Caps on delivery apps, property tax deferment: Vancouver mayor calls for support for businesses
VANCOUVER -- As restrictions slowly loosen across B.C., Vancouver's mayor called for more supports for local businesses during his weekly briefing Thursday.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart was joined by Dr. Patricia Daly, from Vancouver Coastal Health, Thursday morning.
"Now more than ever, Vancouver businesses need all levels of government to make things easier and to help them succeed," Stewart said. "All levels of government need to work together to get businesses up and running."
Along with renewing a call to the province for a property tax deferment plan to cover all businesses, Stewart called on delivery app companies to do their part to assist local businesses.
Delivery apps have come under fire during the pandemic as some have charged businesses as much as 30 per cent in commission.
"These fees are much too onerous for restaurants and cafes," Stewart said.
Stewart asked delivery apps to temporarily cap their commissions at 15 per cent. If not, Stewart said, he will look into how they can be regulated.
"In many cases for many establishments this small change could mean the difference between our favourite restaurants staying open or closing forever," he said.
Other local governments are looking for ways to support the businesses in their cities too. For example, with restaurants required to space out patrons to ensure physical distancing, several municipalities including North Vancouver and Richmond are looking to expedite the permitting process for restaurants to expand their patios.
"Restaurants can now accommodate more customers while adhering to our COVID public health rules," Stewart said, as Vancouver council passed their motion to expedite the patio permitting process Wednesday.
Stewart also pointed to a council decision from earlier this month to streamline development in the city.
"By making the process more efficient and effective, builders can cut from four months to a year off project development and that's going to get buildings built faster and at less cost," he said.
Stewart said council passed another motion on Wednesday to allow the construction of timber buildings of up to 12 storeys.
"Taller timber construction makes it easier to build with low carbon materials from right here in British Columbia and supports future housing affordability as well as reducing carbon pollution," he said.
In his last update, given two weeks ago, Stewart outlined new data that showed local businesses had seen a revenue drop of 27 per cent, or about $2 billion, because of COVID-19. About 13,400 businesses closed recent weeks, the data showed.
"Now that we've absorbed the health impacts of COVID-19, it's getting back and fixing the economy that's so important," Stewart said, adding that he's "very concerned" about the possibility of more layoffs throughout the city.
"What we have to do is get the economy back up and running the best we can … we have to find innovative ways to help businesses adjust."
Even as businesses reopen, Stewart cautioned that not all residents will be ready and willing to visit them. For example, polling data gathered by the city and released last week suggested 30 per cent of Vancouver residents would only feel comfortable going to a restaurant or bar patio when there is a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
However, Daly said the "vast majority" of test-positive cases in the VCH region have recovered and the risk to the public has decreased.
"This is the perfect time to reopen because we know that the COVID-19 outbreak has had a devastating effect on many people in our communities, the businesses the mayor referred to have struggled," Daly said.
"Now is the best time to begin reopening because our levels are so low and the province has a very, very sensible plan."
But even so, the virus isn't going away anytime soon, Daly warned.
"The virus is still out there. This is not a virus we can eliminate given its nature," she said. "As we reopen we're going to be carefully monitoring to make sure we don't see a resurgence in cases."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Carly Yoshida-Butryn