OTTAWA -- Even with most of Flamingo Boutique’s inventory going online amid COVID-19, it has been a hard few months.

“It’s just a tiny percentage of what we do when our doors are open,” says owner Jo Arbuthnot.

Arbuthnot was hoping the Federal Government’s commercial rent relief program would help ease the huge hit on the bottom line but her landlord isn’t going to apply.

“I think the majority of landlords will not participate, they’re still getting their full rents so they see no reason to take a 25 per cent reduction,” she said.

Landlords can apply for the program starting on May 25. It would see the federal and provincial governments cover 50 per cent of rent for April, May and June through forgivable loans. Landlords would absorb 25 per cent with the tenant paying the remainder through resources like the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he “implores and expects” landlords to participate.

“If many businesses aren’t able to make ends meet and do go under at this point it’ll be a lot slower to pick up the economy and that’ll be bad for Canadians but it’ll also be bad for landlords,” Trudeau says. 

Despite harsh words and warnings from politicians, many small business owners say unless there is mandatory participation and enforcement mechanisms in place, these landlords refusing to work with small businesses struggling to stay afloat will continue to do so.

Arbuthnot would also like to see another option on the table if landlords don’t participate in the rent relief program.

“I would happily pay 50 per cent rent. If the landlords don’t want to give any relief and the government are offering 50 per cent I’d pay 50 per cent right now it’s 100 per cent.”

“We’re all taking a cut one way or another,” said Amber Hall, co-owner of Equator Coffee Roasters.

At its headquarters in Almonte, she’s a tenant but also a landlord.

“We gave 50 per cent right away before any of this happened…as soon as the program we checked in with our tenants to see what their sales losses have been and immediately got all the paperwork in place to apply,” Hall said.