That the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, presented on Friday, November 27, 2020, be concurred in.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am happy to speak today to the order in council appointment of Marsha Walden to the position of president of the Canadian Tourism Commission, referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on Friday, September 25, which I was a proud to be part of for a short time before moving on to my portfolio now as shadow minister for the COVID-19 economic recovery.
Disease-induced crises are nothing new to the Canadian tourism industry, but certainly the crisis created by the novel coronavirus has been the most damaging crisis it has ever faced. This industry will never look the same post-pandemic. Even after we have all been vaccinated and the virus is just a foggy memory or a blurb in a textbook, it is clear and paramount that all levels of government have a role to play in the industry's eventual successful recovery.
The tourism industry knows what needs to happen for it to move ahead toward a successful recovery. Across the board, stringent measures have already been implemented in an effort to assure that all tourism-related activities are safe and communicated to the public. The industry is equally aware that confidence in travelling and the risk perception surrounding it are going to determine the speed of recovery.
This industry has done yeoman's effort to keep running. With methods for cleaning and sanitizing and with PPE requirements in restaurants, airplanes, museums, arenas, etc., it has really stepped up to try to have at least some level of business. Retrofitting or refurbishing facilities with advanced filtration, plexiglass partitions and the removal of soft furnishings, along with cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning, has been done. There are reduced capacity and occupation rates; 24 hours between occupancies in hotels; spacing at restaurants; booking times to visit a museum; and the advent of technology to help with innovation. We are using technology-based apps to streamline tourism activities, including self-serve check-ins and QR code menus, which we have all become accustomed to.
The government should only be there to meet efforts taken by these industries and ensure that compliance is met. The government must not impose unreasonable measures that thwart business owners' ability to operate or create an environment of disincentives that causes them to shut down. To make these onerous and expensive changes, our tourism industry needs credible and realistic measures from our federal government to allow companies and tourism services to confidently operate.
The government needs to move away from simply subsidizing and handing out aid and toward providing incentives for sustainable growth and innovation. Ideas include offering interest-free loans, guaranteed loans and creative financing options for sectors that have been hit incredibly hard. Incentives like this would benefit all sectors: airlines, cruise lines, hotels and restaurants. Other ideas include the lifting of visa requirements for countries as they recover, to increase international tourism; allowing provincial governments to regulate themselves without heavy-handed mandates from Ottawa; and protecting distressed assets from being scooped by predatory investors looking to take advantage of a weakened tourism sector.
While the government neglected to come up with a plan to innovate in this tourism space, we saw some amazing efforts and collaboration from our once-strong Canadian airlines and our world-class institutions, as they provided solutions with the now-defunct rapid-testing pilot program. This was a great example of an industry stepping up and of a private sector success, but it was shut down by the federal government with its new requirements. The airlines realized how critical it was to create a safe travel environment and they developed a pilot project for rapid testing at airports. I admire their efforts because they knew they needed something to be able to get going again.
Testimony given at the health committee last week did little to indicate that these new restrictions are going to be an improvement and that they are based upon strong data. However, there was some data from the rapid testing. On February 11, just over 49,000 people were tested and 1% tested positive. They were monitored and made to quarantine, and this worked successfully.
On an anecdotal note, in my riding, for over 30 years, a company called Paull Travel has provided tailored independent travel services. Like many other companies and individuals involved in the tourism sector, they are finding themselves faced with the impossible. These companies are failing, and while the rest of the economy may be able to experience some sort of a bounceback, it is really difficult in the travel industry. On top of this, the commissions the 13 women working at Paull Travel were expected to earn for services they did were clawed back because of cancellations.
The government's inability to provide rapid testing for Canadians and the much-needed support for airlines thwarted much of this travel during the pandemic. Many large travel agencies and independent providers are facing decreases of up to 90% today compared with 2019.
We cannot pretend that things are going to go back to normal. For decades to come, gone will be the days of banquets and large conventions. Travel agents and many other hospitality workers may not be required, and we will have to find suitable jobs for these individuals. The government has to be proactive and forward thinking when thinking about re-skilling and upskilling workers to move into other high-demand sectors, such as the emerging tech economy.
We need to start talking about what retraining is going to look like for those whose skills no longer match job demand, working with both the public sector and the private sector to identify gaps in the economy and the places where this talent is going to be needed. I have some important facts. Of the over 14,000 large and small travel agency businesses in Canada, over 90% are considered small business and 75% of travel agents are women. Travel agencies across Canada generate over $30 billion in sales and $3 billion in revenue on an annualized basis, and many in this industry have not been able to qualify for standard or special EI benefits. This sector is desperate, and it needs to be acknowledged.
At the beginning of the pandemic in Canada, the travel industry alone dealt with numerous travel advisories and with their clients, cancellations and all of the things that happened because of that. Due to the virus and its devastating impact on travel, the travel industry has experienced close to zero new revenue, and layoffs and closures have started to happen. This has an enormous effect on families. Any targeted relief for the travel industry must include these travel agencies. They need the government's help and they need to be sure that they are paid for services rendered.
If we can get in front of the health issues and demonstrate a safe environment for travel, we can give this sector a fighting chance. There will need to be significant investment in marketing to aid the recovery in both domestic and international travel. We must ensure that the public understands the health risk and the data that indicates what the risk is so they can make appropriate choices.
