The chief executive officer of Oliver & Bonacini is taking aim at a new Ontario grant for small businesses as the province prepares to enter a sweeping lockdown this weekend.  

“To have it where we have programs that are meant to help companies that are down 20 or 25 per cent be the same programs [to help the] ones that are forced to shut and are down 95 per cent is just complete and utter nonsense,” Andrew Oliver said in a television interview Monday.

The Small Business Support Grant, which opens in January, will give eligible small businesses $10,000-$20,000 to help offset losses. To qualify, businesses must demonstrate they have suffered a decline of at least 20 per cent in revenue when comparing April 2019 with April 2020. Businesses must also have fewer than 100 employees at the enterprise level.

“I think if you have a small candle shop or a small boutique, or whatever it is, and you have less than 100 people, and this is meant to last two weeks or four weeks, that’s not a small amount of money when you compare it to the CEBA loan program,” Oliver said.

“Where I get disappointed, where I’m critical of government of all levels – whether it be from the mayors or all the way up to the federal government – is this continuously shows the lack of understanding they have when it comes specifically to the hospitality industry and really for urban centre restaurants.”

Oliver also cautioned about potential unintended consequences of the grant, which could see small businesses that are just over the 100-employee threshold potentially terminate workers “as quickly as they can to hopefully just get that little bit of cash in the door to stay alive.”

“We just want common-sense government, common-sense programs. We’re so close right now to having our industry being able to get back to it,” Oliver said.

“You should have a booming economy when this comes back – but it only works if [businesses] are able to be provided a bridge to get there. And whether you’re big or small, we don’t understand how this late in the game, the government hasn’t been able to come up with common-sense programs for that.”