By Charlotte Bell – Nov. 19, 2019
Tourism is one of the few industries that saw universal party support and attention during the federal election.
As Ottawa readies to welcome a fresh cabinet to Parliament, stakeholders and pundits alike await in anticipation for what the day will bring. At minimum, the makeup of Cabinet will be the first glimpse for Canadians into how this new minority government will operate, and which priorities are carried forward, and which are cast to the sidelines.
A particular piece of the puzzle is the future of Canada’s innovation strategy. In 2015, the government made innovation a key priority of its four-year mandate. Innovation strategies were developed, and plans were put in place for key economic drivers in the form of economic strategy tables.
At the same time four years ago, Canada’s tourism industry was looking at what seemed like an impenetrable horizon in terms of support and growth. Despite being one of Canada’s major economic engines and one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, tourism and travel was not regarded as an economic priority. Today, that has changed.
In 2018, tourism accounted for 2.1 per cent of Canada’s GDP and 10.4 per cent of the total global GDP. It contributed $102-billion to the Canadian economy, was Canada’s highest service export with $22.1-billion in export revenue, and employed one in every 11 Canadians. The Liberal government recognized this contribution, and in 2019, tourism was added to Canada’s innovation agenda, as a new tourism growth strategy was unveiled.
The government faces a new reality. It must work across party lines to bring the priorities of other parties into the foundation they have built over the last four years. Seemingly, innovation is something that all parties can get behind. But with competing priorities from amongst the opposition parties, stakeholders all wonder how their priorities will fit into the new world.
Tourism is one of the few industries that saw universal party support and attention during the federal election. The sector’s asks made their way directly into party platforms, ranging from recognizing the need to invest and support rural tourism in the Conservative platform, to the dedicated Tourism Community Infrastructure Fund in the Liberal platform, to the focus on regional economic development for tourism development in the NDP’s.
With regions, priorities, and voting blocs becoming more fractured both in Parliament and across Canada, navigating the new national dynamic is an added challenge for government and industry stakeholders alike. All must take care to ensure unifying messages and overarching support pieces are highlighted, acknowledged, and acted on throughout advocacy efforts.
Canada needs a Parliament that supports issues and industries that help unify us as a country. It needs policies that break down barriers and improve Canada’s competitiveness in a global marketplace where other countries outspend and outpace us on so many fronts. Canada has a bold new strategy in place to continue growing the tourism sector in areas that are working, as well as offering support to strengthen and improve industry outcomes that are lagging behind. In an era where disagreements are more common on the Hill than policies that draw widespread support, we must take care to work together and ensure we do not lose sight of what is in Canada’s best interest economically, culturally, and perhaps even politically.
What remains to be seen is whether the new cabinet takes advantage of the unifying opportunity before it.
Charlotte Bell is the president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.
To view the article in The Hill Times click here.