April 18th, 2020
Letter to Minister Joly on Supports for Indigenous Tourism
As you know, Canada’s tourism industry is suffering from a serious downturn as people are self-isolating, avoiding travel, and not visiting the businesses that rely on tourists. This crisis is being felt especially hard among those working in the Indigenous Tourism sector run by Indigenous peoples.
As an emerging part of regional economies, with new start-ups and new initiatives, Indigenous tourism is particularly vulnerable to the downturn all businesses are experiencing. These Indigenous business leaders needs support from this government.
To best support the Indigenous Tourism and the people who have built the sector during this critical moment in Canadian history, I ask that you:
- Invest $25,000 in Indigenous tourism businesses using the Stimulus Development Grant with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) to address immediate short-term cash flow needs. This would ensure that the core capacity of Indigenous tourism businesses built over the last several years can recover from the pandemic downturn and rebuild quickly.
- Targeted stimulus funding of $20 million for Indigenous businesses owners as part of a larger stimulus package to ensure the tourism industry in Canada will bounce-back.
- Ensure that an estimated $557 million in loans through the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) is made available to Indigenous tourism through equitable and fair assessment, and flexible application of eligibility criteria, including:
- Indigenous tourism business is incentivized with 35% forgiveness if the loans are repaid over the agreed 10-year amortization.
- Defer initial payments until September 1, 2021.
- Interest rates must be commercially competitive and at prime.
- Strongly consider incremental funding availability through Indigenous Financial Institutions. Many Indigenous tourism businesses are apprehensive of going through major banks, EDC, or BDC programming given the demonstrative lack of equal access, which is only exacerbated by the lack of uncertain domestic and international visitors in the coming years.
As you also know, the tourism sector relies heavily on seasonal, student, and part-time workers, for whom the tourist season is their main source of income for the rest of the year. While some businesses are open now, they don’t know if they’ll have the capacity to expand operations during the normally busy season. This is crucial not only for business owners, but also for the workers who rely on this income. Many of them are still not eligible for the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit which still needs to be more inclusive to help those people who will be losing income in the coming months.
To better support those Indigenous businesses and organizations that are working hard to take care of their employees, I ask that you:
- Work with other levels of government and use federal legislative powers to force the banks and lenders to put a freeze on rent, mortgage, utility, and other fixed expenses that tourism-related businesses incur. Follow the lead of other countries like Denmark, France, South Korea, and Australia to support small businesses and provide the assurance they need that there will be a strong future ahead. This would allow more businesses to focus their limited revenue on supporting staff and protecting future revenues.
- Work with your cabinet colleagues to improve the CERB with a universal direct payment for all people in Canada. Doing so would provide all Canadians, including part-time, seasonal, and student workers with assurances so that they can more confidently plan their finances in the coming months.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I know you’ve been in close contact with Keith Henry at ITAC and with other stakeholders and attached to this letter is an informative booklet the ITAC has put together. Indigenous owners and operators need more than verbal support. They need federal investments to support the Indigenous tourism industry.
I look forward to your response.
Gord Johns, Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni