Toronto Mayor John Tory is calling on the provincial and federal governments to extend financial support for the small businesses in the city's downtown facing significant obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We need [those governments] now to extend and enhance the support they have given, especially to smaller businesses," Tory said in a news conference on Thursday.
The mayor sent federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips each a letter saying there is "increasing concern" among business leaders, key sectors, and civic associations about the future of downtown cores across the country.
"While experts expect the downtown to start bouncing back once people feel safer and travel resumes that could be many months away, or even longer for business travel and tourism," Tory wrote.
The number of people coming into the city, whether for work or tourism, has seen a drastic decline as well, Tory noted in both letters. He said about 90 per cent of the 400,000 office workers who would typically come downtown are not doing so anymore. More than 100,000 students and professors are also mostly staying home with the shift to virtual learning.
'If this goes into the spring, it's going to be difficult'
Many of the businesses may not be able to keep their businesses open for much longer, Tory told reporters Thursday.
"They're saying they've held on, they can probably do so for a little longer, but if this goes well into the spring, it's going to be difficult," the mayor said.
"We just can't afford in this city or other cities in this country to have all those businesses go down because otherwise you end up with a lot of papered-over windows for a long time, a lot of jobs lost, and that's bad for the country and its finances."
In his letter to Freeland, the mayor asked for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) to be replaced with a more "simplified" version that is more "accessible."
He also asked for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program to be extended past Dec. 31, and to develop an improved Business Credit Availability (BCAP) for the larger firms in the core.
In his letter to Phillips, the mayor additionally called for a property tax deferral program to be implemented for hotels.
Tory said there is a strong link between a "thriving" downtown core and the province's and country's economic recovery.
"Not only will it preserve jobs and businesses, but it will also put the country in a better position to see its own finances restored faster when the pandemic is over."