It’s time Canada’s big banks bring their workers back to Bay Street as the COVID-19 cases wane across the country, according to the head of Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust.

“It’s time for leaders to make decisions and begin the process to return,” said Michael Emory, chief executive officer of Allied, in a broadcast interview.

“It is in the interest of all of us who value urban life, and a vibrant urban core, that businesses get back to work.”

As developer and operator of some 200 urban office properties in some of Canada’s largest cities, Allied has a big stake in shifting businesses away from maintaining their remote work plans. But Emory said it’s the small business owner who may be most at risk of vacated urban centres.

“The people who have suffered most intensely because of the absence of people in the urban core are small businesses,” said Emory. “[These people] don’t have the option to work from home. They simply have no job if those retail and service employers are unable to operate.”

“It’s critical that employers lead people back to work in a responsible way, now that a very significant component of the Canadian population is vaccinated and able to return to the work place.”

Emory's comments come following rather colourful remarks he made to The Globe and Mail, where he stated that he was "dumbfounded by the lack of leadership from the chartered banks," in their return-to-work plans , adding that bank CEOs "need to find a backbone."

Emory said Canadian banking executives led their employees valiantly through the onset of the pandemic, but now says it is time to shift gears and lead again, arguing that Canadian lenders have been a been more cautious than is necessary.

"Look, they're not going to be terribly worried about what Michael Emory says," he said during the BNN Bloomberg interview. "What they are worried about is what the business community thinks ... they certainly lost no sleep because Michael Emory said something."

Toronto-based Allied, whose shares are still trading below pre-pandemic levels, hauled in a quarterly record in terms of cash flow per unit in the three months ending June 30, said Emory, with funds from operations coming in at $0.60 per unit, compared to $0.55 per unit in the same quarter last year.

Average in-place net rent per occupied square foot, another key metric for REITs, was also up 4.3 per cent year-over-year, with leasing momentum continuing to increase in the second quarter, said Emory.