By MPP Toby Barrett 

Small business is the lifeblood of our economy across Haldimand-Norfolk.  The same applies to virtually all of Ontario. And sadly, small businesses in particular, have been hit hard by COVID19. 

From experiencing a proportionately larger reduction in employment than medium- and large-sized business to near shutdowns, small businesses are facing challenges unseen in generations.

In response, Ontario is strengthening support for small businesses.

We are acting immediately to reduce taxes for job creators and level the playing field by lowering high provincial business property tax rates to 0.88 per cent for over 200,000 properties – or 94 per cent of all business properties in Ontario. This would create $450 million in annual savings in 2021, representing a 30 per cent reduction for many employers.

Further, Ontario is making available additional support for the employers most affected by Covid-19. The government is responding to requests from municipalities by proposing to give municipalities the ability to cut property tax for small businesses and a provincial commitment to consider matching them. This would provide small businesses as much as $385 million in total municipal and provincial property tax relief by 2022-2023, depending on municipal adoption.

The Ontario government is ending a tax on jobs for an additional 30,000 employers by proposing to make the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption permanent. This would save private-sector employers $360 million in 2021-2022 that could be reinvested in jobs and growth. About 90 per cent of employers would pay no EHT with this relief. 

Another tactic is Ontario’s Main Street Recovery Plan, announced in October. This timely plan includes:

• $60 million in one-time grants of up to $1,000 for eligible main street small businesses with fewer than 10 employees to help offset the unexpected costs of personal protective equipment (PPE); 

• Ontario’s Small Business COVID19 Recovery Network, which links 47 Small Business Enterprise Centres across the province as places where small businesses can access tailored advice and information on local, provincial and federal programs; 

• Digital Main Street Squads to help small businesses grow online by providing one-on-one help with digital assessments, website creation, social media advertising and e-commerce platforms; 

• Ontario is helping small businesses connect through the Digital Main Street platform: a $57 million program to help up to 22,900 Ontario businesses create and improve their online presence and generate jobs for more than 1,400 students;

• Ontario’s Small Business Recovery Webpage to provide single window access to small business supports.  

The plan also announced regulatory and legislative changes through the Main Street Recovery Act, 2020 that will remove obstacles faced by small businesses and allow them to track new opportunities. Some examples are further exploring ways to allow restaurants and bars to include take-out or delivery for alcohol with food and supporting the distribution of local food and food products by increasing the assortment of products sold at the Ontario Food Terminal.

As part of the Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID19, the Government announced five months of interest and penalty relief for Ontario businesses that missed tax payments or had late or incomplete payments, or that missed filing deadlines under 10 provincially administered tax programs, starting April 1.

 Small business needs the Ontario Government to listen and we have. We’ll continue to do so as we work through this unprecedented time.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk