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B.C. Greens stop in Whistler to unveil new supports for tourism, small business

Green Party BC leader Sonia Furstenau proposes rent subsidy program for small businesses, repayable loan program for major tourism operators
Green Party of B.C. leader Sonia Furstenau speaks in Whistler on Wednesday, Oct. 7. Photo by Megan Lalonde

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau on Wednesday released her party’s plan to support tourism operators and small businesses as the province continues to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furstenau made the announcement during a campaign stop in Whistler, where the negative effects of the pandemic and resulting border closures have hit tourism operators and small businesses hard.

The B.C. Greens’ proposed supports for these sectors include an allocation of $300 million in order to create a six-month rent subsidy program for small businesses.

Furstenau said the Greens would cover 25 per cent of rental costs for qualifying businesses. Those included in the program would be limited to $50,000 in monthly rent costs, while the Greens say simple, accessible criteria would be developed to support access to the program. These funds would go directly to businesses, rather than requiring landlords’ involvement as other rent assistance programs have.

“This is about creating certainty, and the ability to plan just a little bit farther ahead,” Furstenau said.

For B.C.’s tourism sectors, the Greens are proposing to retool the provincial grant program to focus on supporting smaller tourism operators and accelerate the timeline to get grant money flowing immediately: “This grant program is about helping make up the revenue that they need to survive another season,” she said.

The party said it will work with not-for-profit tourism businesses, cultural facilities and attractions—for example, Whistler’s Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre—to develop a separate granting program to help these operations survive COVID-19.

During the announcement, Furstenau also promised to work alongside the federal government to establish a repayable loan program for the hospitality sector and for large tourism operators that exceed the criteria for the small tourism operator grant program, but are nonetheless longstanding, foundational pillars of their communities—not unlike Whistler Blackcomb.

“They have been among the hardest hit and will be among the last to recover due to the travel restrictions and border closures,” Furstenau said, pointing out that the negative impacts of a major business’ closure would have rippling effects on countless employees and other, smaller businesses that depend on visitors.

Furstenau said these proposed supports address the Greens’ concerns that help from the NDP will come too late for many B.C. small businesses local tourism operators in need, as a result of delays spurned by the election.

“We’ve been hearing from small businesses that the support the government has promised is delayed due to this snap and unnecessary election. The NDP don’t seem to understand the urgency facing the small business and tourism sector,” said Furstenau.

She added, “This is an area where the province has abdicated its responsibility.”

Jeremy Valeriote, the Green Party of B.C.’s candidate for the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding, was in attendance at Wednesday’s announcement.

Having his party’s leader stop by the riding is “great support,” said the Whistler resident following Furstenau’s announcement. “It’s a sign that it’s a very winnable Green riding, so I’m really glad to have Sonia here. It’s a big boost for awareness and understanding of the party.”