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Jul 9, 2020

'Addicted' to CERB: Real estate tycoon wants Canadians working

'Somehow we've got to get people working again': Dream Office REIT CEO

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Canadians have become too dependent on financial aid amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal government should start encouraging people to return to work, according to the head of one of Canada’s largest commercial landlords.

“They’ve got to get people off of support. Somehow we gotta get people back to working again and taking care of themselves,” Michael Cooper, chief executive officer of Dream Office Real Estate Investment Trust, said in an interview Thursday with BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman.

“$2,000-a-month during the summer is a lot better than working, so I think there’s a real moral hazard there and I think it’s really serious,” he added, referring to the monthly payment made to Canadians enrolled in the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit program (CERB).

"So I guess that’s a real issue, people are getting addicted to getting paid and not working and coming off that is going to be hard," Cooper added. 

Cooper's comments come one day after Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the federal government expects to run a budget deficit of $343.2 billion for the 2020-21 fiscal year due to massive spending and an extension of emergency aid programs in response to the pandemic.

Direct support to businesses and households will cost a total of $212 billion this year, the government forecast. That includes $80 billion for CERB and $82.3 billion for the wage subsidy program.

Cooper said the federal government should also ease reopening restrictions for businesses in addition to dialing back emergency aid to Canadians.

“I’m worried with restaurants and other businesses, I’m not sure the revenues will cover the cost at 50-per-​cent occupancy,” he said.

“We’re barely on life support and it’s going to take a lot of return to business before business can actually pay for its own way.”