Government silence speaks volumes says NWT Chamber of Commerce
Chamber calls out territory for not responding to eviction moratorium request
The NWT Chamber of Commerce says supporting small businesses is a low priority for the territorial government, if its response to a call for a halt to evictions of commercial tenants is any indication.
The chamber was referring to a May 1 letter chambers of commerce from across Canada sent to premiers of the respective provinces and territories calling for the moratorium. The letter said businesses were in critical need of relief because their revenues have been choked off by COVID-19 closures and widespread shutdowns, and financial support from federal programs had yet to materialize.
In a followup letter addressed to Premier Caroline Cochrane on Thursday, the N.W.T. chamber said it had yet to receive a response or even acknowledgement the letter had been received.
"This lack of action or commentary by the [Northwest Territories government] has spoken volumes to the business community in the N.W.T.," reads the letter, which was signed by the chamber's executive director Renée Comeau and president Jenni Bruce.
'We're hoping to hear something'
In an interview Thursday, Bruce said some businesses will likely not make it through COVID-19's widespread economic shutdowns.
"Some are really going to struggle. They went from full revenue to a full stop, no revenue, and being told they couldn't open their doors," Bruce said.
"We still have not really heard a timeline on when we can start rebuilding. We're hoping to hear something this weekend with positive news."
Bruce said the chamber recognizes that landlords have expenses to pay too. She said they are looking for a solution that works for everyone. She said she has not heard of any attempts in the N.W.T. to evict businesses, though she has heard that is occurring in other parts of the country.
As part of a package of measures for economic relief announced March 20, the government said it was going to form an economic advisory group to give it input on measures "to help identify the economic impacts of the pandemic; represent the business community; and ensure that the items most critical to local economies and jobs are targeted for medium and long-term government support."
The panel has yet to meet. Bruce said Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Katrina Nokleby apologized for the delay getting the advisory group up and running during an appearance at the chamber's annual general meeting on Thursday.
"The committee is now fully established and we expect to start meetings as early as next week," Bruce said, who co-chairs the group.