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Susie Grynol
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Susie Grynol
2021-05-18 14:47
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My remarks are only five minutes, so we'll buy some extra time for questions.
Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today.
My name is Susie Grynol, and I am the president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada.
Today I am here on behalf of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses, representing more than 100 organizations in the tourism, travel, arts and culture, events and festivals, accommodation and hospitality sectors. A copy of coalition members was sent through to the committee in advance.
Because of necessary public health policies, we have seen thousands of festivals, concerts, conventions, indigenous tourism experiences, fairs, exhibitions, business and sporting events cancelled. Unfortunately, no major events are scheduled for this summer or fall.
When we are past the third wave, most industries impacted by COVID will revive quickly when the light-switch is turned on, ramping up operations the day after restrictions are lifted. For Canada's tourism, travel and events sector, our recovery will be more complicated, more like a dimmer switch that will build over the next year.
Opening up the international border is complicated. Planning large concerts and conventions in a new COVID world will take time, and today we have no information on what metrics would lead to a domestic travel restart, to the reopening of the U.S. border or to the welcoming back of international vacationers. We don't know how Canada plans to allow vaccinated Canadians to resume travel and what a phased reopening plan would entail.
The only thing we do know is that travel is not being recommended by public health officials this summer. Most Canadians will spend their summer in their backyards or at cottages and campsites. Our downtown cores will sit empty because no major events are planned, business travel will be non-existent and Canadians will likely spend their pent-up travel dollars down south this fall and winter, rather than in Canada. Simply put, our recovery is not imminent.
Where does this leave us? The federal budget did make some helpful investments into tourism. We saw marketing dollars and specific funds to bring back our events businesses and other business support programs, which may benefit the industry when the pandemic is over, but these investments cannot bring back the summer of 2021 and will not change the reality that the fall will be our toughest quarter of the pandemic.
How could it be worse than 2020 was? It's because the critical lifelines of our industry—CEWS and CERS—are being aggressively wound down for all sectors equally, starting in June.
How big a problem is this? According to our survey of coalition members from March, 60% of businesses represented will go out of business without an extension of CEWS and CERS to the end of 2021. This means that we could lose the critical infrastructure that supports our event businesses in Canada, the unique local attractions that enhance our visitor experience and the hotels that anchor our travel sector. It means that our post-pandemic nation will look a lot less vibrant and less Canadian. It puts the livelihoods of more than two million people at risk, mostly women, young people and immigrants.
The real tragedy is that this is a problem of timing and not a shift in human behaviour. Once it's allowed, travel will come back with a vengeance. We've seen it in other countries. Canadians will want to attend sporting events and concerts. They will want to go back to the theatre and attend in-person conventions. They can't wait to get married in a big, crowded room full of the people they love. Travel and face-to-face events will come back, but we need a plan for how the government intends to keep our sector intact until we can get to the other side of the pandemic.
Today we're asking the government for two things. First, the federal government must produce a clear reopening plan based on metrics and milestones that we can rely on to start planning large events and the return of travel. Other countries have tabled reopening plans, and we believe Canada should follow suit.
Second, we need a sector-specific support program in place for the fall to assist with wages and fixed costs so that we can survive to the spring and summer of 2021, when our true recovery will start. It is only the federal government that can disarm the ticking time bomb that faces our industry. If a sector-specific approach is not designed, it is not a question of whether that bomb explodes, only a question of when.
Thank you.
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2021-05-18 15:42
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Thank you. I'll go first to Ms. Grynol.
Thank you for your testimony. I took note of four things in your opening statement.
You were asking for metrics that would lead to the reopening of our common border with the United States. You also wanted to know what a phased opening of our economy would look like. You talked about the fact that this fall is going to be even worse because the CEWS and the CERS programs are being wound down, and then you talked about sector-specific funding for your industry.
It just so happens that the letter we sent to the minister in the lead-up to the budget dealt with those four specific issues. We asked for a clear plan to safely reopen the border. We asked for a clear plan to safely reopen the economy. We wanted to make sure that emergency support programs would continue to support those businesses that hadn't made it through to the end of the pandemic. Finally, we asked for targeted, sector-specific support.
Let me ask you yes-or-no questions.
First, regarding the metrics you were looking for, did you find them in the budget?
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Susie Grynol
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Susie Grynol
2021-05-18 15:43
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As they relate to the international border?
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2021-05-18 15:43
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Yes. Did you see a plan to reopen the border safely in the budget?
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2021-05-18 15:43
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Okay.
Did you see a plan to safely reopen the economy going forward?
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Susie Grynol
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Susie Grynol
2021-05-18 15:43
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As it relates to our sector specifically...?
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Susie Grynol
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Susie Grynol
2021-05-18 15:44
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No. In fairness to the government, we were in the middle of a third wave at that point in time, but no, we did not see that plan.
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-05-18 16:43
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It's not even supplementary. It's just a clarification. I just want to make sure of something.
Ms. Potter, you're saying that for the interprovincial side there should be just one rule, with no vaccine passport. We should all have rules of engagement for travel, but they should be very clear and consistent among all the provinces and territories. That's what you're asking for.
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Beth Potter
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Beth Potter
2021-05-18 16:44
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Exactly. We're asking for no travel passport within Canada.
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View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2021-05-18 16:44
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to acknowledge the witnesses. I would like to thank them for being here and for their presentations.
My questions are for Ms. Potter.
Thank you again for your presentation.
I'll start where Ms. Dzerowicz left off. You would support the use of a vaccine passport for foreign tourists entering Canada. Is that right? Could you clarify your position on this issue again?
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Beth Potter
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Beth Potter
2021-05-18 16:44
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Thank you for the question. I'll respond in English.
Our position is that in order to enter the country.... We want to make it easy for travellers to enter the country, so there needs to be a process in place for those who have been vaccinated and travellers who have not been vaccinated.
Globally and in the work I've been doing at the World Travel and Tourism Council's table, it's proof of vaccination in the form of a health certificate, a vaccine passport or a green check, which the EU is using. It's some kind of indicator that a person has been fully vaccinated and they can enter a country, carry on and travel within it as usual.
For those who have not been vaccinated, we are suggesting that you will still want to test, using a PCR test before departure and a rapid test on arrival. Then they can carry on. Only introduce quarantine should there be a positive test result.
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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2021-05-18 17:01
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Okay, and was there a plan to safely reopen the border?
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Beth Potter
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Beth Potter
2021-05-18 17:02
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There was mention of it, but there was not a plan included in the budget.
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View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the witnesses.
This question goes to Ms. Demarcke and Mr. Paquet. It relates to tourism, obviously.
The Australian government recently put in place a spending measure intended to help areas of Australia that rely on tourism—around a dozen areas in the country. The way they're doing it is that they have $1 billion earmarked specifically to help reduce—in half, in fact—travel fares, so 800,000 Australians would have the ability to travel at half the price because of this subsidy.
I wonder how that might apply to Canada. [Technical difficulty—Editor] don't want to encourage travel now, but when it is safe to do so, do you think this is something that...? When I say “when it is safe to do so”, I mean when Canadians have received the vaccine and we see infection rates decline very dramatically. Do you think this is a way to help areas of the country that rely on [Technical difficulty—Editor] that the Canadian government should look at pursuing?
Ms. Demarcke, we can begin with you if you wish, and then maybe wrap it up with Mr. Paquet.
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Donna Lee Demarcke
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Donna Lee Demarcke
2021-04-01 15:58
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That would be an absolutely phenomenal initiative, if the federal government would take something like that on, especially if we were open to Canadian travel before international travel. We could start getting some Canadians moving around our country while we're waiting for international travel to come back to Canada again. It would be absolutely welcomed, and it would be a great program for tourism in our country.
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View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
In Australia, it is focused specifically on Australian citizens. It could be something interesting here to focus on Canadian citizens.
I would love to hear your view, Mr. Paquet.
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Eric Paquet
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Eric Paquet
2021-04-01 15:59
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We think it's a great idea. One of our recommendations in the document we submitted in the pre-consulting for the federal budget is to incent Canadians to travel across the country. It should focus primarily on transport, giving discounts on transport to help Canadians to travel. You could also even give free tickets to children under 12, so you incent families to travel and discover the country.
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View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, one step at a time, but I take your point.
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Eric Paquet
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Eric Paquet
2021-04-01 15:59
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Yes, you know what I mean by that.
We think a program that's instant, where you see tangible benefits right away when you want to make a reservation, is something that could work well, including with different local programs in the country. It could be complementary to other local programs, and without the tourism companies cutting their margins. We think it would be a great program.
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View Michael Barrett Profile
CPC (ON)
Thanks for answering the question. Initially, in the letter from your lawyer posted on Twitter, it said that you wouldn't answer questions with respect to those...but we have that answer.
At your July 28 finance committee appearance, you gave many undertakings to follow up, but there wasn't a prompt reply. A few weeks later, Parliament was prorogued and then we didn't receive those responses from your organization, your having felt that you were relieved from that commitment or undertaking.
Was there any reason for the delay in that response?
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Marc Kielburger
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Marc Kielburger
2021-03-15 14:59
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Mr. Barrett, we conducted ourselves by providing all undertakings in a reasonable time frame. You'd have to go ask parliamentary staff, but your parliamentary staff has had these undertakings now, sir, for months.
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Craig Kielburger
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Craig Kielburger
2021-03-15 14:59
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To be clear, sir, parliamentary staff.... Once the committee was dissolved, we were told not to direct it until prorogation stopped. We weren't the ones who prorogued government. As soon as government came back and we had a clerk to engage with, we handed over the undertakings.
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View Raquel Dancho Profile
CPC (MB)
View Raquel Dancho Profile
2021-03-11 15:48
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I understand it's neat and tidy altogether. I appreciate what you're saying and I'm glad to hear that. I still feel it's a bit of an arbitrary distinction, but I appreciate your explanation.
Can you tell me how many leisure travellers or just travellers in general claimed the CERB before January 11?
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Andrew Brown
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Andrew Brown
2021-03-11 15:48
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We know that the total number of claimants at that point would have been something like 1.5 million Canadians. In terms of the number of travellers, we don't have information on the number of people who travelled and applied for the benefit prior to January. At that time, we were not asking people to provide information with respect to whether they had travelled outside of the country.
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View Raquel Dancho Profile
CPC (MB)
View Raquel Dancho Profile
2021-03-11 15:49
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You're not sure.
I asked the minister this during our bill briefing and she mentioned that it has to go through CRA and there's this whole process to talk to customs and the border service agents and the like to work that out. It sounds almost like an audit process.
Can you estimate how long it's going to take to root out who's been travelling for leisure purposes after January 11?
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Andrew Brown
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Andrew Brown
2021-03-11 15:49
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The after January 11 part is now part of the application process.
People actually have to indicate that when they apply for the benefit, so we have that information as to whether they've indicated that they were travelling or not. Prior to January 11, that was not part of the form—
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