, our local chambers of commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses to ask the government to extend the Canada Emergency Benefit Assistance (CEBA) loan repayment deadline for small, struggling businesses.
More than 30,000 small businesses in Canada signed a petition urging the government to extend the deadline and 250 chambers of commerce and other small business organizations wrote to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland directly asking for help.
As the NDP critic for small business, I wrote my own letter, noting 250,000 small businesses could be at risk of closing their doors if the repayment deadline was not extended.
Small businesses have been hit with one thing after another, and they’re still trying to bounce back. So, you can imagine that on Sept. 14, when I first heard extensions would be granted, I thought the government had finally listened to Canadians and granted a much needed one-year extension.
I was excited to call many of the local businesses that had shared their struggles and let them know there was hope on the horizon. I was floored to realize this much-needed extension was a mere 18 days.
So, instead, all I had to share was a half-baked plan that was only designed to push the deadline from the end of December to mid-January, past the busy holiday season. It seemed the government thought a pandemic followed by supply-chain issues, cost of living increases and an inflation crisis meant the mere problem was that small businesses needed a few weeks administrative time to get their repayments in order.
I want to repeat that without a real extension, more than 250,000 small businesses are at risk of not surviving. These are the mom-and-pop stores that sponsor your kids’ sports teams, donate to food banks, kept your family members on the payroll during the pandemic and, in BC, employ more than 43% of workers. They are the backbone of our communities.
So what exactly is CEBA and what is the deal small businesses have been dealt?
Originally, eligible CEBA borrowers had to repay the loan on or before Dec. 31, 2022 to be eligible for the loan forgiveness. That was extended for one year when it was clear businesses were still having a hard time with lingering effects of the COVID shutdowns and rising inflation.
After broad and far-reaching calls to extend the loan’s deadline once again, and the result was less than three weeks, unless businesses forgo the promised loan forgiveness or refinance the loans with their banks. If they don’t meet the 18-day extended deadline, they will lose their promised loan forgiveness and accrue interest on funds owed.
Only 10% have been able to repay their loans. Small businesses in the arts, recreation, hospitality, and social services sectors are most at risk to miss the current CEBA deadline. Without a full-fledged extension—one that maintains the loan forgiveness—the impacts will be devastating for our local economies.
The government must extend the CEBA loan deadline by a year, while maintaining the promised $20,000 loan forgiveness so small businesses can get the relief they need.
Given that the government has done so little to address the skyrocketing costs Canadians are facing, this extension is the least it can do for small businesses.
Only months ago, the Liberals backed up an additional $3 billion in loans to the Trans Mountain pipeline, but 18 days is all it is offering small businesses.
Enough is enough. Summer tourism is over and we need to have these businesses’ backs now more than ever.
I will keep standing up for those who have contributed so much to our country and keep pushing for a real extension on repayment.
Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan–West Kootenay
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.