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Ottawa pledges no NWT business ‘will fall into the cracks’

Last modified: April 20, 2020 at 2:09pm


The federal minister of economic development says Ottawa will throw millions of dollars in extra cash at CanNor to ensure NWT businesses don’t go under because they couldn’t access help.

Various northern companies, ranging from mineral exploration firms to tour operators, have said Canada’s Covid-19 pandemic emergency measures – like a 75-percent wage subsidy – don’t help because the seasonal or unpredictable nature of their business means they don’t qualify.

Late last week, federal minister Melanie Joly said the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency would receive “one of the biggest budget increases since its inception,” in 2009.

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The increase was said to be over and above $15 million in new funding promised to CanNor earlier in April, and was part of almost $1 billion being rolled out to Canada’s six regional economic development agencies.

“The idea is to make sure that no businesses fall into the cracks,” Joly told Cabin Radio by phone on Friday.

Details of a new CanNor fund were subsequently published on Monday. The fund – comprising grants, not loans – will not cover salaries but does apply to rent or mortgages and a range of other operating costs if businesses are currently losing money.

“We know already that two big measures have been announced – businesses have access to a wage subsidy and the Canadian Emergency Business Account. But we know that sometimes businesses, because of their different realities, don’t necessarily qualify for all the criteria of these two important measures,” said Joly.

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The minister said any NWT business owner who feels they can’t currently get the right supports, or for whom money is not arriving quickly enough, should contact CanNor.

“The good news with CanNor is people can have access to money quick,” Joly pledged. “It’s a quick application, that’s what we’re trying to do with CanNor right now. To make sure there’s no long red tape and we can just help businesses.”

Joly said her department was “working hard” to make sure sectors like mining and exploration could access support.

The NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines has said exploration firms are finding themselves ineligible for the federal wage subsidy as they don’t earn revenue of the kind the subsidy requires to qualify.

The northern affairs minister, Dan Vandal, last week separately promised the federal government is investigating “solutions” for mining and exploration in the North.

Joly also said there would be more work done on “the issue of rent relief” for businesses. A federal program announced last week will allow landlords to claim subsidies for April, May, and June that can then be passed on to small business tenants.

“The Prime Minister had a conversation with Premier Caroline Cochrane, all premiers were on the phone last night, talking about the importance of finding a way to send money to help rent payments,” said Joly on Friday.

Referring to small and mid-sized businesses that support northern mining and are also struggling, she said: “That should be helpful for all the supply chain.”

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