The Ontario provincial government has announced a decision to temporarily freeze and reverse evictions for commercial tenants during COVID-19. The legislation, called the Protecting Small Businesses Act, applies to businesses that are eligible for federal or provincial rent assistance, and covers evictions retroactively from May 1, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2020. It passed on Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2020.
“We know COVID-19 has had a significant impact on small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “This legislation will allow us to protect small businesses and help them get back on their feet so they can continue to create jobs and participate in the rebuilding of the provincial economy.”
Kingston and the Islands NDP MPP Ian Arthur said the legislation doesn’t go far enough. He addressed Premier Doug Ford and Clark during question period on Wednesday.
“The government’s eviction ban is too late, and follows far too short of a time-frame,” he said, noting the ban should apply right back to the very beginning of the crisis. “Landlords are simply back-dating their eviction notices for the day before it’s supposed to take effect,” he said.
“Businesses in my riding continue to feel the impact of COVID-19. It’s going to last through the summer. They’re losing a tourist season. The students are not coming back to Queen’s, they’re not coming back to St. Lawrence and they’re not coming back to RMC. These businesses need on-going supports and this eviction ban will not be enough.”
Minister Clark responded that Ontario’s eviction ban is in line with legislation across the country, including NDP-led British Columbia, he said. However, British Columbia’s response includes a rent relief program of up to $500 per month paid directly to landlords.
“Landlords and tenants alike are frustrated with this government’s failure to provide direct rent supports, and with the Premier’s rather short-lived view that tough-talk was enough to pay commercial rent,” Arthur said.