For every industry, a plan is more than financial support. It must be a road map that gives some indication of reopening and strategies. We cannot look toward the future without a plan. Canada has so much to offer the world: natural beauty, rich history and unique culture found nowhere else on the planet. It would be a shame if we let this sector suffer because of a lack of leadership. I look forward to when the government will come forward with plans that will help this industry get back on its feet.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in concurrence of the fourth report from the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology regarding the order in council appointment of Marsha Walden as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Tourism Commission, now known as Destination Canada.
On October 29, 2020, the committee met to consider Ms. Walden's appointment. At that time I had the opportunity to attend and take part in the session as we examined Ms. Walden's qualifications to assume this most important leadership position. Ms. Walden is assuming this position at a critical time for the industry. In fact, during our meeting in October, I noted that according to Destination Canada's own status of the industry report, it had forecast that our Canadian tourism sector would not recover to its record high levels of 2019 until 2024 at the earliest. The Destination Canada report indicated this would be “a catastrophic loss for our economy.” Given COVID's continued impact, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada now estimates it will be 2026 before this sector recovers to its record-setting numbers set in 2019.
Also during our October meeting, I noted the industry report indicated that the federal government needed to “provide a light at the end of the tunnel”. However, as we continue to watch the federal government struggle to secure our vaccine supply and implement widespread rapid testing, our tourism sector is left to struggle. In other words, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the federal government's dreadful and mismanaged response to it, has set the Canadian travel and tourism industry back instead of providing the much-needed light at the end of the tunnel that this industry so badly needs.
That is why we need the federal government to succeed in getting Canadians vaccinated more quickly. That is why we need the federal government to succeed in procuring and implementing rapid testing devices across the country so we can begin returning our lives to normal. Canadian businesses associated with travel and tourism have been some of the hardest hit. Many of them joined an advocacy movement called just that: the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses. When the federal government closed our land borders and implemented stringent travel restrictions in March 2020, our Canadian airlines and airports were immediately shuttered. While other countries were quick to financially support their aviation sectors, our federal government has yet to provide the financial aid that is so urgently required.
In addition to shutting the engines that literally drive our domestic and international travel and tourism economy, this pandemic has greatly impacted many small and medium-sized businesses including hotels and accommodations, restaurants and attractions. Nearly every sector within Canada's travel and tourism industry has experienced disruption, uncertainty and harm to its daily operations, revenues and business planning forecasts. When businesses are impacted at this magnitude, workers and employment are also severely disrupted; therefore, it is not surprising that we are continually hearing more about layoffs and job losses across these industries, and higher unemployment numbers in this industry compared with others.
For example, the Hotel Association of Canada says that in April 2020, there were 114,000 jobs in the sector. As of December 2020, this number was reduced to 87,500 workers. Many hoteliers are now wondering how long it will be before they run out of cash: 40% of operators do not think they will make it past this month and 70% say they will not make it until the spring.
Another example of employment hardship is in the restaurant industry. According to Restaurants Canada, in the first six weeks of the pandemic, the food service sector lost more than the entire Canadian economy lost during the 2008-09 recession. Let that resonate for a moment. One out of every five jobs lost to the pandemic has been in the food service sector. According to the December labour force survey from Statistics Canada, at least 316,000 fewer people are employed in the food service sector right now than there were in February 2020.
It is a similar story in our aviation sector. We hear about more layoffs, more job losses and more regional route closures basically every other week. COVID-19 and the government responses to it have had devastating impacts on these industries and on the jobs they provide for Canadians. When these sectors and others are taken together, the national unemployment rate according to Statistics Canada was 9.4% as of February 5.
However, the unemployment in Canada's travel and tourism industry far exceeds this number. It currently sits at 18.6%, nearly double the national unemployment rate, which underscores just how hard hit Canada's travel and tourism industry has been.
Canada's Conservatives, as the official opposition, have been pleased to work with private-sector stakeholders to listen and advocate on their behalf as we learn to understand their challenges going through the pandemic. That is why we have been pleased to work with the federal government on improving many of the emergency programs that were hastily launched without much consultation, understanding or consideration of the stakeholders they were intended to help. Through our good work and the federal government's co-operation, we have been able to improve emergency business programs such as the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency rent subsidy and the Canada emergency business account. While we are pleased with these improvements, our work is far from over.
These programs, and the newly created highly affected sectors credit availability program, are designed to be temporary, and their goal is to help businesses survive through the pandemic. They have little to do with the economic recovery that is needed on the other side. That is where Ms. Walden and Destination Canada will play a major role. A core mandate of the federal agency is to influence travel and tourism supply, and build demand for the benefit of locals, communities and visitors through leading research, aligning with public and private sectors and marketing Canada nationally and abroad. There is no doubt that Destination Canada will play a critical role in supporting tourism recovery from coast to coast to coast as early as this summer, or at least so I hope.
The has repeatedly stated that everyone who wants a vaccine will have one by September. For this to happen, we need our vaccine supply to increase significantly, very soon, so that progress can be made in vaccinating Canadians between now and that time. As of this speech, just over 1.5 million Canadians have been vaccinated in a country with a population of more 38 million.
