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Posthaste: Small firms have piled on $117B in new debt, but struggling to recover as staff prefer to stay on CERB – Financial Post

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Good morning!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this month that the federal government took o debt so Canadians don’t have to. But companies are taking on debt anyway.

According to a new survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, three quarters of small businesses have taken on debt due to COVID-19. And as many as 68 per cent of those with debt think it will take more than a year to pay off.

“Government debt has ballooned and so too has the private debt taken on by small businesses to deal with COVID-19,” Laura Jones, executive vice-president at CFIB, said in a press release. “I’ve talked to many businesses that are open again, but are worried about being able to outrun the debt they have accumulated, particularly with sales still down. Recovery is going to be a slow slog and both governments’ and customers’ support is critical to make it happen.”

Small businesses across the country have incurred average debt of around $135,000.

“Based on these survey results and after adjustments to reflect the entire economy, CFIB estimates that the total debt taken on so far by Canadian small businesses as a result of COVID-19 is $117 billion,” the business association said in a note published Wednesday.

For the most part, Ottawa and the provincial governments have been lauded for their robust response to the pandemic. Programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy have kept many families and companies afloat.

But the reopening and recuperation phase remains patchy and unclear across the country.

A separate CFIB survey on small business shows businesses are finding it difficult to rehire staff with only a third of small firms reporting that they are at normal staffing levels, and one quarter having a hard time finding the staff they need to operate.

“Staffing is one of the many challenges for small businesses trying to get back to normal,” CFIB president Dan Kelly in a press release. “More than a quarter (27 per cent) of small firms report that some of their laid-off staff have refused to return to work when recalled.”

According to small business owners, as many as 62 per cent of workers said they would prefer to stay on CERB, 47 per cent are concerned about their and their family’s physical health, and just over a quarter are concerned about childcare obligations. Around 16 per cent feel there are not enough hours or work available, and seven per cent are wary of taking public transportation.

“It is clear that CERB has created a disincentive to return to work for some staff, especially in industries like hospitality and personal services,” Kelly said. “CERB was created as emergency support for workers who had lost their job due to the pandemic, not to fund a summer break. This is why it is critical that all parties support the government’s proposed change to end CERB benefits when an employer asks a worker to return to work.”

In June, Ottawa said CERB will continue to pay out $500 a week for another eight weeks, or till September. The $500-a-week benefit had, as of July 5, paid out around $54.8 billion to 8.25 million people.

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Association calls for Halifax restaurants and bars to close amid COVID-19 spread – CBC.ca

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The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia is calling for all restaurants and bars in Halifax to close to dine-in customers for at least the next two weeks because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in the area.

Gordon Stewart, executive director of RANS, said the association’s board of directors held an emergency meeting Monday night and decided unanimously to make the closure recommendation to its members and to Public Health.

Restaurants and bars have been a significant site of COVID-19 transmission in Nova Scotia over the past two weeks, and Stewart said consumer confidence has been “wiped out.”

“It really has hurt. Business has taken a sharp decline. But it’s more than that — it’s that we’re scared that the spread gets so bad that we end up like some of the western provinces right now,” Stewart told CBC’s Information Morning, referring to Manitoba and Alberta, which are experiencing overwhelming coronavirus surges. 

Stewart said he’ll leave it to the provincial government to decide what geographical area to shut down, based on the current epidemiology. But he expects it to encompass downtown Halifax, which has been the epicentre of the province’s current outbreak of the coronavirus.

Public Health has not yet endorsed the RANS recommendation. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil are scheduled to hold a COVID-19 briefing at 3 p.m. today.  

Stewart said the closure recommendation is focused on “full-service” restaurants. He said he supports restaurants in hotels staying open for hotel guests only, and coffee shops staying open for take-out. 

The recommendations are not meant for the rest of the province, outside HRM.

Stewart said closing will bring “a lot of repercussions for operators” but he expects it to be effective in slowing the spread of the second wave of COVID-19.

