By Nicole Di Tomasso

OTTAWA — The Coalition of Hardest-Hit Businesses, consisting of 120 member organizations, recently hosted a webinar to analyze and discuss how the political parties have responded to its government asks leading into the 2021 federal election.

The discussion featured a panel of experts, including Susie Grynol, president and CEO, Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) and co-chair of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses; Marc Séguin, vice-president of Policy and Government Affairs at Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) and co-chair of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses; Bob Plamondon, economist, Plamondon & Associates Inc.; Andrew Steele, vice-president at StrategyCorp; Huw Williams, president of Impact Public Affairs; Nikki Hill, principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group; and Éric Paquet, senior director of Public and Government Affairs at Alliance de l’Industrie Touristique du Québec.

For 13 months, the Coalition of Hardest-Hit Businesses has been focusing solely on the survival of the tourism, hotels and events sectors. In the final days of the election campaign, the Coalition of Hardest-Hit Business is calling on the government once again to provide qualified and limited financial support from September 2021 to May 2022.

Starting with the Liberal platform, Steele explained that on the first day of the campaign, Prime Minister Trudeau recognized the needs of the hardest-hit sectors, announcing that if re-elected, businesses experiencing a minimum 40-per-cent revenue loss will be provided with temporary wage and rent support of up to 75 per cent of their fixed costs from October ‘21 to May ‘22.

“With the Liberal campaign, it seems like we got what we asked for in their platform, but we need to say thank you and we need to push for urgency to get that legislation through as soon as possible,” said Steele.

The Conservative platform, in comparison, released a plan to introduce a “Dine-and-Discover” program to support the tourism and hospitality sectors, with specific attention paid to a 50-per-cent rebate for food and non-alcoholic drinks for one month and a 15-per-cent tax credit for vacation expenses of up to $1,000 per person to encourage Canadians to travel.

“The Conservatives, as the official opposition, have been very active in supporting tourism. There’s no doubt that we have a number of MPs that TIAC, HAC and other members of the Coalition have met with who have expressed their support,” said Williams. “More importantly, Erin O’Toole, during the leader’s debate, had a special callout to the tourism sector.”

Next, the NDP platform vows to continue the small businesses wage and rent subsidies until they are able to fully re-open and supports a variety of Canadian industries and its workers, but their messaging remains unclear.

“On the NDP side, there has been quite consistently through the pandemic that support for relief in sectors, for small business and also a focus on worker’s needs, so I think that’s an important piece to note,” said Hill. “There was support language around the tourism sector and relief, but I would say it’s rather vague. Some of the work has been pushing for clarity, which came this week in the form of a letter and does say the NDP supports and understands the bridge funding issue.”

Finally, the Bloc Québécois platform is aware and in support of the Coalitions demands, but it’s unsure whether this issue is one of the Bloc’s key priorities. In short, it’s essential that members of the Coalition continue to put pressure on all of the candidates to ensure their voice is heard.

“In the pre-budget consultations, [the Bloc] was already promoting the extension of these programs as long as the industry will need it,” said Paquet. “In their platform, in addition to the extension of the CERS, they are asking for tax credits and suspension of the CRB.”

“We’re hearing from all perspectives that we have strong commitments from most parties, but they do vary a bit,” said Grynol. “I would suggest that we need to pressure the Conservatives a little more to make sure they’re going to come out of the gate early with more support the sector. It hasn’t been an essential piece of their campaign, but we do have commitments from them more loosely. We really need to get out there and make sure this message is well-heard for all candidates as we go into this last portion of the election.”

The Coalition is encouraging businesses to send a pre-written letter that can be accessed from its website. Other forms of organic engagement include writing a personal email to a local MP, picking up the phone, tweeting a local candidate or dropping by the campaign office or attending a local event.

“There’s going to be an election and it’s a tight race,” said Grynol. “None of us know who’s going to win. Whoever gets into power is going to have an early mandate, so there’s things that they’re going to want to pass earlier in the legislative process, and things that they will wait until later. What we need, and what this sector desperately needs is for this to be a focus regardless of who gets into power.”


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