My riding of Niagara Falls includes Canada's top leisure destination. Our local tourism industry is very much seasonal, and traditionally relies upon a busy and successful summer season to take those important small and medium-sized businesses through the slower shoulder months of the fall and winter. Losing the 2020 summer tourism season, through no fault of their own, has had a detrimental impact, and I cannot imagine the consequences for them of possibly losing a second consecutive summer season this year. If that happens, the fault will land squarely on the shoulders of the federal government for failing to secure enough vaccines for Canadians in a timely manner.
Destination Canada must be ready to assist the federal government as we move forward. The 2021 federal budget should outline a detailed plan and measures to achieve tourism recovery, and I look forward to reviewing these plans when they are released. Destination Canada will play a major role in informing the government of what is needed for tourism recovery in alignment with industry partners, and I sincerely hope to see measures that will support our Canadian travel and tourism industry, especially those who have been hardest hit.
I am also aware of the excellent tourism recovery plan that has been proposed by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. What better place to start helping the industry than by listening directly to what the industry needs?
While I do not hold much confidence in this government under the absentee leadership of our , I do hold hope that Ms. Walden will bring leadership to Destination Canada at a time when it is so dearly needed. As such, I concur with the committee on its fourth report as presented to the House.
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting, and somewhat frustrating and a little disappointing, to watch the Conservatives play their political games on the floor of the House of Commons. It is becoming more and more apparent that the Conservative Party of Canada is completely out of touch with what Canadians want their political leaders to be talking about and actually doing.
I do not say that lightly. I genuinely believe that the direction the current leadership of the Conservative Party and its House leadership team are taking, as well as the discussions and debates on the floor, do a disservice to Canadians.
I will expand on why it is we have a report on travel and tourism. I listened very carefully to the former speaker and the member for , who brought forward the motion on this concurrence to talk about travel and tourism in Canada. There was nothing said by either member, nothing at all, that could not have been said during debate on Bill , for example.
There was nothing implying the urgency of having that debate today. When the member for Edmonton Centre presented his arguments to debate this, he expressed concerns in regard to all the restrictions. However, I asked him point-blank whether he supports the current restrictions that have been put in place by the government. His response was that yes, he does support them.
Where is the need to actually bring forward this report at this time? If the members were saying that this is such an important industry, and we should be talking about it, I would agree. It is an important industry. It is a very important industry for all Canadians, whether they are directly employed by it, indirectly employed by it or not even employed by it. Our tourism industry is of critical importance to our economy and to our society, in terms of how we ultimately evolve. However, if it were that important, they could have dealt with it when we were debating Bill earlier today.
They have opposition day motions, and they could do it at that time also. They could single out an industry and say that they are concerned about that industry and that they want to debate it all day, and ultimately it would come to a vote.
Members of the Conservative Party have been filibustering and doing whatever they can to play a destructive force in regard to Bill , where there has been a great deal of talk about tourism and the tourism industry. There has been a great deal of discussion about that. My colleague from pointed out the number of days we have been sitting for Bill C-14 versus what we would actually spend on a budget debate. As well, the Conservatives have given absolutely no indication. I asked earlier today when the Conservatives would see fit to pass Bill C-14, and there is no indication.
Now, we get this report that is so urgent that the House of Commons needs to have hours of debate on it. The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and members of Parliament from the Conservative caucus believe that it is so very important.
For those who might be following the debate, I do not believe that it has anything to do with the industry, nothing at all. I think the Conservatives have factored in and brought in this report because they want to continue to filibuster and prevent debates from taking place. Interestingly enough, they will then criticize the government for not having debate. They will ask why we are not debating Bill more and why we are not bringing forward Bill . This is not the first day on which we have tried to bring forward Bill C-19, which is a Canada Elections Act bill.
We look forward to getting that high sense of co-operation coming from all opposition members. They talk about the issue of vaccines in reference to this particular report, but vaccines apply to every aspect of our society, including issues being debated in many different forums.
What should we be debating today? We could have been debating this. Not necessarily the report, but why did members of the Conservative Party not talk about this more during the budget debate, or the mini budget debate, however one might want to refer to Bill ?
It has come to the extreme where the , the of Canada, had to write a letter to the Conservative leader and say that Conservatives are dragging their feet on important legislation. That legislation will have a positive impact for our tourism industry. As members talk about the—
Mr. Speaker, sometimes members of the Conservative Party feel a little uneasy when we get into the reality of why they play their games.
The Conservatives talk about the importance of the tourism and travel industry. That is why they brought it up. The reason we are debating this today is because apparently the Conservatives are concerned about that one industry. If they are concerned about that industry, Bill would go a long way to support it.
It is important for my colleagues across the way to understand the consequences of their most inappropriate behaviour when it comes to debate and the games on they play the floor of the House of Commons. They need to start shying away from some of the games and start focusing on what the government has been focused on since day one, and that is Canadians first and foremost.
On the government side, my colleagues and I get a little frustrated when we want to share with members the concerns we have for the many different industries in Canada. Today, this report focuses on travel and our tourism industry. We have been putting a lot of resources into that, hundreds of millions of dollars. We have not neglected this area.
I was talking about the aerospace industry just the other day. Our aerospace industry is so vitally important, and the amount of travel taking place today has significantly dropped. We all know that. It has an impact. I am concerned about the aerospace industry. I did not hear the members talking about the travel industry and the impact it is having on our aerospace industry. That should have also been tied in with this.