“It’s really not about the economy now. It’s really about the health and the long-term outlook of our communities,” Stewart said.

Over the past few days, many Halifax-area restaurants and bars have already decided to close — some as a precaution and others because of possible COVID-19 exposures on the premises.

Brendan Doherty, co-owner of the Old Triangle Irish alehouse, says a government-mandated shut-down would help his business, and others, access additional rent relief from Ottawa. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Among them is The Old Triangle, where owners closed voluntarily on Monday, only to learn a few hours later that they were in fact the site of a possible exposure.

“Honestly I think it’s the right move,” said Old Triangle co-owner Brendan Doherty of the RANS recommendation.

“We are at a bit of a tipping point so it does make sense to take at least two weeks … to just kind of get reset and get back to where we’ve been.”

“We’ve been very fortunate [inside the Atlantic bubble] … and it’d be nice to go back to that as soon as possible.”

Doherty said a government-mandated shut-down would help his business, and others, because it would allow them to access additional rent relief through federal programs.

“It’s all about cost-saving during a shut down, and rent is the biggest cost we do incur.”

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Will 'postal code discrimination' with Brampton and Mississauga auto insurance end? – Brampton Guardian

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Will ‘postal code discrimination’ with Brampton and Mississauga auto insurance end?  Brampton Guardian



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Many support P.E.I.'s decision to suspend Atlantic bubble – CBC.ca

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Many Islanders reacted to news of P.E.I. opting out of the Atlantic bubble by sharing the sentiments of Premier Dennis King — it’s unfortunate but necessary.

King announced that as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, non-essential travel in and out of P.E.I. would not be permitted, though he did allow for some flexibility for people rushing to get home.

Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker of the Green Party tweeted his support for the premier’s decision. 

“I was glad to hear that P.E.I. is temporarily leaving the Atlantic bubble to protect Islanders’ health,” he said.

Penny Walsh-McGuire, CEO of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, said she encourages Islanders to take the opportunity to shop local this holiday season.

This temporary closure of the P.E.I. border is a layer of precaution that will allow our business community to continue to operate and to avoid entering the full lockdown situations we see in other parts of Canada.— Penny Walsh-McGuire

“While it is unfortunate that we are moving towards further restrictions, the chamber supports the decision to keep Islanders safe and businesses open, especially as case numbers rise across the country,” she said in a release.

“This temporary closure of the P.E.I. border is a layer of precaution that will allow our business community to continue to operate and to avoid entering the full lockdown situations we see in other parts of Canada.”

Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard says the province made the right decision to protect P.E.I. residents and help stop the spread of the virus. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard said she and many in the Mi’kmaq community travel between the provinces to visit family and friends, but credited King and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison making the “prudent” decision in the interest of all Island residents.

“I understand the second wave is coming and I think we’re all seeing it across the country and right now P.E.I. is the place to be, right, so we have to try to stay here and shop here and keep things going here in our province,” she said.

“We all know, when we move, that little bug moves, so we have to stop its movement.”

Testing on Lennox Island

Bernard said she and a number of others were tested at a temporary COVID-19 clinic set up Friday on Lennox Island after cases began to spread in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. She said all those tests came back negative.

“We do travel quite a bit between our communities, to Big Cove and places like that, because our families are very close and that’s why we had the testing done on Lennox, too, because we had people coming in from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia areas and we were travelling outside of the province as well just getting ready for Christmas and all those kinds of things.”

Here’s what some had to say about P.E.I. opting out of the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 7 0:58

Some people CBC P.E.I. spoke with in Charlottetown also supported the new travel restrictions.

Holland College student Lilly Warner said she is disappointed because it could mean she won’t be able to spend the holidays with family in Halifax, but thinks it is best for public safety.

Dylan Echlin, who is from Toronto but lives in Charlottetown, said he knew it would be unrealistic to think he would be able to visit family over the holidays due to cases in Ontario. 

“It’s something they needed to do for sure just because of the impact of what’s going on in the rest of the world and how many cases are evolving with Moncton and Halifax.”

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