Our delegation of 15 business owners and leaders truly made a lasting impression at Queen’s Park on May 28th, bringing attention to commercial renter and small business needs!

The full delegation included: Anita Agrawal (Jewels 4 Ever / Best Bargains), Elliot Shermet (Green Brick Property Management), Jon Rennie (Odd Duck, Wine & Provisions), Meghan James (Somewhere Inn), Jason Rizzuti (Go Tours / Segway of Ontario), Will Wells (The Artery Community Roasters), Joy and Shannon Warner (Till Death BBQ), Christine Handley (Broadview Press), Krista Mansour (Footprints on Muskoka), Deirdre Cleveland (Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce) and Aline Biha (Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce). Our trusty BWA staff trio, Aaron Binder, Jess Carpinone and Liliana Camacho, rounded out the rest.

Better Way Alliance delegates visit Queen's Park and discuss commercial rent, decent work and gig work.

Delegates from all across Ontario visited Queen’s Park in May 2024

Our delegation highlighted that predictable and affordable commercial rent is critical for them to offer great jobs, create career advancement opportunities for good workers, and become highly productive fixtures in their communities. 

We expect that the issue of fair, affordable commercial rent terms for tenants will gain greater traction in the coming months. Now, more than ever, small businesses need better commercial rent terms – it’s a moment where Ontario needs to build better productivity and ensure small businesses can create good jobs

We asked our MPPs to take action to ensure Ontario is a province where owning a small business can be a viable pathway to retirement – because too many business owners are seeing this door close.

We introduced four proposals on the Commercial Renter Bill of Rights that represent updates to the Ontario Commercial Tenants Act. The four proposals are:

  • Standard lease agreements
  • Affordable dispute resolution
  • Predictable rent increases
  • Right to withhold rent without eviction when the landlord owes the tenant money

We’ve made these proposals with fairness for landlords and tenants in mind, and aim to accomplish outsized positive change with minimal government action. 

The time for change is now because commercial rents are rising substantially across Ontario and are causing more and more businesses to move or shut down. This isn’t just a big-city issue – although in Toronto rent prices have risen by over 32% in a single year, and in Ottawa 150 business owners sent a letter to city councilors asking for rent reform. The story is similar across Ontario, like in rural Muskoka and in smaller centers like London. 

BWA commercial rent and decent work delegation at Queen's Park

BWA delegates Meghan James, Jess Carpinone, Anita Agrawal, Jon Rennie, Elliot Shermet with MPP Stephane Sarrazin

Our team has observed that MPPs have varying levels of awareness that rent is a major concern for small businesses. What is clear is that our immediate next steps are to raise awareness across party causes, keeping small business longevity, productivity and job creation at heart. Rent is an issue everyone can understand, and many MPPs can relate to because they, or someone in their family, have owned a small business. 

We believe that commercial rent can gain enough traction to get on the radar of voters in the next election. We will continue to push MPPs to discuss rent concerns with small businesses so they can develop an appropriate policy response (or adopt our Bill of Rights!).

We also chatted to some MPPs about our new Ottawa-based social enterprise collaboration, Fair Path Delivery. Big businesses are increasingly relying on precarious labour, and as small business owners, we see how that hurts workers and business owners alike. It also has an extended impact on communities where residents can no longer hold down a dependable job, risking accessibility and social fabric. Fair Path Delivery will test the viability of a new business model that fills the delivery needs of local businesses while creating decent work delivery jobs.

Our main sponsor was the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC). CanWCC is the first – and only – Chamber of Commerce for women-identified and non-binary business owners in Canada. CanWCC raised awareness about Flip the Script, an online program that tackles the gender gap in access to capital by providing women-identified entrepreneurs with the skills to speak to investors in a way that’s proven to get them 60% more capital.

BWA delegates Will Wells, Liliana Camacho, Minister Charmaine Williams (centre), Jason Rizzuti, Aline Biha (CanWCC) and Deirdre Cleveland (CanWCC)

Our event was also generously sponsored by Green Brick Property Management, JonLuca Neal, The Artery Community Roasters and Bread By Us. We hosted MPPs and staffers at a reception where MPPs Schreiner, Wong-Tam, and Bowman provided remarks on the value of small businesses to the Ontario economy and their support of good quality job creation. 

We are hugely grateful to the delegates that joined us, the MPPs who met with us, and the staffers who came out to the reception to see what our group was about.

This is an annual event, so if you’re interested in dipping your toes into the political waters, put it on your radar for next year!