The reason I say that is when we look at it, what should we do? Should we do one industry at a time and debate that? This seems to be what the Conservatives want to do right now. Maybe we will forgo opposition days and some government days, and go through one industry at a time.
I am very concerned about the aerospace industry. Travel has gone down. I do not know to what degree the committee had that discussion about the aerospace industry and the impact on it.
I take great pride in the fact, and it has been said before, that an aircraft can be built in Quebec from the very start, from the nuts and bolts to a 100% completed aircraft. I am very proud of that fact.
Manitoba also has an aerospace industry. We all know Boeing is being affected by air travel. It is looking at ways in which we can support the travel industry. In fact, I met with some members of Unifor to talk about the aerospace industry and the impact that travel is having on it.
Manitoba has a wonderful aerospace industry. So do the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. Those provinces probably have 98% of the entire aerospace industry in the country. Do not quote me on that, but I do not think I would be too far off. That is a direct link to travel.
I understand how important it is, but I do not think I would favour of having a day for every subject matter in regard to the coronavirus. There is not enough days in the next couple of months to cover them all.
Why would the Conservatives bring this up at this point? There is a government agenda. The government is moving forward. During the debate, both speakers were critical of the government because the Liberals did not get rapid tests out fast enough. Members will recall that the critic for health jumped up and down, yelling that the sky was falling and asking where the rapid tests were.
Over 20 million rapid tests have now been provided by the federal government, and a very small percentage of them have actually been utilized. It sure sounded good back then when members of the Conservative Party tried to get people to lose confidence in the government. That seemed to be their priority, not the travellers.
To what degree did the committee look at that issue? We have over 20 million rapid tests, and they have not been utilized anywhere near the degree they could be utilized. Has there been representation coming from the tourism industries, whether restauranteurs or travellers, in regard to it? Are the Conservatives trying to blame the provinces for not doing their jobs in terms of the circulation of rapid tests? Is that what the Conservatives are trying to say?
They raised the issue. I could not believe the ridicule and so-called outrage coming particularly from the critic of health for the Conservative Party. Of course, members, in talking about this motion, talked about the vaccine, and they were critical of the government about as well. They said that it was going to be the saviour.
This government, through its process and procurements, has put Canada in a fantastic position. We committed weeks ago to six million vaccines by the end of March and well over 20 million by the time we get into June. We are on track to reach that. There have been some bumps here and there and some things we have had to overcome. Some of them are an act of God through a snowstorm to restructuring or retooling of a company overseas.
The Conservatives have one agenda and that agenda is not to provide the type of official opposition that I believe Canadians truly want them to be. What do members think Canadians would say with respect to the debate we are having today and the games being played on the floor of the House of Commons? It is very frustrating.
I would like to be talking about the travel industry and the tourism industry once Bill gets back from committee. We should allow Canadians, committees and parliamentarians of all political stripes to have that debate about this industry and other industries at the committee stage. We can look at ways to improve it.
The previous speaker made reference to us having some programs. That is right. From day one, this government has been focused on ensuring we were there for small businesses in a real way. Those small businesses, in good part, are doing that much better as a result of the programs we put in place, and he cited some of them. A Conservative member previously made reference to the emergency wage subsidy program. It is a fantastic program.
Late last year, the and I had a discussion via Zoom with members from the folk arts council, which puts on Folklorama in Winnipeg. Close to 200,000 people participate in that event. Members can google it if they like. It is a major tourist attraction for the province of Manitoba.
We had representatives from the folk arts and others were involved in that discussion. They talked about how grateful they were for the wage subsidy program. A couple even indicated that if it were not for the wage subsidy program, the folk arts council might have had to close its doors. Think of the impact that would have had on my province. This institution has been around for over 50 years. There are literally thousands of volunteers. There are 200,000 plus people who will visit the different pavilions. Historically, it has been such a wonderful organization that provides jobs and economic boosts, whether to hotels, artists, and the like. It is very important to our tourism industry. It benefited from the emergency wage subsidy program. Members can talk about tourism and that program under Bill if they so choose.
However, the also made reference to the emergency business account, another outstanding program. I do not know if he made reference to the emergency rent subsidy program. What about the business credit availability program? One could even talk about the regional relief and recovery funds. All these programs virtually started from nothing.
The and this government are focused on the pandemic and working with Canadians, provinces and territories wherever we can to protect these industries. We worked with some of the best civil servants in the world and because of that, we were able to get these programs in place to protect the types of industries that are absolutely critical to our future. Because we were so successful at doing that, we are in a much better position to build back better. That applies to our travel industry. Our travel and tourism industry, like other industries we have, has benefited dramatically and positively from these programs.
We have admitted that we can do better, that there are opportunities to improve. That is one of the reasons for Bill . The Conservatives continue to play this stupid game of filibustering, preventing the bill from going to committee, because they are not concerned. They might say they are, but saying it is different than doing it. It is time to have less talk and more action from the Conservative Party of Canada. We need a higher—
Mr. Speaker, interpretation is certainly a very important issue, as is tourism in Quebec.
