March 27th, 2020
Letter to Minister Morneau and Minister Joly on Supporting the Tourism Sector
Dear Minister Morneau and Minister Joly,
I write to you today in my capacity as NDP Critic for Small Business and Tourism asking you to take serious measures immediately to support and ensure the survival of the tourism industry in Canada.
In my riding of Courtenay-Alberni alone, there are hundreds of small businesses that rely on the tourism industry. Across Canada, there are over 200,000 businesses that support 1.8 million jobs in tourism. Tourism brings in over $100 Billion to the Canadian economy and accounts for 2.1% of Canada’s GDP. Tourism is such an important economic engine to Canada that it was recognized as Canada’st 7th economic pillar in the last federal budget.
However, coronavirus and the spread of COVID-19 have had a devastating effect on the tourism sector. As more and more Canadians are self-isolating and the borders closed to non-essential travel, the people that run the tourism sector are suffering the consequences. Travel-related businesses of all sizes are experiencing direct impacts that threaten the survival of the industry. Canada must take immediate action to curb the short-term losses of the sector and develop a comprehensive recovery plan to ensure that Canada and its industry remains open to visitors in the future.
Specifically, I’d like to add my voice to the following measures that will support the tourism sector:
- Specialized or fast-tracked liquidity options for businesses operating in the tourism or travel sector, including those businesses on Reserves managed by Indigenous peoples.
- Increase the proposed wage subsidy to 75% or higher so that businesses can focus their expenses elsewhere, like on rent and inventory management, without losing staff.
- Stimulus funding to ensure the industry can bounce-back, include marketing funds to promote visitors to Canada
- Funding for programs within Canada, like a free national park pass, to encourage people living in Canada to explore this country from coast to coast to coast.
In addition, take the following important measures on Employment Insurance:
- Extend EI benefits to sole proprietors to help keep small businesses alive during the crisis so they can rebound once this is over.
- Waive the 7-day waiting period to collect EI for Canadians under a temporary layoff notice, similar to the provisions provided to those under self quarantine;
- Eliminate the 30-day waiting period for the Work Share Program to allow individuals to job share, and while topping up with EI sooner than later;
- Temporarily adjust the percentage of hours worked while on lay off to allow staff to work more than 50 percent of their regular hours without reducing their EI benefits. Similarly, reduce the deduction to benefits from 50% to 30% to allow staff members to gradually return to work;
- Extend the maximum layoff benefit from 13 weeks to six months, given the uncertainty on the resumption of normal business operations;
- Adjust the EI system to pay employers directly as a method to ensure there is no processing lag time in the case of lay-offs;
Thank you for your consideration of these measures. I feel confident that by listening to our small businesses and tourism sector, Canada will rebound strongly from this significant moment. I look forward to your response.
Gord Johns, Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni