Eric Brown of Totem Lodge says his 85-year-old operation at Sioux Narrows is going to go under, unless they get help from the government. The high interest bridge loans being offered are too expensive at a time when they don't have much income, he said.
"It's like being in Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and they're charging $20 for a bottle of water," he said, during today's rally in Vermilion Bay.
The minister responsible for FedNor, Melanie Joly, has said the budget for the economic development agency for Northern Ontario has nearly doubled, as Ottawa looks for ways to help during the pandemic.
However, Brown wasn't at all impressed.
"It's outrageous. Why do they have to make money off of us," he said, noting the loans would cost him between $350,000 and $500,000.
Steve Smith of Sunset Country Adventures has said the wage subsidy program doesn't help, either, because they can't afford to hire staff. Only six of his 450 customers from last year were Canadian. With the U.S. border closed indefinitely, lodges and resorts are looking at a lost season.
While the province recently allowed visitors from southern Ontario and western Canada to rent lodges, Brown said less than five per cent of his 350 beds were being used, and he might lose his 200 staff if they went bankrupt.
In all, lodge owners came from Atikokan to Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, Kenora and Nestor Falls filled the front of Fort Vermilion earlier today, as they lobbied for grants to help them through the pandemic.
Aaron Comeau of Amik Outposts in Red Lake says their resort is quiet these days.
"We're non-operational right now. We're just trying to do what we can to keep for when business resumes," he said.
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa also stopped by to lend his support to the rally.
"I think it's very important to give a voice to the tourism outfitters. The government needs to step up in supporting them," he said, during his visit.
Federal and provincial governments in Canada, along with the American government, said last week they weren't in any hurry to reopen the international border, given the number of new cases of the coronavirus. Rickford indicated it might be well into July, at the earliest, before the border reopens.