The tourism industry is crucial to Quebec's regional economies. It employs over 400,000 workers and contributes $15 billion to the Quebec economy. More than two-thirds of these businesses are located outside the greater Quebec City and Montreal areas, and most of them are very small businesses that are agile and innovative, but still fragile. This industry has been one of the hardest hit by the public health crisis, and it is still waiting for the government to show more empathy and a greater desire to collaborate, because times will be tough for several years to come.
To overcome this enormous challenge, the tourism industry will need the hard work and talent of everyone involved. That is why I prefer to talk about “tourism with a promising future”. It is also why I would like to talk to Marsha Walden, President and CEO of Destination Canada, the Canadian tourism commission, about solutions that people in the industry have shared with me in recent months. We need to make the most of this evening's debate by talking about solutions and how we can restructure the tourism ecosystem.
Before we increase the budget envelopes for the promotion of tourism, we should invest heavily in the restructuring of the tourism ecosystem. I will explain.
In the current public health context, travellers are looking for alternative tourism destinations because people do not want to go to major cities where there is a higher risk of COVID-19. That is understandable. Major cities are not popular because people want to enjoy themselves in the great outdoors. Therefore, the tourism industry must adapt its offerings and make smart investments even in smaller tourism areas.
For example, in 2020, my region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue experienced a tourism boost despite the public health context, and it was a good year for tourism given the circumstances. Quebeckers travelled more than seven hours from Montreal to visit the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region. In September, festival-goers stayed in Abitibi-Témiscamingue for the Emerging Music Festival, which I attended with my colleague from , among others. The Abitibi-Témiscamingue International Film Festival was held in October.
In the midst of a health crisis, the people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue were able to put on two major events without any problems or any impact on the spread of the virus.
What is more, this winter, snowmobilers have been coming from all over to ride the extensive network of trails criss-crossing the immense territory of Abitibi-Témiscamingue. There are 3,600 kilometres of snowmobile trails, for those who are interested. My region is so large and attractive and has so many wide open spaces that it would take a visitor weeks to explore all of our snowmobile, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails and our vast expanses of frozen lakes in winter, just like it would take weeks for them to roam all the walking trails, the two national parks and the rivers in summer.
The tourism offerings need to be different. This year, potentially, and in the coming years, tourism in Abitibi-Témiscamingue will slowly pick up again, and people will come from all over to discover the region's tourism offerings. They will visit museums, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, villages and outfitters. They will go to rodeos and truck rodeos and attend large outdoor concerts. The people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue are known for their enthusiasm, whether it is -30°C in January and February or 30°C in July and August.
In addition, Quebec is a true natural wonder, known for the beauty of its land and the St. Lawrence River. Quebeckers and travellers from all over the world come to walk the streets of Old Quebec and experience the vibrancy of downtown Montreal. Visitors travel along the St. Lawrence River to go whale watching and visit the picturesque little villages along its shores, often known for their local products and microbreweries. Visitors travel through the vast wilderness of the boreal forest, stay at outfitters, take part in ice fishing tournaments or sled dog races, and the list goes on.
Quebec is a popular adventure tourism destination, so I hope we can enhance our tourism offerings. Why not invest heavily in regional structures that will put money in the right areas, specifically to meet local needs, based on each local reality?
I appeal to the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Tourism Commission in that regard. Tourism development officers help entrepreneurs, municipalities and organizations adapt and enhance their tourism offerings, which must be thoughtfully prepared. It is important to rebuild locally, since tourists will flock back to us in a few years. Preparations are in the works, and I hope Ms. Walden will provide the necessary financial resources, without conditions, to maximize the potential of the tourism industry in the regions.
When tourism in Quebec and the rest of Canada gets back to full strength in the coming years, I hope the federal government will have given the industry a jump-start and the means to rebuild. It is certainly no small task. Rebuilding is a tremendous challenge. For example, there needs to be support for agri-tourism, investment in structures for tourism to extend to the farms, directly at the farm, in facilities, among the animals, to host activities on site and taste products from the farm.
Why not try something new at public markets so that people can discover quality local products, much like the gourmet fair, the Foire gourmande de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue et du Nord-Est ontarien, has done? Why not try something new to bring tourism to the mountains, forests and waterways, to ensure environmentally responsible protection of the natural environment? Why not try something new to have tourism help protect the heritage buildings of our tourist sites, such as the churches and our beautiful old Quebec and Canadian homes?
We must build a solid tourism ecosystem that will help people develop their talents, protect our heritage and make use of natural environments. We need to reimagine the tourism industry. Until this industry gets back on its feet, we need to be creative and think outside the box. The focus should be on the well-being of travellers and on providing effective support for these travellers and for the businesses and organizations in these tourism ecosystems.
We cannot leave travellers to fend for themselves. We should be giving them a memorable human experience. Let us make tourism a more humanistic way of life, for both travellers and workers. Let us make it more innovative, more environmentally friendly, and more attuned to the land, heritage and people who live there. If we are going to achieve this, we must reimagine tourism and transition from competition to collaboration. We need to review the necessary investments, not just in terms of budget amounts, but also in terms of how things are done. People should be able to work with others and not against others, to develop innovative, creative projects.
