B.C. tourism industry needs more funding and a clear message to keep afloat, say B.C. Liberals
Liberals pressure government to secure federal support after other provinces receive millions
The B.C. Liberal party is putting pressure on the provincial government to secure $20 million from the federal government for B.C.'s tourism industry which has been struggling since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.
Last month, the federal government announced $30 million for the tourism industry in Quebec and $16 million for tourism in Atlantic Canada. So far, there is no word on whether B.C. will have access to similar funding.
"This has been a summer like no other," B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said during question period on Tuesday.
"When is the premier going to ask for British Columbia's fair share of $20 million from the federal government to give some faint glimmer of hope to the B.C. tourism industry?"
In response, B.C. Premier John Horgan said there is something "in the works."
"I stand ready to work with the federal government when they're prepared to bring their package to British Columbia," Horgan said.
But Columbia River Revelstoke MLA, and co-critic for tourism, arts and culture Doug Clovechok, says that's not enough.
"The government of British Columbia should've been working on this for the last four months," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.
Clovechok said he's spoken with tourism operators throughout the province who are on the verge of bankruptcy, and if a second wave of COVID-19 hits in the fall, it could be the end of those businesses.
He said the province needs to ask the federal government for help, rather than wait for it to offer.
Aside from funding, Clovechok is concerned about unclear messaging coming from officials about tourism and COVID-19. Some say local tourism only, others say out-of-province tourists are welcome.
On June 24, the B.C. government started Phase 3 of its reopening plan which included allowing British Columbians to travel within the province 'respectfully and safely."
On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a reminder to visitors from out of province who may be travelling to B.C. this summer, advising them that British Columbians are keeping their social circles small, keeping a physical distance from others, wearing masks when that isn't possible and staying home when feeling unwell.
"We're hearing from some folks, 'Are we safe to come to B.C.'?" Clovechok said. "Well, that's because of the messaging. Again, it goes back to this government does not have a clear and distinct plan for reopening the tourism industry and it's disastrous."
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare said she knows there is more work to be done to help the tourism industry and government is responding to those needs.
"There's no question that B.C.'s tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic," Beare said in a statement to CBC.
"It's been a difficult four months but from day one we've worked in close partnership with the sector. Our government has taken significant actions to support people working in the tourism industry, for which we have received positive feedback from tourism stakeholders."
With files from Daybreak South