Premier Doug Ford stood up – or at least spoke up – for small businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic this week by giving "greedy" commercial landlords who've failed to help their tenants with rent a stern warning.
"Don't force my hand," said Ford during his daily COVID briefing at Queen's Park on Tuesday.
While addressing the media, Ford expressed his frustration about learning that many landlords are choosing to not help their tenants with rent by refusing to participate in the federal government's commercial rent relief program, OCECRA, which offers property owners 75% of the rent they would regularly receive from their tenant.
The program, which has been developed to share the cost between small business tenants and landlords, will see small business tenants and landlords each being asked to pay 25% of the tenant's total rent (gross monthly rent payable under a lease agreement) and the provincial and federal government would cost-share the remaining 50%.
Ford said he will “see how the landlords react” and assess the situation when the federal government launches the rent relief program next week. The premier reminded landlords, this isn't going to be forever, "it is going to be for a few months.” “Help people out. You have an obligation to do that as a landlord.”
“Don't force my hand. Work things out because I'm trying to compromise here. We are giving you 75% of what you're asking for,” Ford said.
“Nothing drives me more crazy than greedy landlords taking advantage of people and small business owners that are just trying to keep their head above water.”
But while the premier has already suspended residential evictions during the pandemic, he has yet to put a stop to commercial evictions.
Since physical distancing measures were implemented, many small businesses have been forced to close, while others fear they'll have to shut their doors permanently in the months to come.
A recent survey of hundreds of small businesses throughout Toronto found that 61% or nearly two-thirds of them may be forced to close their doors for good in the next three months as they struggle to stay afloat in a sea of amounting bills and incurred expenses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I'm trying to be fair but don't push me. [If] these big landlords want to take advantage of small, little companies and people that are struggling, I'm going to come down on them like they have never seen before.”
Yet as more businesses struggle to stay open, Ford still has yet to do anything to put a stop to it. And while his statements on Tuesday were bold, they won't mean much to the many small businesses currently suffering through the pandemic unless he follows through with action.