BANFF – Parks Canada is providing rent relief for businesses in Banff National Park.
On Monday (June 1), the federal government announced it will waive up to 75 percent of eligible commercial rents for the months of April, May and June 2020, or equivalent amounts of annual rents.
The announcement also applies to the $550,000 land rent payment the Town of Banff pays to the federal government every year.
The news was welcomed by Banff Lake Louise Hospitality Association (BLLHA), which has been pushing for more than just rent deferrals previously announced by Parks Canada and for a program that works for businesses in a national park setting.
“Any measure that assists in providing more liquidity to local businesses will be helpful to supporting the destination’s economic recovery,” said Darren Reeder, executive director of BLLHA.
“We look forward to seeing the details of the program from Parks Canada as soon as they are available.”
The new rent relief program will apply to eligible business tenants in all national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.
These businesses had not qualified for the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) because they, or in some cases their landlord, are on federal lands renting from a federal agency.
But now, more than 700 businesses in Parks Canada places may be eligible for this new relief from the federal government under similar eligibility conditions to those of the CECRA program.
Parks Canada is currently in the process of contacting holders of commercial leases and licences of occupation, including in Banff National Park, to provide details on the new funding relief.
"Commercial tenants will be kept informed as application processes are finalized,” said Megan Damini, a Parks Canada spokesperson in the federal agency’s national office.
Federal government officials say this initiative aims to help weather some of the financial challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused.
“We recognize the impact this pandemic is having on the many businesses that operate in Parks Canada places,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal environment and climate change minister responsible for Parks Canada.
“The measures that we are taking today will assist these businesses through some of the financial hardships they have experienced due to COVID-19.”
The Town of Banff has been calling on Parks Canada to waive its annual land rent payment during the COVID-19 crisis. The Town leases from the federal government all land used for municipal operations and services.
Under its incorporation agreement, the lease costs the Town of Banff $550,000 per year. Banff and Jasper are the only two municipalities in Canada that pay and rent to the federal government.
“The relief includes municipal rent paid by the Town of Banff and the Town of Jasper,” said Damini.
Town of Banff officials say they continue to be in discussions with representatives from the federal government on this topic.
“We understand that we may be eligible for 75 per cent reduction for three months, but we have not received official confirmation of the exact amount for the Town of Banff,” said Jason Darrah, the Town of Banff’s director of communications.
As a tourist town with more than four million visitors a year, Banff was particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. About 85 cent of the local work force was laid off and all but essential businesses, such as grocery stores, were shuttered.
The iconic Banff Springs Hotel closed its door for the first time since the Second World War.
Since the coronavirus pandemic knocked out Banff tourism, hotel occupancy levels in Banff and Lake Louise have been hovering around one per cent, with average rates 75 per cent lower than normal.
The Alberta government began its phased relaunch of the economy on May 14, allowing for the opening of some businesses, and Parks Canada opened Banff National Park to day visitors on June 1 for the first time since March 25.