The Fierce Urgency of Now

A reader of In-Sights, a respected retailer in Vancouver for many years, has been forced to close because of the coronavirus disruption. With permission, I publish the contents of a letter this small business person sent to BC’s Minister of Finance:

Dear Carole:

I hope you and yours are weathering this crisis in good health.

I know you also care deeply about the health and welfare of all the many small businesses here in BC.

There is no time to lose.

Nothing has yet been offered that will help millions of small businesses survive long enough to reopen once the government lifts this isolation directive.

We have been offered more debt. We don’t need more ways to drown.

The loans being offered will just prolong the agony for many, and they will never be able to repay them.

The Big Banks, however, will make out like bandits. They will be bailed out.

All efforts to retain employees, through wage subsidies, and personal rent deferrals will do nothing to help get the economy thriving again if the backbone of our economy, the small businesses, are not still standing after this crisis abates, to provide well paying full and part time jobs.

98% of all business in Canada is driven by small businesses. You’d think that the government would want to try to enable us to get through this to be strong enough to keep going, keep employing people, keep buying products from our suppliers, keep neighbourhoods vibrant and services open, keep paying rent and ALL THAT TAX….PST, GST, payroll tax, corporate tax, personal tax, property tax – and the ever increasing bank fees and credit card fees just to operate.

The wrong questions are being asked.

Who are the essential services to kick start the economy back to health when this crisis has abated?


We are the very backbone of our economy. Without us, there will be millions without jobs, still collection EI, and communities gutted.

The largest fixed costs we have are RENT, and PAYROLL. We need rent relief immediately before more businesses fail.

How on earth are we to ever pay months of deferred back rent, in a stagnant economy?

I wrote the following to Mary Ng and Bill Morneau, in hopes that meaningful financial aid will be immediately implemented before it’s too late.

We live in hope.

After the financial meltdown in the first decade of this century, Palgrave Macmillan published Crisis and Recovery: Ethics, Economics and Justice, a book relevant to today’s crisis. It is described at Goodreads:

The financial crisis is about more than money. It is also about morality, casting an uncomfortable light on the links between the activities of bankers and the wellbeing of society as a whole. The idea that economics is morally neutral or that finance should be above ethical scrutiny deserves to be challenged. The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of the Guardian, bring together a group of distinguished commentators to open up the ethical debate in the search for a fairer vision of economic justice

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum:

The future of humankind in an interconnected and globalized world will be based on the notion of togetherness. This notion is at the base of any recovery and this book provides the principles for how this can be achieved.

I hold that collectively, we learned little from the 2007-2009 global financial crisis. The rich kept getting richer and the poor kept getting poorer.

During times of crisis, the first notion of politicians throughout the developed world is to assist large corporations, the ones that spend many dollars on lobbyists and political contributions and offer revolving doors through which senior civil servants move.

A bias in Canada toward the wealthiest elements in our economy exists despite 90% of jobs being provided by small and medium sized businesses.

Categories: Economics

5 replies »

  1. I have a friend who has a small, no, micro, business. Her rent is just under $1780 per month. On top of that, she has to pay her mortgage, condo fees, property taxes, food, etc. She has some savings, but how long is that going to last under her staggering expenses? The CERB will barely pay the rent on her business shop.


  2. We are a small business, no employees just us. We work to live, if there is no work what do we do? We pay our CPP, Tax, GST, PST, our rent and our groceries. We don’t have a payroll of $50k, where is the help for us? A loan with interest doesn’t help, it just means we have to work twice as hard to live and pay back the a high interest loan.
    Again, where is the help for us Mom & Pop businesses ??


  3. The “Eye” operated a sole proprietorship in downtown Vancouver for over 20 years.

    Too small to hire employees, i do know a thing or two about small business and it is dying fast or going underground because we do not have a level playing field.

    To be blunt, small business is about to become a historical footnote as the Covid-19 is the coup de grace after skyrocketing rents, skyrocketing insurance and the city’s war on cars.

    Politicians are surrounded by big business and union employees and they have lost touch with reality.

    Sad to say, the NDP are no different, kow-towing to their union friends and their utter disdain for business.

    For the past few years, i have been working from home and trade fairs, but those are closed by government order and many will not reopen.

    Because i am very small there is no help at all and luckily my wife is getting the government Covid package.

    My eldest son is working for a small business and the chap is taking no wage trying desperately to keep his crew together, but not for much longer. precious little relief for him as well.

    In an age where empty buses operate to keep bus drivers on full wage, yet seniors are gouged by pharmacists, by paying dispensing fees for their medication monthly, instead of every three month, only shows how out of touch our MP’s (they just got a fat pay rise) and MLA’s are.

    The post covid world, as I see it, is a world of Amazon, big box stores, empty malls and very little independent merchants; oh yes and mass unemployment.

    Memo to Trudeau and Horgan:” Get off you comfy fat asses and personally see how this disaster is destroying small businesses and the lives of those operating and working for them!

    In the small burg where the “Eye” resides, 5 independent businesses (as of Friday) are closing down for good, with over 40 people out of work and really no hope of finding a job.


  4. yes, there truly does seem to be a lot of energy going to the big business thingees and the small businesses, not so much. being a consumer who prefers small businesses, life won’t be the same and neither will the communiites. small businesses make communiities. when local chariites are looking for donations the most generous are the small businesses. they make the events work and assist charities in raising money required in small communiites and large.

    the other group which has been forgotten in all of this are the seniors who have to get by on $12o0 to $1,4o0 a moth. with the new policy of being forced to refill prescriptions every month I personally will see that cost increase from $120 a year to $720 a year. Now I do have a pension, but there are millions who don’t. how are they go get by Seniors can’t get around that easily, many don’t drive and require delivery. that is not going to be free for much longer. Either the feds or the provincial governments need to increase the seniors cheques by $300 a mojnth, in. if its an over payment, they can always claw it back at tax time.

    The government did a lot of good work and did it quickly. I would suggest they go back and fix a few things now, like the small business issues. One of my favorite small business is a shoe store. the owners work their, a family member and I think approx. 4 others. If they go out of business where will thosr other people work? what happens to the vacant store on the main drag. How mahy salons will be out of business. some have rents with $9 a month. they can’t sustain that out fo their personal finances.

    Horgan and Trudeau you’ve done a fairly decent job so far. now go back and fix a few things and that includes passing federal leg. like Australia has which prohibits foreigners from buying up our land, busineses, etc. during this down turn in the economy.


  5. Things must be getting bad at the collection plate.

    Meanwhile, I suspect growing cries (in the US at least) to open up commerce despite the best medical advice and common sense has a great deal to do with self preservation on the part of the corporate and political elite. And not just financially.

    The safety net for laid off workers is a paltry one-time payment of $1200, and even that comes with legislation that authorizes banks to scoop it to satisfy existing debt and reports that 82% of the bailout money goes to those already earning in excess of $1 million per year.

    Long lines at drive-thru food banks, and warnings about supply chain collapse in the food industry are a daily feature of news broadcasts.

    How long before desperate folks in that well-armed country stop lining up at the food bank and start shopping en masse with a 9mm?


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