I would like to suggest some approaches. First, bigger budgets so that people on the ground, many of them passionate individuals who actually live in the areas that need a boost, can invest in specialized resources. The government should also help people who have built businesses pass the baton to other passionate individuals. We need to help the tourism industry adapt to this reality by creating new programs that give stakeholders something to build on, and that means investing in those programs. Young people who want to call these places home, embrace healthy lifestyles and provide an exceptional quality of life can leverage a region's assets to spur economic development.
Let us make sure that people working in the tourism industry are proud to help capitalize on what their region and its natural beauty have to offer. We need attractive ad and promotional video campaigns, but we also have to promote the people working in the industry. Investing in human talent is key to the success of our tourism businesses.
In closing, the tourism industry will remain in limbo for many more difficult months. It is going to experience a labour shortage. We have to be aware of that. The whole structure is broken, and the parts need to be rebuilt. If nothing changes, many competent workers will leave the tourism industry for other sectors.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased, albeit with a strong sense of irony, to be taking part in this completely pointless debate that the governing Liberal Party of Canada has foisted upon the House.
It is unfathomable to me that the Liberal minority in this Parliament can force such a pointless debate that is of no interest to the people we represent, especially during this health crisis during which we are meant to be productive.
I have collegial relationships with a number of my Liberal colleagues, and they know that our verbal sparring and political interventions here in the House, in committee or in our respective ridings come from a place of trust and good faith.
With that said, I cannot emphasize enough how very disappointed I am to see that the government is moving so slowly on its piddly response plan that should have reassured Quebeckers and Canadians. After all, the runs a G7 country, which ranks last in terms of vaccination, but is still a G7 country.
We take comfort in what we can, and everyone will readily agree. It was 44 years ago that the current Prime Minister's father made history by addressing the United States Congress for the very first time. Tomorrow, his son will meet with the new U.S. President. It goes without saying that keen observers will note the obvious and not-so-obvious differences from what will be said from the Canadian perspective. One had a vision; the other, a simple reaction. I could never be satisfied with either one. Here and around the world, since the start of his mediocre tenure as the head of government, the Prime Minister's personal work during the pandemic has been deemed to be fruitless, without constructive results, and, above all, to this point, not worthy of mention.
The motion currently before the House, a dilatory tactic on the part of government members, speaks for itself. It demonstrates the government's philosophical disconnect in attempting to avoid basic issues that should be of serious concern in order to buy time for the Prime Minister. The Liberal Party's dilatory motion seeks to buy time. We believe that buying time is a petty thing to do, and it would be a good idea for members to remember that. That is what the government is doing and it is quite frankly unacceptable, insulting and unbelievable. In my opinion, it is completely ridiculous and juvenile for the government to take the House's precious time today to discuss a committee report on the new president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Tourism Commission. It is not hard to imagine the preposterous backroom wrangling that senior members of the Liberal Party have been doing over the past few days to slow down the work of the House. I am sure that other members are just as disappointed as I am. The entire strategy of a G7 government is likely based on a note hastily scrawled on the corner of a napkin, a government that is struggling to limit the shame felt by its own caucus regarding its vain attempts to dig out of a hole the economic forces it claims are its proudest ally.
To be honest, if I had an ally or a partner of the sort the Liberal government claims to be, I would quietly tell the Chair, given that nobody is listening anyway, that I would have gotten rid of such an ally with no compunction whatsoever. It seems true friends are not those one might instinctively think of. The tourism industry from coast to coast to coast deserves much more than the promises this government is dangling before it.
Given some of the cockamamie ideas we have been discussing, it is worth informing our colleagues from all government parties that the government is using them for blatantly partisan purposes, emphasis on “partisan”.
The only thing in this entire futile debate that has made any impression on me at all is this stalling tactic that is orally and literally wasting the House's precious time, time that is all the more precious and crucial for the entire population, time that we should be spending debating much more important issues during this pandemic.
I would like to think that everyone shares my sympathy and concern for the awful times the businesses in the tourism industry are going through right now.
Many people know how much energy I have put into having as many meetings as possible with all the players in all sectors of this vast business community, regardless of their size within the industry, to ensure its survival. To see the Liberal Party of Canada stoop so low today and abandon them in such a vile and mean-spirited parliamentary procedure suggests that the 's pretty words yesterday were nothing more than a prelude to an even worse rejection to come. For months now, day in and day out, the Liberal government has been promising better days for the entire tourism industry. Day in and day out, it keeps repeating that promise, although it never really delivers on it.
The Liberal Party, headed up by the Prime Minister and the , kept on misleading the small business owners who make our regions the most charming places to visit, before heading out into the broader world. However, the Liberals return to the House with a dilatory measure like the one before us, which is deeply offensive.
The appointment of Marsha Walden at the head of the Canadian Tourism Commission was duly approved by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. This powerful House of Commons committee had already exercised the necessary due diligence on reviewing Ms. Walden's candidacy and had approved her appointment. The motion for reference to the House of Commons tabled by the Liberals is as outrageous as it is despicable.
As proof, I submit all the despicable treatment meted out to the tourism industry from the outset of the pandemic. From the time the federal government declared a pandemic to the deployment of all the health measures in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, the tourism industry was the first to be affected. Not only did all of its operations cease overnight, but this industry employs tens of thousands of people in Quebec and hundreds of thousands more across Canada, so it will be the last to recover. All members will agree with me that the House had better things to do today than to discuss the shenanigans of the people opposite, which just prove how amateurish this government is.
