Nova Scotia

N.S. beef farmer says federal government's 'complacency' to blame for loan denial

John Bruce applied for the $40,000 under the Canada Emergency Business Account. The federal government set it up to provide interest-free loans for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations. But the local Middleton branch of the Scotiabank reminded him that since he doesn't have a business account he doesn't qualify.

John Bruce applied for $40K loan under the Canada Emergency Business Account

John Bruce is a beef farmer in Middleton, N.S. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

A Nova Scotia beef farmer who's been denied a $40,000 federal aid loan says he's the victim of discrimination because he does business through a personal account.

John Bruce of Middleton applied for the $40,000 under the Canada Emergency Business Account, also known as CEBA. The federal government set it up to provide interest-free loans for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

But the local Scotiabank branch reminded Bruce since he doesn't have a business account, he doesn't qualify.

"They say they have no communication with the Department of Finance on how to proceed to change and accept eligibility from people using personal accounts," he said.

"I sometimes hate to defend a bank, but I think the incompetence or complacency is coming out of Ottawa."

In August, the Finance Department hinted it was sympathetic to small-business owners like Bruce.

An Aug. 31 news release said "the government is working closely with financial institutions to make the CEBA program available to those with qualifying payroll or non-deferrable expenses that have so far been unable to apply due to not operating from a business banking account."

But the department has yet to officially ease the restriction. No one from the department was available for comment Wednesday.

Bruce raises beef cattle on his family farm just outside Middleton. He also grows soybeans, hay and grain. He expects prices for all his crops to be down due to international trade restrictions and a generally depressed demand.

"If cattle prices go in the toilet and I have to keep my feeder cattle, I'll have to buy feed to feed them through the winter.... And hopefully when a period comes that I can then sell the cattle, hopefully it won't be a loss," he said.

Bruce raises beef cattle on his family farm. He also grows soybeans, hay and grain. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

"Our viability and our farm business — any business really — shouldn't be disqualified for funding because of how they do their banking. It should be done off their income tax and should be done off their eligibility. And their viability."

Bruce doesn't have any hired hands on the farm. He runs it with his wife, son and daughters. This summer, due to social-distancing guidelines, Bruce said he was unable to recruit any local help to even get hay in the barn. But he managed anyway.

"I'm always hopeful," he said. "That's part of the addiction of agriculture. You always hope to have a better year. But I am prepared — I'm trying to prepare myself to have a lower than cost return this year on cattle.

"It will put me at a competitive disadvantage with my neighbours, a competitive farm. I mean, we're friends. Most of us in the farming industry know each other and are friends, but we're still competitive."

About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.

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