PCs Must Shore Up Small Business Finances to Weather Pandemic 

March 26, 2020

WINNIPEG - With the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey showing that one in four Manitoba businesses could be insolvent within the month due to the Covid-19 shutdown, Manitoba Liberals are calling on the Pallister Government to act quickly to ensure that as many businesses as possible weather the pandemic.

The CFIB has called for immediate and significant assistance. The longer the pandemic shutdown lasts, the more businesses will be at risk.

Lamont said the PCs need to treat the economic impact of the Pandemic as seriously as the health impacts and act to limit the effects of widespread job losses as well as business failures. Lamont also said if the PCs can find $200-million to bail out the Investors Group Stadium, they can certainly find the funds necessary to provide Manitoba Businesses with "pandemic insurance."

"It doesn't have to be this way. The right money, invested now, will ensure as many Manitoba small businesses as possible can bounce back when the pandemic shutdown is over," said Lamont.

Liberals are calling for the PCs to Immediately introduce six measures for small business assistance:

1) Tax Postponements and Flexibility

2) Emergency Grants for Businesses Facing Steep Losses

3) Direct Cash Injections Through Share Purchases

4) Buy Products and Services from Small Business

5) Pandemic Insurance

6) Business Transformation funding to help Manitoba businesses produce pandemic supplies

Details are as follows:

1) Tax Postponements and Tax Flexibility for Small Business

We have heard that one of the single greatest challenges facing Manitoba businesses this year is the property tax. If the PCs can ensure that businesses can postpone or stretch their tax payments, it will be significant.

2) Emergency Grants for Businesses Hit Hardest by the Pandemic Shutdown

Immediate cash assistance for companies whose revenue has dropped by more than 40%. These grants will help businesses pay suppliers, rent and employees.

3) Direct Cash Injections for Small Corporations Through Share Purchases

The Government can use the Manitoba Business Development Corporation, a Crown Corporation, to directly invest and buy shares in Manitoba businesses. It's not enough to provide loans, even interest-free loans, to companies who are already struggling with debt.

By buying shares and making an equity investment, instead of a loan, Manitoba companies will get immediate access to funds, while not further saddling businesses with debt. The government can earn a return from dividends, and the owner can buy the shares back at a later date.

4) Government Should Buy Products and Services from Manitoba businesses

Have the Manitoba Government buy and hold products and services from Manitoba companies to be resold later or donated to not-for-profits and those in need during the pandemic.

This will provide Manitoba businesses with immediate and stable revenue over the short term. The Manitoba Government will be able to recoup the costs when the goods and services are auctioned off.

5) Pandemic Insurance for Business Losses

Modelled on farm safety net programs, businesses that have seen a drop in revenue could apply to receive up to 70% of its average income in the previous three years. Only companies registered in Manitoba and with their headquarters in Manitoba are eligible. The Federal government should be approached for cost-sharing the program.

6) Business Transformation Funding: Retooling Manitoba Businesses to Fight the Pandemic

Provide loans, grants and equity to help Manitoba businesses retool to manufacture or provide badly-needed products and services for the pandemic: reagents for testing the Covid-19 virus, masks and ventilators.

Manitoba Liberals are also calling on the province to consult with labour and business groups about changing labour laws that might force layoffs during a pandemic. Other provinces, like Saskatchewan and BC, have moved to change laws to protect workers and businesses.

"Just as with Covid-19 public health measures, the sooner the government acts on the economic damage, the better off we'll all be," said Lamont.



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