Is Vancouver's plan to help the hospitality industry enough? We asked the mayor about the COVID response
After a difficult past year, restaurants in B.C. are once again closed to indoor dining, and other small businesses are also feeling the effects of the pandemic.
Health officials are trying to slow what they call an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases, including a record-breaking case number on Wednesday, but the impact of restrictions is being felt by business owners.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart joined CTV Morning Live on Thursday to discuss the ways the city hopes to help.
Stewart put forward an emergency motion to aid the hospitality industry, following the announcement of the latest public health orders.
His proposal, which was approved Tuesday, includes measures related to patios and tax breaks. But will it be enough to save struggling businesses?
"I know we're going to respond in the right way and stand up for our city," he said in response to that question.
"We're just so grateful to every single resident and business owner that's done everything they can through COVID and we know it's been tough. I really feel for small businesses and restaurants. They work so hard to keep us safe and keep young people employed, which has been really, really important, so we have taken a whole bunch of actions."
Stewart said the city's patio program, which included waiving all fees, helped keep businesses open.
He said he's been having round-table discussions with those in the industry for ideas on further changes that can be made to help.
Stewart said staff have been asked to look at other possible uses of public space, which may benefit restaurants.
The city is also asking the province to give it the power to adjust small business taxes, an idea he got from Ontario.
But it's not as simple as it sounds. He said a tax cut for a mom-and-pop business would also apply, for example, to a luxury car dealership.
"So we need a way to distinguish between those who need the most help," he said.
Looking ahead to post-pandemic, he said, the city has expanded the seat capacity in bars. Currently capacities are limited as part of the COVID-19 response, but when that restriction lifts, it will mean more jobs and more customers, Stewart said.
As he's done numerous times since the disease took hold, Stewart put some of the responsibility on the federal government, saying more money from Ottawa is needed to help Vancouver recover from COVID-19.
He said there are some issues that leave the city's hands tied, but that even individuals have a role to play in recovery.
"We can't do much when an establishment is shut by the provincial health officer, but we just all have to stick together and try to support those small businesses in our local neighbourhoods. But mostly, abide by the provincial health orders so we can get out of this situation."
The mayor was also asked about the possibility of the Olympics being held in Vancouver. Watch the full interview for more on what the 2030 Games would look like.