Provincial landlords are in the hot seat again after Premier Doug Ford called them out for not doing enough to support small business tenants amid the COVID pandemic.
During his daily COVID briefing at Queen's Park on Wednesday, Premier Ford once again threatened action against commercial landlords — who he has previously referred to as "greedy" — for refusing to participate in federal rent relief measures.
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which is a multi-level partnership between the Ontario and federal government, offers eligible commercial property owners 75 % of what they would normally collect for rent from their tenants.
Since the program opened for applications last week, the Globe and Mail reported that just 16,000 landlords of the country's 1.2 million small businesses have agreed to take part in the program.
"They opened it up last Tuesday so it's been a week right now. I've asked, I've begged the landlords to work with the tenants," said Ford during his briefing. "These are struggling businesses. These are small family-run businesses in a lot of cases and they are hurting right now."
"They are just refusing to do it. Well, what they are doing is they are testing me and that is going to be the wrong thing to do."
Ford said he'll give it a few more days before the government acts. "You'll get what you ask for," warned Ford — though the premier did not give specifics on what action he might take.
"All the landlords out there, you want to play hardball, we'll play hardball then because I'm going to protect the little guy. I'm going to protect the little businesses out there that are struggling," he said.
Through the CECRA program, the Ontario government is committing $241 million, which will provide more than $900 million in support for small businesses across the province during the pandemic.
The CECRA for small businesses, which is administered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), provides forgivable loans to eligible commercial landlords to help cover 50% of commercial rent for tenants for the months of April, May, and June 2020. The tenant will be responsible for covering up to 25% of the rent so that up to 75% of the rent is covered.
To receive the loan, eligible commercial landlords will be required to enter into a rent reduction agreement with their impacted small business tenants for April to June 2020, which includes committing to a moratorium on evictions for three months.