Unequal federal funding for tourism industry 'outrageous,' says Sask. minister
'We'd like to see some equitable support,' Gene Makowsky says after Atlantic Canada, Quebec get $46M boost
While the federal government has announced $46 million of spending to bolster the tourism industry in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, the Saskatchewan government says this province's tourism-related businesses have not gotten their fair share of federal dollars.
In a Wednesday open letter to federal Minister of Economic Development Melanie Joly, Saskatchewan Tourism Minister Gene Makowsky sharply criticized the federal government's plan.
"It is outrageous that you acknowledge the devastation of the tourism sector across Canada while applying the support unequally," he wrote.
"The tourism sector right across our entire country is struggling, yet it seems your government is only interested in supporting those in Eastern Canada."
Makowsky said he believes these federal dollars should have been allocated to provinces based on population.
Since Quebec received approximately $30 million in funding, an equal amount of funding per capita would have seen Saskatchewan receive $4.3 million for tourism.
Instead, he said the province has received only $1.5 million.
"I don't think a tour operator in Saskatchewan is hurting less than in Quebec," Makowsky said in an interview.
"We want to stand up, in Saskatchewan, for our tourism operators. I can't say to an important part of our economy that they're not worth as much … as anywhere else in Canada."
Businesses in Saskatchewan, including the tourism industry, do have access to federal support, said Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid, who is the parliamentary secretary to Joly.
"The [regional relief and recovery fund] has already seen myriad applications from Saskatchewan's tourism business," Duguid said in a statement.
"Our message to Saskatchewan's tourism businesses and those whose livelihoods depend on them is clear: We've been here for you with immediate measures, we're here for you now as our economy opens and we'll get through this together."
But Makowsky says the federal government must do more for tourism in the West.
"It is my expectation that there will be a more substantial announcement made in support of Western Canada in the coming days to ensure all regions in Canada receive equitable treatment through these unprecedented times," he wrote in the letter.
In April, a report by Destination Canada suggested the country could lose over 260,000 tourism-related jobs this year, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2019, according to Makowsky, approximately 71,000 people in Saskatchewan — over 10 per cent of the province's workforce — held a tourism-related job.
"Our industries are hurting just as bad as anywhere else.… I think we're getting shortchanged here in the West, particularly in Saskatchewan," he said.
"I'm fine with Quebec or the Atlantic provinces getting that funding. We'd like to see similar treatment."
With files from The Canadian Press