Green Party MLA Megan Mitton says recent business closures in Sackville show that small businesses need better government supports as they try to cope with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a telephone interview with Warktimes, Mitton referred to the closing of the Black Duck Café as well as the Thunder and Lightning pub, but said she has also heard from other businesses that are struggling.
“Some of the main concerns that they have are being able to afford rent and payroll,” she added.
“I was excited at first when I heard that the federal government was going to have a rent relief program,” she said, adding that she has since found that the program is inadequate.
“Many small businesses have told me they’re not able to take advantage of some of the programs that are supposed to be able to help them.”
Mitton said she worries that there will be a wave of evictions after May 31 when the mandatory order prohibiting them expires.
“I’m concerned that on June 1st, we’re going to see residential and commercial evictions and so we need government to act as soon as possible and urgently to help support people in these difficult times.”
Other Green proposals
Mitton discussed other proposals outlined in a Green Party news release including grants similar to ones offered in Prince Edward Island that would help small businesses get advice from consultants on how to adapt and recover from COVID-19 restrictions.
“I am concerned about what our region’s going to look like, what our downtown might look like, if we don’t put in place [more] supports for these business owners,” she said.
Other Green proposals for small business include property tax forgiveness and a commercial retrofit program to reduce energy costs.
Border with Nova Scotia
Meantime, Mitton said that she and Nova Scotia MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin held a meeting yesterday with members of the business community to discuss how to ease restrictions for people who need to cross the provincial border more easily for commerce and trade.
She also mentioned farmers who need to cross between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as well as members of non-profit groups.
Jonathan McClelland, CEO of the Cumberland Business Connector has suggested that the areas around Sackville and Port Elgin should be allowed to form a business bubble with Amherst and other towns on the Nova Scotia side of the border.
Mitton seems sympathetic to the idea, but says she isn’t sure what that would look like.
“What I’m really working on, in the meantime, is to make sure that the rules at the border are clear and consistent,” she says.
“One of the main things I’m hearing is that people are arriving at the border and hearing different things and it might even depend on the day,” she said.
“I also think that we could figure out some creative solutions to be able to work across the border.”