Hamilton

Province pledges $12.8M to support Niagara Parks Commission during pandemic

Tourism is a billion-dollar industry in the Niagara Region that 40,000 people rely on for work, but the area has struggled as both local and international travel dried up while the virus spreads.

40K people in the area rely on the tourism industry for work

Lisa MacLeod, minister of heritage and tourism, announced more than $12 million in funding for the Niagara Parks Commission Friday. (Supplied by Niagara Parks)

The provincial government has pledged up to $12.81 million to help the Niagara Parks Commission weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism is a billion-dollar industry in the Niagara Region that 40,000 people rely on for work, but the area has struggled as both local and international travel dried up while the virus spreads.

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, announced the support alongside local dignitaries on Friday.

"Today's announcement is really about the stabilization of the Niagara Parks Commission so that when we get through this pandemic and when we're able to reconnect safely again that the lights are still on and the staff are still here and the grounds are still kept," she said.

MacLeod said she believes the funding will help Niagara parks while bolstering Ontario's economic recovery.

"Our government is confident that, with this funding and as a world leader in their field, the Niagara Parks Commission will continue to contribute to the province's double bottom line: strong economic growth, and a resilient cultural fabric that reflects the diversity and strength of Ontario's communities," she said in a media release.

The minister was joined by Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati who said the tourism sector is "hemorrhaging," but the financial support will help the region get back on track.

"Resilience is part of our DNA," he said.

"We like to think of it as a hand up more than a hand out."

Closures since COVID-19 hit Ontario in mid-March have meant it's only seen 25-30 per cent of its normal revenue this year, said David Adames, CEO of the parks commission.

On the positive side, he said, the commission has seen a record year for use of its golf courses and trails.

"The plus of this year is people discovering and rediscovering nature."

The funding will help cover unexpected costs such as PPE and "other core financial obligations," according to Niagara parks chair Sandie Bellows.

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