Few details on $300 million program to support small business

Dec 17, 2020 | 42-1, Blog, Economy, Governance, Question Period, Video | 0 comments

In September the BC NDP announced a $300 million program to support small businesses in British Columbia survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been eight months since the public health and economic crisis began. Small business owners continue to contact me to tell me that the provincial government has been slow to act, and that the tax credits and deferrals are not the type of support they need to keep their doors open. That is why I was hopeful about the $300 million program announced before the election.

However, business owners continue to call to let me know that the government programs are difficult to access with a lot of red tape.

We have been trying to get a basic idea on the success of the program. However, the statistics were not part of Minister of Finance, Hon. Selina Robinson’s fiscal update, and no Cabinet Minister is willing to provide details on the program.

[Transcript]

COVID-19 RESPONSE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

A. Olsen:

As we move into the winter months, B.C. businesses are facing challenges like they’ve never seen before. It’s heartbreaking to see how many family owned businesses, the entrepreneurs, the investors in the communities, are going to be closing their doors permanently. So far, this government, frankly, hasn’t acted quickly enough to throw the lifeline to these businesses. The programs that have been developed have been difficult to access with a lot of red tape, and it’s unclear, the timeline, about when the money will flow.

Today’s fiscal update did not shed any light on the $300 million small business program that this government created back in September. This money is an essential lifeline for businesses and needs to be landing now to have the greatest impact.

My question to the Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, how many businesses have applied? How many have been found eligible and actually gotten out the door to help support small business owners through this winter?

Hon. R. Kahlon:

I want to thank the member for his question. Of course, on this side of the House, we know that it’s a challenging time, not only for small businesses but for people throughout B.C. The member talks about one grant, but I think he has to also acknowledge the host of things that we’ve been doing as a government to support small businesses.

Just recently a survey came out that two-thirds of all businesses in B.C. are functioning right now with supports from government. That’s a significant number. So 95 percent of jobs that we lost during COVID have come back. That’s something that was raised again by the Minister of Finance today in the economic update. And $470 million went to PST rebates. We’ve brought in tax credits for payroll for

So 95 percent of jobs that we lost during COVID have come back. That’s something that was raised again by the Minister of Finance today in the economic update. And $470 million went to PST rebates. We’ve brought in tax credits for payroll for employers that want to either hire new employees or bring employees back. There’s a whole host of others.

I appreciate the member’s question. We also know how difficult of a time it is. We’ve been working for the last two weeks since I’ve been named in this portfolio, with stakeholders, to find ways that more businesses can get access to this program. I appreciate the work of all of these associations with us, and there will be more to come shortly.

Mr. Speaker:

Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.

A. Olsen:

I think what we’re trying to get to with the point of this question is some actual substance. Unfortunately, what we continue to get, and what we’ve got quite often in our responses in this session, is rhetoric.

We’re looking for the numbers. We want to know how much of the $300 million which we in this place have put forward to businesses has got to businesses. We want to know how many businesses have applied. We want to know how successful this program has been. Unfortunately, there was a missed opportunity this morning. The minister just missed another opportunity to highlight the success of this program if, indeed, this program has been successful.

It’s December. This program is now three months old. It’s been eight months since this House authorized the government to spend $1.5 billion. The only report that we’ve seen so far suggests that 500 businesses have applied, meaning that if they got the full subsidy, only $15 million of the $300 million — 5 percent — has actually been allocated. Those are old numbers. We’re just looking for new numbers.

My question, again, is to the Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. When can we expect a full and comprehensive update about how this money that has been earmarked for small businesses has been spent, and when will we know how many businesses have actually been supported for these holidays?

Hon. R. Kahlon:

I’ve already shared with the members that over 1,400 businesses have already come through the door. It’s important to note that the program was set up in a two-stage approach. First stage for these businesses was up to $2,000 for supports for them to build a financial plan for their own recovery, which has been well received by many businesses throughout B.C. The second stage was the financial supports.

The member has to acknowledge the amount of investment we’ve made to support businesses throughout B.C. It’s considerable. I mean, we’ve got $190 million in tax credits for them to bring back employees or hire new employees. A 25 percent property tax cut. That’s significant. Also, 65 percent of rent support from the federal government.

You know, even the restaurants sector. We know they were hurt. We took actions to expediate the patio licences.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker:

Members.

Members, let’s listen to the answer, please.

Hon. R. Kahlon:

It’s difficult to hear all the investments we’re making, but they should hear this. It’s important. It’s important because it’s a responsibility of all of us to make sure that businesses know that these supports are available for them.

We’ve been meeting with stakeholders in various sectors — the associations. They all agree that they’re going to work together to make sure every one of their members knows all the things that are available for them. I encourage all members of this House to reach out to small businesses in their communities, encourage them to apply for these supports. We want to help as many businesses as we can in this province.


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