British Columbia

New business owners who don't qualify for COVID-19 aid petition Ottawa for help

Hospitality businesses that did not earn revenue in 2019 are not eligible for federal government support and hundreds have signed a petition saying they should be included in support programs because they have non-reversable financial commitments.

Businesses that didn't earn revenue in 2019 aren't eligible for federal pandemic subsidies

There are 934 signatures on a petition to the federal government to provide financial support to Canadian business owners who opened their business in 2020 and are therefore not eligible for COVID-19 assistance programs. (Shutterstock / Tirachard Kumtanom)

Small-business owners in B.C. who opened their doors for the first time in 2020 — thereby making them ineligible for COVID-19 government support — are petitioning the federal government to help them keep those doors open.

Over 900 people across Canada, including 659 from B.C., have signed an online petition asking Ottawa to support new hospitality businesses that are excluded from the emergency wage, rent subsidy and emergency business loan programs because they did not earn revenue in 2019.

Signatories are arguing that the programs should be adjusted to include businesses that can prove they had non-reversible commitments to a project.

These commitments include having signed a long-term lease, or having invested or re-invested more than $100,000 in the business before June 2020.

Bear and Joey owner Peter Wood (second from left) says a lack of government support, combined with COVID-19 regulations that reduced seating capacity, has made trying to keep financially afloat like 'fighting with our hands tied behind our backs' and he would like Ottawa to step in with aid. (Facebook/bearandjoeycafe)

Peter Wood, owner of the the Victoria brunch cafe Bear and Joey, said he has had to reduce staff hours and let some employees go altogether because he simply can't afford to keep them on the payroll.

The business, which opened in May 2020, is operating at what he says is about 40 per cent of its potential because of reduced seating capacity.

The lack of government support is "a really tough pill to swallow," said Wood on CBC's All Points West.

The petition was started by Scarlet Osborne, owner of El Segundo restaurant in Sechelt, B.C., and has been certified by West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country Liberal MP Patrick Weiler.

As of March 1, according to its status online, the petition has yet to be tabled in the House of Commons.

Wood said he's spoken to a number of provincial and federal ministers and is cautiously optimistic help may be on the way.

"I think something will come of it, we just don't know when," he said.

According to CHEK News, Bear and Joey was closed temporarily in September after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

LISTEN | Victoria restaurateur Peter Wood on petitioning Ottawa for policy change:

The popular Victoria brunch cafe, Bear and Joey, may look like it's doing well during the pandemic but being a newer business means it doesn't qualify for vital government small business supports. Owner Peter Wood talks about the impact of the exclusions from federal and provincial aid programs. 6:50

With files from All Points West

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