The Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce has co-sponsors two policy resolutions going forward at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM: Here are the two policies
Ensuring Canada’s Tourism Sector Recovers From Covid-19
With the onset of COVID-19, tourism was one of the hardest hit sectors and it will be one of the last to fully recover. A strategy is needed to address the projected labour shortage facing the sector, as well as additional investments to ensure tourism businesses across the country can survive and Canada can continue attracting domestic and international travelers to support the sector’s economic recovery.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s tourism sector contributed $105 billion to the economy, encompassed 225,000 small and medium-sized businesses, and employed 1.8 million workers. In fact, one out of every 11 jobs were directly involved with travelers – including those employed in travel services, accommodations, recreation and entertainment, transportation, and the food and beverage industries. The tourism sector was also a significant employer of youth, women, and newcomers. ,
As the Tourism Sector Association of Canada (TIAC) explains, 2020 was an incredibly challenging year for travel and tourism. Sector advocates are concerned tourism will be one of the last industries to fully recover, with experts not expecting a return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.
This situation owes to several reasons. COVID-19 was transmitted around the world, leading governments to introduce numerous travel restrictions. In Canada, tourism and travel came to a halt as borders were closed to non-essential travel in March 2020. This was compounded by the implementation of important public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. Most countries are continuing to maintain travel restrictions and varying degrees of public health measures to control the virus and its variants.
While Canada welcomed 96.8 million international travelers in 2019, this figure fell to 25.9 million in 2020 as the pandemic devastated the international travel. Many tourism businesses across the country lost significant revenue, while they remained liable for fixed expenses such as rent/mortgages, property taxes, and utilities. Emergency grants, loans, and tax relief programs have helped thousands of businesses keep their doors open thus far, but these supports are temporary.
The tourism sector warrants particular attention because of its uniqueness and economic impact. It is one of the few industries that generates economic activity in every province/territory by promoting Canada’s diverse regions. The sector also benefits many adjacent industries. When a tourist visits another community or region, they typically stay for several days, enjoying multiple experiences and excursions. This creates a ripple effect that supports other businesses. Hence, measures that support the tourism sector have the potential to generate economic returns for other industries, businesses, and the economy as a whole.
Some of the sector’s challenges predate the pandemic. Despite the growth, the tourism sector was experiencing prior to COVID-19, Tourism HR Canada predicted 93,000 tourism jobs would go unfilled by 2035. This projected labour shortage, coupled with the effects the pandemic has had on the tourism economy, underscores the need for a national strategy to stem the losses and help the sector and its workers recover.
In addition, the Canada Emergency Wage Benefit (CEWS) has been a lifeline for the tourism sector during the pandemic. It has enabled businesses to retain and/or re-hire workers as the federal government subsidized a percentage of an employees’ pay based on the business’ revenue loss. This program should continue into Spring 2022, with targeted financial support for tourism businesses that will take more time to fully recover from the pandemic.
Finally, there is an opportunity to encourage Canadians to use their travel dollars to support the domestic and local tourism operators when restrictions are lifted. Prior to COVID-19, spending on domestic tourism accounted for a significant portion (or 78 percent) of tourism spending in Canada. Providing Canadians with a tax incentive for the 2021/2022 tax years could encourage residents across the country to visit Canadian attractions, festivals, events, campgrounds, and so on, and thereby spur the sector’s recovery.
While Budget 2021 included $1 billion for the tourism sector starting in 2021-22, continued support is needed as COVID-19 remains a global health threat. This will ensure the sector remains a national economic contributor and that Canada continues to be a global tourism destination.
That the Government of Canada:
1. Develop a national strategy to address the labour shortage facing the tourism sector, which includes:
a) Re-skilling workers who were laid off during the pandemic;
b) Leveraging immigration policies to attract workers; and
c) Building partnerships between post-secondary institutions and the private sector to connect students with careers in the tourism sector.
2. Extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy for businesses in the hardest hit sectors or those still operating with public health restrictions until Spring 2022 using subsidy rates from Period 16 (May 9-June 5), while winding down the program for businesses that have been able to recover more rapidly.
3. Provide Canadians with a tax incentive for the 2022/2023 tax years to encourage local and domestic travel within Canada.
Submitted By: Ontario Chamber of Commerce
Co-sponsored by: 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber, Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce, Belleville Chamber of Commerce
CEBA Loan Forgiveness For Hardest Hit Businesses
Many of Canada’s hardest hit businesses will struggle to meet the current CEBA loan deadlines, forcing them to incur more debt and further delay their economic recovery.
The Canada Emergency Business Account program has been a vital lifeline for businesses with nearly 900,000 Canadian businesses approved for loans. The generous terms of this loan have been exactly what many businesses needed.
Circumstances have changed since this program launched in early April of 2020. The government has shown flexibility in expanding eligibility criteria and increasing access to funds, but the repayment terms have not been updated to reflect the length of time businesses have been expected to reduce their access to the public.
Unfortunately, the economic impact of COVID-19 has hit some businesses harder than others. Many businesses in sectors including food service, hospitality, tourism, arts and entertainment, retail, and personal service have spent a significant portion of the last year and a half heavily restricted — if not completely closed — to the public. It’s not uncommon for businesses to carry a debt in good times, but one can only imagine the level of debt some business owners have incurred just to survive. They carry debt to their lending institutions, landlords, suppliers and in some case, have leveraged personal assets and borrowed from friends and family.
In addition to having the least ability to serve their customers during this public health crisis, these business sectors are likely to take the longest to recover as they heavily depend on consumer confidence and the resumption of social routines.
Under the current terms, the loan is interest free until December 31, 2022, at which point it increases to 5%. Those who pay back 67% of the balance of their loan by that date will have the remainder of their loan forgiven. Full repayment is due by December 31, 2025.
These terms will be attainable for many CEBA recipients, but will be a struggle — if not an impossibility — for those hit hardest by this health crisis. Many will require 3 to 5 years just to return to pre-pandemic income. Repayment of an interest-free loan will not be their highest priority in the short term. The result is the most vulnerable businesses will also get the least benefit from this program, resulting in significant interest incurred and the requirement to pay back 100% of the principal — dragging out their recovery even longer. Additionally, the government will be forced into the unpopular position of collecting on their debts from the most vulnerable businesses.
Not only are certain business sectors more vulnerable to this health crisis, but this government has acknowledged the disproportionate impact on social demographics including women, ethnic and racial minorities, and First Nations. A larger number of people in these demographics depend on the hardest hit businesses for employment and those who own business tend to have less financial backing to weather a financial crisis like COVID-19.
Adding to this struggle is the mental health crisis many business owners are facing. Prolonged social restrictions, increasing debt, and a less optimistic recovery are weighing heavily on many people who have invested significant time and money into their business.
Businesses hardest hit by this public health crisis require a longer interest-free loan period and a larger debt forgiveness program.
That the Government of Canada:
1. Extend the deadlines for repayment of the Canada Emergency Business Account program
2. Make the forgivable portion of the loan available to all business that are struggling to recover from COVID-19-related issues
3. Allow businesses that are struggling to recover from COVID-19-related issues to be exempt from incurring interest prior to the balance of their loan being due
Submitted By: Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce
Co-sponsored by: 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce, Belleville Chamber of Commerce and Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce.