To our Political Leaders and Decision Makers:

To our Political Leaders and Decision Makers:   As we settle into this new normal of greatly diminished and rapidly disappearing business, it is important to reflect on forgotten financial victims of this unfolding tragedy.  Let us first discuss who is not suffering.   The entire public sector currently employed and pensioned is being paid in full and even benefiting financially, as expenses go down and relative purchasing power goes up through the rapid erosion of asset values and prices. Ironically, one could say that this includes all decision makers and deliverers of news and regulatory requirements.   So, we have the situation that all the financial decisions are being made by the sector who will suffer minimally, if at all.   That is not a judgement with respect to the necessity of certain measures relating to health that have been taken. To be clear, no one is advocating the cutting of pensions or the firing of government workers.   It is a judgement on other measures relating to the private sector that have not been taken.   Here in British Columbia, we have many thousands of employees thrown out of work and having trouble paying their rent.  Fortunately, there is some assistance available that, in most cases, will allow the most basic bills to be paid.   On the other side of the street, for small and medium sized businesses and for landlords, there is a vacuum and a loud sucking noise, as the work of  years and decades in many cases, evaporates.  Tenants are not paying rents. Small landlords (and yes there are thousands of them who own one or two properties and rely on that income for non-government funded pensions and to build a future) are still required to pay property taxes, mortgages and bills. Banks are sometimes, and usually reluctantly, deferring, but not waiving, payments. The piper will have to be paid.  In the commercial world, smaller landlords typically rent to smaller retail tenants. Tenants are bailing and closing the doors. These rents will never be collected. Vacancies are skyrocketing. Many of them will not come back.   For the landlord, the Provincial and Federal governments are doing -- precisely nothing . Or, if you add in the fact that it is now impossible to evict a residential tenant -- one could say that the Province of British Columbia has made a conscious political decision to foist onto landlords a significant part of the cost of Covid-19.  For small businesses, the government has offered a ten percent wage subsidy. That has helped modestly. They have also offered some compensation to laid off workers. That has also helped modestly.  For the business owner who has suffered, and will suffer declines in revenue, the Federal government has provided nothing of substance It is political showmanship.  The government has offered a subsidy of 75 percent of wages for those businesses who suffer a 30 percent loss in revenue.  Most businesses I know with rent and/or debt operate on margins of 5 to 20 percent.  When these businesses lose 10 to 25 percent of their revenue it is not a question of going home and hunkering down and watching Netflix; it is a matter of financial ruin.  The hardest hit sectors, the restaurant and retail businesses, are suffering in many cases 100 percent losses in revenue.  For them, the wage subsidy is completely meaningless. They cannot afford to pay the rent let alone 25 percent of wages for someone who has no place to come to work.  Banks and landlords, in most cases, have personal guarantees.  Deferring rent and  deferring mortgage payments just kicks the can of bankruptcy a little further down the road. The entire financial cost of this pandemic is being borne by the private sector and by certain elements of that private sector disproportionately.  Ironically - I use that word again, as it is more polite than other choices - it is also the same sector that will be asked to repay all the bills that need to be paid.   What should be done?    I don't have all the answers; however, I do believe the burden of this crisis has to be more evenly spread. There needs to be some rent relief and support for businesses that is not reliant on landlord generosity.   There needs to be some property tax relief for commercial properties. Cities, governments and municipalities need to restructure, trim and cut expenses significantly.  Cities should be provided a one-time exemption to borrow funds to subsidize property tax relief for commercial properties provided these cost savings are passed onto rent paying tenants.  Finally, the wage subsidy program should be nuanced.  Businesses losing 30 percent of revenue could qualify for 75 percent of wages covered.  Businesses losing 25 percent of revenue 60 percent and so on.  At the end of this long groundhog day, we all recognize that lives saved are of paramount importance and the government and health care system's response to that aspect has been outstanding.  Notwithstanding, the government also needs to recognize that we cannot allow parts of our society to be financially eviscerated whilst other parts emerge unscathed. Respectfully submitted, Mike     Mike Holmes B.A.LL.BPresident Pemberton Holmes Ltd.Est 1887