Ontario Premier Doug Ford tours the vaccine clinic in St. Catharines on his way to Niagara Falls to announce support for Niagara’s tourism sector.
On the heels of releasing the 2021 provincial budget last week at Queen’s Park, Premier Doug Ford along with Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy and Tourism Minister Lisa MacLeod provided new details around support for the tourism industry in Niagara.
Total support from the provincial government for the tourism, culture, sports, recreation and heritage industries since the start of the pandemic now totals $625 million and includes the additional $400 million earmarked in the 2021 budget.
“The tourism industry is critical to Ontario’s economy and we are providing significant financial support to ensure this sector will be able to survive the pandemic and contribute to our recovery,” said Premier Ford. “Our government will continue to have their backs during this difficult time.”
MacLeod, who also oversees heritage, sport, and culture industries, commented that “this critical funding will sustain regionally significant businesses, while protecting jobs in communities that rely on tourism investment.”
The Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant will provide around $100 million in one-time payments of $10,000 to $20,000 to small businesses. Businesses that received the Ontario Small Business Support Grant will not be eligible for the program and businesses must demonstrate they have experienced a minimum 20% decline in revenue. The program is also limited to businesses with less than 100 employees.
The Ontario Tourism Recovery Program, set to launch later this year, aims to support businesses adjusting their operations to reopen safely and to focus on the domestic market during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of businesses targeted by the program include resorts, amusement and waterparks, and tour boat operators.
“People in the tourism, hospitality, culture, sports and recreation industries have been particularly hard hit by the necessary public health restrictions,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “With these additional measures, we will ensure that Ontario remains a terrific place to discover.”
Local reaction was positive to the details provided Monday.
“We’re thrilled to know the province is behind us – not just with words but with financial aid,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati. “It’s clear the provincial government recognizes the importance of Niagara Falls with their presence and we’re looking forward to working closely with Ministers Bethlenfalvy and MacLeod as we gradually open our doors once again.”
“From direct financial supports, to encouraging consumers and visitors to experience our region when safe, and the Tourism Tax Credit, Budget 2021 heavily invests in Niagara’s local economy and key sectors,” Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff said. “This budget is good news for operators and workers alike.”
“The funding announced in the provincial budget and highlighted by the Premier today, demonstrates the importance of tourism as a driver of the economy and offers much needed assistance for the fiscal survival of tourism businesses,” said Janice Thompson, President of Niagara Falls Tourism. “Once the travel restrictions are lifted, we look forward to hosting visitors taking advantage of the Ontario Staycation Credit to support our local businesses and broaden their own travel experiences.”
Joel Noden of HOCO Entertainment and Resorts was also impressed the three top Ministers took the time to come to Niagara. “It was great to see the Premier and ministers of Finance and Tourism here today showing their collective support for Niagara and specifically the tourism sector.”
“They understand what our industry is going through and are here to assist our small businesses now and once we are able to fully open, support us through the programs outlined in the budget.”
Monday morning also saw Premier Ford tour a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the St. Catharines Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre. Currently the site is offering the Pfizer vaccine to targeted groups including Niagara residents 75+ years, frontline healthcare workers, people with high-risk health conditions and others.
Newly minted Niagara Falls PC Candidate Bob Gale was on hand with Premier Ford during the tour.
“I can tell you the man [Premier Ford] is working tirelessly to help get the pandemic under control while making sure people can continue to feed their families and pay their mortgages and rent,” said Gale.
“It’s sometimes a thankless job to try and protect the mental, physical and financial health of the people of Ontario but the Premier is sincere about caring for Ontarians.” Gale pointed out that many of the people advocating for more strict lockdowns for longer duration are getting a regular paycheque and don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from. “I believe we can keep the economy going while being safe and smart. We can protect each other and ourselves while getting people back to work so they can provide for their families,” said Gale.