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Alberta Retail Hit Hard Amid Oil Decline, Taxes, and Coronavirus Pandemic: Expert

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Time is running out for many small business owners in the retail and food and beverage industries, especially in Alberta where they have been hit with a triple-whammy in recent years.

The first hit came when oil prices collapsed in the latter half of 2014 sending the economy into a tailspin. Almost six years later, Alberta’s economy is still struggling and feeling the negative impact of that oil price decline.

The second hit has been the increasing costs Alberta small businesses have suffered through in recent years including hikes in minimum wage, property taxes, and food costs among other things.

Many Alberta small businesses were on the brink of shutting down before because of those two factors and now the blow to the economy being brought on by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic may be the final nail in the coffin for many of them.

GRACE YAN

“It’s tough. When you add all that up, it’s a struggle already,” said Grace Yan, a commercial real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Mountain Central in Calgary. “The economy in general is in a coma. The longer this takes the less businesses will be able to come back up. These businesses just can’t keep bleeding every month.”

Realistically, how many of these small businesses will not be able to carry on?

“Well just today I believe it’s about 25 per cent that won’t come back up already. Just driving around I’ve seen so many spaces. They’ve left. They’ve just left. All the stuff in there is gone. It’s tough.”

Yan has been very aggressive in social media channels urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make an order to suspend all commercial and residential mortgages, rents, utilities and taxes or “it will continue to be a disaster.”

“The current plan has been inadequate and insufficient. Action to close non-essential services then action for relief and support should happen just as fast. Leaving businesses and people to ‘figure it out’ is completely unacceptable and dysfunctional. Other countries immediately had orders for relief CUT THE RED TAPE – Get it done TODAY for the people – THAT WILL SAVE LIVES!,” is Yan’s message on her social media network.

OIL PUMPS, ALBERTA.

Yan said it’s obvious these businesses are going to need government support to survive.

“Businesses are the lifeline of the economy. Without businesses, people won’t have jobs to go to when this is over. So governments really need to support the businesses and it’s a whole domino effect,” she said. “They need to fast track the money to the businesses because the processes have been too slow. Nobody I know has even obtained this $40,000 relief (loan) even.

“And the relief that’s been given – loans and debt deferrals – that’s not adequate relief. That’s not going to really help businesses. And what’s going to help businesses relief as in true relief – grants. Federal grants with no strings attached. Because I’m hearing a lot of these businesses aren’t even qualifying for this $40,000 loan. That’s not even enough. That’s not enough to help businesses. We need to increase that number to at least $200,000. Payable in 2022. The U.S. has a far superior stimulus package compared to Canada. Far more generous. Fast processing. Businesses already have the money over there. No strings attached.”

Yan said this is what is needed right now in Canada – true relief for businesses or they will just close.

“And then what are we going to do?,” she said.

“The longer this persists there will be less businesses that survive and we need support from the government from all levels. I’ve been very, very vocal about this because it is a domino effect. We need to suspend residential and commercial mortgages, utilities, taxes. So the landlords are getting relief from the banks and they can pass that along to the tenants. Then the whole stress then is flattened because of course landlords can’t pass on relief if they’re not getting relief themselves.

“Who is going to survive this? Ontario is already saying that they’re going to extend their state of emergency for another month. Another month? The economy is on life support. These businesses can’t hang on for another month. We won’t have an economy left.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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1 COMMENT

  1. If only Alberta had an appropriate level of taxation to create a fund from which they could provide that help!

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