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May rent still feeling scary for commercial tenants

Only one in ten commercial tenants who need help qualify for CECRA and believe landlord will participate; Provincial help overdue

Toronto, April 30, 2020 – With May rent due tomorrow, small business owners are very concerned about whether landlords will take up the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, according to new survey results from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“In theory the program is good as it covers a substantial fraction of the rent and the costs are shared, but in practice it is quickly turning into a mess. Tenants are powerless if their landlords don’t apply, and landlords are worried there aren’t enough details to know whether they qualify. Unless there is a miracle on Main Street between now and Friday it looks like the program isn’t going to help nearly enough businesses,” said Laura Jones, CFIB’s executive vice-president.   

Looking at business owners who said they need help with rent, the survey found that:

  • 36 per cent don’t qualify because they don’t meet the 70 per cent revenue loss criteria
  • 9 per cent qualify but know their landlord won’t participate
  • 40 per cent qualify and are unsure if their landlord will participate
  • 10 per cent qualify and think their landlord will participate. 

CFIB appreciates that the federal and provincial governments have come to the table with significant funding to support commercial rent, but continues to call for support to go directly to tenants. CFIB has been asking provinces to help cover rent with monthly grants of up to $5,000. Only three provinces, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have programs anywhere close to this, with one-time grants of $5,000 ($6,000 in Manitoba). Current survey results show 80 per cent of small businesses want provincial governments to provide additional grants for those falling through the cracks of federal programs. CFIB has also been calling on provinces to put in place eviction protection for commercial tenants otherwise in good standing for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Many stressed small businesses are desperate for the provinces to do more. What do you say to a hairdresser who is shut down by provincial order and whose landlord is not participating in CECRA? More provinces need to step up now to cover the gaps left by federal programs before it’s too late,” added Jones. 

CFIB also has tools available for business owners on its website at, including a template for tenants wanting to reach out to landlords regarding CECRA and one for landlords to reach out to tenants. 

“CECRA isn’t working for lots of businesses so we continue to urge tenants and landlords to talk to each other and work out something reasonable and fair to help as many businesses survive this storm as possible. In the meantime we will continue to advocate for simple programs that allow money to flow straight to the tenant,” said Jones.   

Results are based on 9,266 responses from CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflect responses received between April 24 and 29, 2020. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error for national results of +/-1.0%, 19 times out of 20.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB
[email protected] 

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at

April 30, 2020

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