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B.C. government to protect some small businesses from evictions

Commercial property owners will be banned from evicting small business tenants that have lost at least 70% of their revenue during the pandemic
B.C. Finance Minister Carole James | Jeremy Hainsworth

What happened: B.C. small businesses that have lost at least 70% of their revenue during the pandemic will be protected from eviction under a new government order.

Why it matters: Finance Minister Carole James said new measures announced by the province on Monday will close a gap in the federal government's commercial rent assistance program.

Small businesses in B.C. that have suffered significant revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic will be protected from eviction effective June 1.

The provincial government announced Monday new measures to protect small businesses that are eligible for federal commercial rent assistance, but are unable to access that assistance because their landlords won't apply to the program.

"There are certainly some tenants who their landlords have been very clear that they don’t want to bother, they don’t want to take the time to apply for the federal program, and that then hurts the tenant, because the tenant doesn’t have the opportunity to be able to have that relief to help them," said James.

“I expect that it will, I hope, make a difference in encouraging those landlords to apply now that they won’t be able to evict those tenants.”

Under an emergency act order, commercial landlords will be restricted from evicting tenants who have lost at least 70% of their revenue, and are thus eligible for Ottawa's Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which can only be applied to by landlords.

The order will also ban rent repayment lawsuits and the re-possession of goods and property. The order will last as long as Canada's CECRA program is available. CECRA opened for applications last week and is currently available until the end of the month.

“This fills a gap in the federal program," said James, who added that the provincial government has heard many stories of landlords who have applied to the CECRA program, or who are working with their tenants to defer rent or offer rent relief.

Greg Wilson, director of government relations with the Retail Council of Canada, told Business in Vancouver on Sunday that he would like to see the provincial government ban landlords from evicting commercial tenants. B.C. extended eviction protection to residential tenants in March.

Under CECRA, commercial property owners can apply for a forgivable loan to cover 50% of small business tenants' rent payments in April, May and June, provided owners reduce rent owed by tenants by at least 75%. Tenants would pay up to 25% of their regular rent, and landlords would forgive at least 25% of the payment.

In her announcement, James also addressed the province's minimum wage increase, which took effect June 1. 

"We won't have a strong economy in British Columbia if the lowest paid workers continue to struggle and continue to not be able to participate in the economy in British Columbia," she said.

B.C.'s minimum wage is now $14.60 per hour.

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