Businesses are “feeling very dismissed,” the NWT Chamber of Commerce said on Wednesday as the territorial government rejected a moratorium on commercial evictions.
The chamber had requested a temporary ban on landlords evicting businesses unable to pay their rent during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ban would last until federal rent relief measures arrived.
Updating members on Wednesday, the chamber said Premier Caroline Cochrane’s office had denied that request. According to the chamber, the NWT government said a legislative change would be needed and the territory, in the chamber’s words, “has faith that landlords will not be evicting tenants right now.”
The chamber thinks such optimism may be misplaced.
“The reality is that a majority of landlords in the NWT are multinational REITs (real estate investment trusts) who have anchor tenants, the GNWT, in their buildings,” the chamber said in response.
“Having a few spaces sit empty has zero effect on their bottom line, as proven with the vacancy that continues to sit in the Centre Square Mall.
“The business community is feeling very dismissed by the GNWT during this time, and this decision will only fuel that perspective.”
Katrina Nokleby, the industry minister, appeared at the NWT Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting last week to speak briefly.
Nokleby said: “I recognize things have not been as quickly coming as members would have liked. We had to triage a lot of the reaction around Covid when it started.
“There hasn’t been as much conversation as people would have liked early on, but … that work has been happening. It’s been very difficult for us to get everything out the door to people, so they know what we’ve been doing.
“I hope we can be a lot more proactive in moving forward together. I acknowledge it hasn’t been the smoothest ride.”
There have so far been no reports of NWT businesses evicted over non-payment of rent.
The federal government in April announced rent relief in a program entitled Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance.
As it stands, that program will offers forgivable loans to landlords. The idea is that landlords can then reduce the rent owed by tenants by at least 75 percent for April, May, and June.
However, applications for the program have yet to open. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which will administer the program, says “how funds will be disbursed and how to apply are being finalized.”