The head of Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants is blasting the federal government over its rent relief program for businesses, warning up to half of restaurants in Canada might not survive to next year.

“I think […] without the government actually doing their job and supporting an industry that is on the front lines of this on the economic side, I still believe that upwards of 50 per cent might not make it to 2021,” Andrew Oliver, president and CEO of the Toronto-based restaurant chain, told BNN Bloomberg’s Amanda Lang Tuesday.

Oliver said the food service industry is glad to see patios reopen as most of Ontario enters stage two of its economic reopening plan, but notes the vast majority of restaurants don’t have outdoor spaces. That means a large portion of the industry could remain closed for several more weeks or even longer.

“It is 100 per cent a step in the right direction. Everyone is grateful that we are at least able to do something,” Oliver said. “But the math most certainly doesn’t add up. The support is ending for rent relief if you are one of the lucky few that actually had landlords that have applied so far.”

“There’s been no commentary on whether that’s going to continue.”

Oliver is calling on the government to implement a more sustainable rent relief program for the rest of the year that would see money go directly to small businesses which would help pay their landlords.

“There seems to be at the higher-up levels, that the government just wants to find people that agree with them and that tell them they are doing a great job despite the fact that you have less than 10 per cent of people so far successfully through the rent program,” he said.

“There’s just so many things they just seem to want to announce on their daily talk show as opposed to actually putting action out there that will solve problems.”

Oliver said he wouldn’t be surprised if 25 per cent of restaurants across the country still failed even if the government provides some additional measures.  

“I think in places like Toronto where Mayor [John] Tory has asked ... people not to go down to urban cores, yet at the same time has not adjusted and abated and fully reduced property taxes for landlords that they could pass onto us, creates massive problems,” he said.

“And really, I think is shameful that they’ll knee-cap the sales side of things, but they’re not doing anything on the cost side.”