Downtown Toronto business owners and associations call for more help from federal parties

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Downtown business owners and associations wonder why federal election candidates aren’t pledging more support for establishments in the heart of Toronto, many of which still struggle to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic .

As the federal campaign draws to a close and election day is set for Monday, some wonder what a new government will mean for businesses in downtown Toronto – and whether there will be any targeted efforts to revitalize the region and support local businesses during the recovery.

Ken Kelly, project manager for the International Downtown Association, says the downtown area is the barometer of a city’s economic, cultural and social well-being.

“Every community is so busy on its main street in its downtown area,” Kelly said. “For this reason, we need our elected officials to pay more attention to how the problems identified in the elections relate directly to our downtown area.”

Kelly said he was surprised he hadn’t heard much about the downtown takeover during the campaign, adding that he would like to see the next federal government work more closely with local businesses to ensure the downtown rebound. city ​​of Toronto.

Food at Thai restaurant Salad King is still slower than usual, despite returning to classes in person, general manager Alan Liu told CBC Toronto.

The restaurant, a short walk from Ryerson University on Yonge Street, has been hit hard by the pandemic. Liu said about 75 percent of the restaurant’s customers are students, office workers, and people visiting the central area.

“There is so much of the unknown because we depend on the people who come to the area to help our business,” Liu said.

About nine percent of downtown office workers returned to work in person, according to data collected by the Strategic Regional Research Alliance (SRRA).

Salad King general manager Alan Liu said about 75% of the restaurant’s customers are students, office workers and people visiting the central area. (Angelina King / CBC)

COVID-19 has seen a dramatic drop in the number of workers in all areas of the downtown area.

At the height of the pandemic, the downtown employment center, which operates at 80% occupancy in “normal times”, operated at only 4% according to the SRRA.

Steps from the restaurant is the country’s busiest intersection, and foot traffic has been cut in half.

In August 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly five million people walked Yonge and Dundas streets, up from 2.9 million in August, according to the Downtown Yonge BIA.

“We want the city center to recover. We really need to speed this up,” Liu said.

“At the rate we’re going, we don’t think we’re going to get the stuff we need back, probably until the spring of next year.”

Salad King opened its second location six months ago on Queen Street West.

Liu said new businesses will receive more federal grants to ensure there are fewer empty storefronts.

How the 3 major parties would support the takeover of the city center

CBC Toronto asked the three major parties what they plan to do to support businesses and downtown revitalization.

The Conservative Party has said it will introduce the Main Street Reconstruction Tax Credit, an incentive that would see a 25 percent tax credit and interest-free loans.

If re-elected, the Liberal Party has pledged to extend Canada’s Stimulus Hiring Program until March 31, 2022, to provide the tourism industry with extended wage and rental assistance of up to 75%.

Meanwhile, the NDP is the only party that wants to maintain COVID-19 business benefits such as the wage subsidy “until the pandemic is truly over,” the party said in a statement to CBC Toronto.

Mark Garner, Yonge BIA’s downtown operations manager, said August is typically the busiest month for Dundas Square.

“The challenge we have is, I have to build consumer and community confidence to bring people back to this destination because without our big drops in tourism, the big festivals and events and the people coming together, these savings won’t come back. not, ”Garner said.

About nine percent of downtown office workers returned to work in person, according to data collected by the Strategic Regional Research Alliance. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

Social inequity is one of the biggest issues affecting downtown establishments, Garner said.

“We need supportive housing for people with mental health problems and addictions. We would like more money from the federal government to be spent on supportive housing, ”he said.

In order to revitalize and reclaim downtown, Garner said work needs to be done to make people feel comfortable coming back to downtown Toronto and to support the small businesses that have been hit the hardest. affected.

“It is incumbent on the federal government during this election to understand the importance of downtowns and to ensure that they invest money in the regions to help revive our economy across Canada.

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