Mr. Speaker, before I get started, on behalf of the federal NDP and as the critic for small business and tourism, I want to acknowledge a huge loss. I believe that all parliamentarians will agree that we lost a wonderful leader in the tourism sector: Charlotte Bell, who was the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. She was an incredible champion for tourism businesses and the tourism sector across our country, and she helped grow this magnificent sector. We just lost Charlotte recently, and I want to extend our condolences to her family, to the team at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and to all of its members. We will not forget Charlotte. She was an incredible asset, and we thank her for all of her contributions.
We are hearing stories in all 338 ridings across our country. Given that we have the longest coastline in the world, with three coasts, and we have incredible mountains, the scenery right across our country is magnificent, but every community has been impacted by COVID-19. The tourism and hospitality sector was a $103-billion sector prior to COVID-19 arriving in our communities and around the globe. We have lost 521,000 jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry since the pandemic hit us. It is the hardest-hit sector and will likely be the last sector to recover. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on those businesses.
I come from the tourism-based community of Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and I know all too well the importance of tourism not just to the local economy, but also to our culture and to our infrastructure. We have great infrastructure in place that many people have benefited from that goes well beyond the tourism sector, including bus transportation. Without the tourism sector, all of the infrastructure is going to be difficult to manage, and I will talk about the threat to that infrastructure in a moment.
I want to talk about the impact this has had particularly on tourism operators and those in the hospitality industry from coast to coast to coast. Many have had to close their doors, not just once but twice or three times. They have had to weather myriad programs, and as we have seen the government continues to design programs that are hard to access.
We need the government to continue to work with opposition members, like the New Democrats, that have brought forward changes.
For example, we put pressure on the government to change the wage subsidy, which was initially going to be 10%, to 75%. However, we need the government to go further for these businesses and listen to the tourism and hospitality sector.
We also brought forward the idea of a commercial rent program. Of course, it was initially rolled out to be landlord-driven, which made it very difficult for many businesses to qualify as they could not meet the criteria that were set out. We were glad to see the Liberals fix that program in the fall, but we were extremely disappointed that they did not take the eligibility back to April when they realized that there was a flaw in the design of the program. The Liberals admitted it, yet still refused to go back to April 1, expecting those businesses in the hardest-hit sector to survive. Some of those businesses would not get the help that maybe their neighbours got because some landlords would not or could not apply, for whatever reason. We are glad to see it fixed now, but we would like to see the Liberals take it back to April 1, in fairness to those businesses and their competition, to help them get through this.
Many of these businesses closed their doors to protect public health from the middle of March on. These small businesses and tourism operators are the unsung heroes in our country. We do not talk enough about them and their employees. This is a sector that is going to need significant investment, and for a lot longer than other sectors, because it is the hardest hit.
Clearly we supported the government fixing its CEBA loan program, but that loan program only goes so far. There are still people who are not able to access any of these programs, such as start-ups, for example. We put forward solutions to the government to use measurements from March moving forward. It could look at receipts, like it finally did with the CEBA loan program, as a measurement for doling out funds to legitimate businesses, and have measurements in place so it could support them. However, it has not done that.
There is a start-up in the riding of my colleague, the member for . He has repeatedly brought the attention of the government to a veterans' brewery, V2V Black Hops Brewing company. Some veterans, who put their lives on the line, started a social enterprise to help other veterans suffering from PTSD. They opened at the beginning of March and have not been able to access any supports: not the wage subsidy, not the rent program and not the CEBA loan. They have been left completely high and dry. One would think, once the government saw that the company had paid its employees since last March and had closed its doors to protect public health, it would come to the company's rescue and help these incredible heroes. No. The government has left them high and dry, just like a restaurant in Victoria that my has been constantly bringing to the attention of government, and businesses in my riding that have been forgotten in Courtenay.
There has been a lack of support for really small micro-businesses, such as fish guides. Of the programs the government has rolled out, the wage subsidy does not work for them because they are self-employed and sole proprietors. They do not need the rent program, and most of them do not qualify for the CEBA loan because of the requirements in place. They need help. New Democrats were glad that the government extended CERB for those who had been impacted. We were very glad to see that, but the government needs to create different programs for different markets that have been left out, especially in the tourism and hospitality sectors. We want to make sure we help them.
Right now, there is a wild salmon crisis in British Columbia. There are plenty of opportunities to support the tourism sector, as well as to invest in restoration and enhancement, and to support sectors such as the aquaculture industry, which is having to diversify and build more resiliency. We are not seeing the support that is needed right now for areas that have both industry and tourism and need help. For example, we know that businesses in Port Alberni, where I live, were left out because the City leases them spaces for their restaurants, retail outlets and different businesses. They were left out because they lease from a small local government. That is unacceptable.
Why would they be left out because of that? They are paying rent and trying to keep their businesses going. They have employees and have families they need to feed. The government did not support them until late in the fall when it agreed, but then said it would not go back to the beginning of the spring as it did for everybody else.
I want to talk about the solutions for a moment, because the Tourism Industry Association of Canada has done an incredible job of bringing forward a recovery plan, as has the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and many of the travel and transport sectors that we rely on and benefit from. Obviously all Canadians benefit from our air and aviation sector, but there is also the bus sector.
