Kenora MP Eric Melillo is working with local tourism operators to help them get clarity on when they can reopen, as the Canadian and United States border will remain closed until June 21 at the earliest.
“In addition to financial support, what tourism-dependent businesses and communities need right now is clarity,” said Melillo, in a prepared statement. “Camps, festivals, hunting and fishing operations – they need to know whether they will be able to have a season or not, and what that will look like.”
Melillo participated in the Standing Committee on Finance last week, where he questioned the Stratford Festival Board of Governors on their festival’s contribution to their local economy, and drew comparisons to the importance of tourism in the Kenora riding.
“In the sense that – in normal times – we’re a hotspot for domestic and international tourists. Right now, we have many small businesses who are relying on those tourists; not just hotels and camps, but restaurants, retail stores, and a number of other businesses who are being hurt by this.”
“Over the last few months, I’ve been speaking extensively with tourism operators from the Kenora riding about what they need in other to weather this crisis, so it was certainly interesting to hear from a major tourist attraction from another part of the province,” Melillo added.
Earlier this month, Melillo was pushing the federal government to better support small and seasonal businesses throughout the pandemic, and is still advocating for easier access to financial supports.
However, Melillo noted that he was glad to see an extension of the federal government’s wage subsidy program, which was set to end on June 6. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced two weeks ago that the program would continue into August, to give employers more runway to resume operations.
Melillo says the extension will particularly help seasonal and tourism-based businesses this summer, who have had difficulties accessing federal supports.
“That’s something I’ve been pushing for with my northern Ontario colleagues. We understand that tourism businesses and seasonal industries have been particularly left out and don’t qualify for many of the supports. We’ve been asking for specific supports for these industries as well,” Melillo added.
According to Finance Canada, the subsidy generally covers 75 per cent of an employee's wages – up to $847 per week - for employers of all sizes and across all sectors, who have suffered a drop in gross revenues of at least 15 per cent in March, and 30 per cent in April and May.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted that the U.S. is a potential ‘source of vulnerability’ when it comes to people bringing COVID-19 into Canada unknowingly. The U.S. currently has 42 per cent of the world’s COVID-19 cases.
Americans and Canadians have both been mandated to avoid non-essential travel outside of their own countries. The Northwestern Health Unit is also warning against travel within northwestern Ontario.
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Wage subsidy extension helps resorts, lodges