On Wednesday September 23rd, the federal government’s Throne Speech shared a plan for the path to recovery for Canada’s economy. In the face of a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19, and with a federal budget coming soon, this is good news for the visitor economy. Some announcements like the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy through summer 2021, should have a positive impact on the sector. However you may be wondering why others were mentioned in TIAC’s Press Release about the Throne Speech.
In this TIAC Talk, we’re going through the Throne Speech ‘wins’ and why these promises are important for the growth of the visitor economy. We are also including more recent announcements from October 9 which are also important for this sector.
Promised extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
According to a recent industry survey, about 58% of businesses in the travel and tourism economy are using or have used the wage subsidy to help keep employees on payroll and sustain operations since the program was put in place. However, with the program scheduled to wind down with reduced subsidy rates, businesses (especially seasonal), were at risk of losing this crucial lifeline. The Government has announced that it is extending the Wage Subsidy support through to the Summer 2021 season.
Liquidity measures including enhancements to the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP)
Liquidity has been a consistent issue in the COVID-19 crisis for businesses especially in the tourism sector. However, programs like CEBA have had significant pickup from tourism businesses, and BCAP has been useful to a small number of businesses at this time. With the government looking at expanding and improving on these programs may signal that the government understands there is still a significant need for access to sustainable funding options for businesses we will be watching closely for any updates.
Introducing further support for industries that have been the hardest hit, including travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries like the performing arts
While non-specific, this promise implies sector-specific support for the travel and tourism, cultural, and arts sectors may be coming.
Investing in technologies to improve COVID-19 testing, including faster and safer tests and a vaccine strategy once one becomes available
The government has already announced the approval of a rapid testing rollout, which is good news for Canada’s ability to process test results. Though there have already been some challenges with getting enough of these tests out into regions, it is our hope that rapid testing may eventually assist in the reintroduction of air travel both domestically and internationally. We also hope that rapid tests could allow more leniency for quarantine measures, and help build consumer confidence.Likewise, an eventual vaccine will also be key in helping restart the travel economy.
Support regional routes for airlines
With less domestic and international air travel across Canada, many of our airlines have had to make difficult decisions about the sustainability of air routes. At the same time, many regional routes are a lifeline to smaller communities, and are a key economic driver in rural areas. Government support to keep regional air routes will be critical to support communities and Canada’s major airlines.
Significant investments in training for workers
The labour force of the visitor economy is significantly struggling. We also expect that many workers will need to retrain for their roles to adapt to new ways of service as travel shifts due to the pandemic. Further, the sector was experiencing significant labour shortages prior to COVID-19, and as travel eventually returns to normal levels these labour shortages are likely to be even worse. Ensuring there is a skilled workforce ready to meet these demands will be important for sector recovery.
Acknowledgement that Immigration remains a driver of Canada’s economic growth
Similar to training, TIAC has long advocated for more paths to residency for immigrants with skills and experience in the hospitality industry. Encouraging the government to focus less on “high-skill” immigration, and instead on regional labour needs, will do a lot to help meet labour demands for the sector through recovery. This includes a path to permanent residency for Temporary Workers, and utilizing the Municipal Nominee Program to ensure labour needs are met in the regions they are needed.
For now, we recognize these are just promises. But, as the Throne Speech has received parliamentary approval, we are hoping to see new measures roll out through the next federal budget or COVID-19 support bills. TIAC will continue to keep our Members and the industry apprised of any changes to government support programs.