My colleagues in the NDP on Vancouver Island and I wrote a letter to the new urging him to do something to save Wilson's bus lines. We cannot lose Wilson's bus lines. This is absolutely critical infrastructure for people, especially the most marginalized, on Vancouver Island. The company relies on tourism for the bulk of its income to keep afloat. Many people in the ridings benefit from it.
I think about people who live in remote first nations, like the Hesquiaht, the Ahousaht, the Yuu-cluth-aht or the Huu-ay-aht. All of these are Nuu-chah-nulth nations. I can speak to all of them in my riding that benefit from the tourism infrastructure that is in place, like the bus services to get to doctors' appointments or to connect with family members. Many of them struggling to get to a doctor rely on bus transportation, especially the elders. Some of them cannot drive. They might have vision or health issues and cannot get to appointments. There are people who have barriers and are living with disabilities who absolutely require support and service.
The government is telling businesses in the transportation sector to borrow more money. The government says it is going to collapse the sector because people are not going to come. Businesses are not able to do that anymore. They can only borrow so much. They need the Liberals to step up to the plate. The Liberals keep talking about supporting the transportation sector, but they have not done that.
I want to thank my colleague for because he has been an incredible champion. On the Highway of Tears, he talked about the impact of losing Greyhound, as many communities have in northern Saskatchewan. My former colleague, Georgina Jolibois, raised this issue as well. It is absolutely critical that we create an essential bus network. There is now a coast-to-coast bus coalition advocating for the federal government to ensure that we have that connection right across our country. We have downloaded this to provincial governments, and it has now become piecemeal. It is unacceptable, especially for the most marginalized. We need to connect Canadians coast to coast, and we need to make sure that they get the support they need.
The 2021 tourism recovery plan that I talked about, from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, is absolutely fabulous. It is very clear and straightforward. The association has identified its needs. It needs the government to respond with supports. We know that HASCAP is out the door, but we want to make sure that financial institutions are ready to receive HASCAP applications and move quickly. They need to be available on a per-property basis. My colleague for has been hounding me. He said that many businesses in his riding are not eligible because they have multiple locations and they are not getting the support they need. The government needs to change the flexibility of all its programs so that people with multiple businesses that are not at arm's length can actually get the support they need. They should not be penalized. It is going to cost jobs and livelihoods, and it is going to impact families.
The RRRF funding has been absolutely a disaster. Only 14% of those who have applied were able to get it. It has been a terrible rollout so far. The wage subsidy needs to be accessible to 90% of those businesses until we are back to normal, and the wage subsidy also needs to be backdated and to use the measurement of 2019, but I also know businesses that were caught in the middle. A business in Tofino, for example, closed its resort in 2019 to do some renovations and some work. It is out of luck. When businesses close their doors and cannot get these really important funding needs, the CEBA loan will get them through a day if they are lucky. It is critical that the Liberals amend these changes and support these folks.
Going back to the aviation sector and transportation sector, we need a plan. We need the Liberals to ensure that they are providing some relief to Nav Canada and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to get those services going and make sure they are funding them.
Again, I talked about the Indigenous Tourism Association. I had a frantic call from the CEO who was told that his budget had been trimmed from $3 million a year. The ITA has been absolutely essential to growing the indigenous tourism sector, which is the fastest growing sector in Canada. The ITA provides critical support in getting loans out the door to over 800 indigenous businesses that it has personal connections with. This is also the most fragile business demographic in our country. The CEO was told the ITA was going to get cut from $3 million to $500,000. This is after all of the work that it has done. I hope the government is going to recognize in the budget the importance that the ITA has and is going to have in the recovery.
We have seen how the government has failed indigenous businesses when it comes to the wage subsidy, for example. A lot of indigenous-led businesses were ineligible at the beginning. We went to the wall to get the government to fix that eligibility for those businesses that were ineligible because of the design of their business. Again, we need the government to be flexible.
I have talked about some of the important pieces. Obviously, testing is critical to the tourism sector. We need the government to invest in rapid testing and to look at other countries around the world where we have seen success with rapid testing. We also need to look at incentives. We saw the Harper government get rid of a really important GST rebate that we gave to visitors. Indeed, we are the only industrialized country in the world that charges a tax on an export sector like tourism. It is absolutely critical that we look at this.
I also want to talk about some really important sectors, like the events sector, which has not been receiving the support it needs. It is critical we look at ways to support that sector and get creative because a lot of the people working in it are not going to be employed until next year.
When it comes to the NDP and our approach to the tourism and small business sector, there are some critical needs that were in play before the sector hit this turmoil. We knew that businesses could not grow without affordable housing. If someone goes to any resort municipality in British Columbia or any tourism-based economy in Canada, they will say their biggest challenge is finding employees, and the reason they cannot find them is housing.
We have an opportunity not just to recover and build back better, as we hear from the government, but to build back better so that our sector grows, not just bring it back to where we were. We want to continue to grow. That is something the NDP wants to see. We want to see more non-market housing. In the 1970s and 1980s we saw our housing stock go 10% non-market housing to 3% today. Europe is at 30%. It is absolutely critical that we have that infrastructure.
Child care is absolutely critical. The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce says that the number one need right now is affordable, universal and accessible child care. That is absolutely critical to the tourism sector, which is why it is so critical to the NDP that we invest in these important infrastructure pieces.