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Toyota dealer mulls lawsuit over G20 losses

Shahin Alizadeh, President of Toyota on Front , in his new car showroom on August 28, 2008.

Tibor Kolley/Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail

Shahin Alizadeh asked the federal government for $146,000 to cover the business his Toyota dealership lost over the two weeks leading up to Toronto's G20 summit last June.

They came back with an offer this month: $3,704.

"I'm laughing and crying at the same time," Mr. Alizadeh said.

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He says his chief financial officer spend hours combing through the dealership's bills to figure out how much money their Front Street and Spadina Avenue location lost in the hubbub prior to the summit weekend, when much of downtown Toronto was effectively shut down.

He insists they followed Ottawa's rules on compensation to the letter, ensuring they stayed open and proceeding as though everything was "normal."

"We've simply followed the rules of the government."

Now, he said, they're considering suing the government for compensation if they can't get it by following Ottawa's rules.

"I'm throwing this into my lawyer's hands and saying, 'You deal with it.' I'm planning on finding out what my legal options are, clearly," he said.

"I'm livid. … If we can't deal with this civilly within a reasonable format, then I guess the courts will have to decide what remedies are available."

Mr. Alizadeh said the vast majority of the lost money was from service work they would have been able to do if the area hadn't been closed to traffic for extended periods of time leading up to the G20.

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A letter from the summit management office dated March 4 said the $3,704 figure was "adjusted as explained in the course of your recent discussion with the representative of Audit Services Canada."

Mr. Alizadeh says a sticking point with the government representative they'd been dealing with was whether the business could have rescheduled service appointments to avoid losing money.

"If you have a car that needs a brake job, could you live with my schedule and the G20 schedule?"

Last month, the federal government said there have been 371 applications for ex-gratia payments from businesses claiming G20-related compensation. The claims total $10,656,869; as of last month, none had been paid out.

Local councillor Adam Vaughan had previously argued Ottawa's criteria for compensation - that businesses determine lost earnings based on three years' records, that businesses remain open and that costs related to security wouldn't be covered - were unnecessarily stringent.

The Department of Foreign Affairs couldn't immediately comment on Mr. Alizadeh's case, or say how many people have applied for compensation and whether any have been approved to receive money.

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Il Fornello is not one of them, however. Its president Ian Sorbie said they'd applied for both their King Street and Queens Quay locations, claiming around $20,000 in lost revenue for each. They closed the King Street restaurant the week before the G20 because there was "no point being open."

Their claim was rejected.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "This is like a bad dream I'd rather forget. It was a terrible weekend, terrible for business and the city. And the government is just turning its back on people who suffered."


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