As Minister Beare referenced in a discussion with TIABC this morning, the Province’s COVID-19 Action Plan both filled the gap and augmented what the federal government introduced as part of its crisis measures over the past few days. At the same time, BC's new plan is the first of other initiatives to be introduced in the coming weeks.
And while TIABC will work with the Province to shape a specific tourism and hospitality emergency package, we will also continue to engage with our national, provincial and territorial colleagues to amplify concerns at the federal level. Several recommendations have already been forwarded to various ministers and ministries, with new ideas generated daily to assist the visitor economy in BC and across the country.
Judging by some of the federal government's actions to date, it appears that Canada’s tourism sector has been somewhat successful in identifying immediate needs and offering solutions for adoption. The following are some of the measures tourism industry associations (e.g. TIABC), along with TIAC have put on the table for consideration so far.
- Tax relief measures such as deferring corporate tax liability and allowing payments over a multi-year period;
- Extend EI benefits to sole proprietors to help keep small businesses afloat;
- Waive the seven-day waiting period to collect EI for Canadians under a temporary layoff notice, similar to the provisions provided to those under self quarantine;
- Eliminate the 30-day waiting period for the Work Share Program to allow individuals to job share while topping up with EI sooner than later;
- Temporarily adjust the percentage of hours worked while on lay off to allow staff to work more than 50 percent of their regular hours without reducing their EI benefits. Similarly, reduce the deduction to benefits from 50% to 30% to allow staff members to gradually return to work;
- Extend the maximum temporary layoff benefit from 13 weeks to six months, given the uncertainty on the resumption of normal business operations;
- Adjust the EI system to pay employers directly as a method to ensure there is no processing lag time in the case of lay-offs;
- For airports, in addition to immediate rent relief, provide financial support to address reduced cash flow;
- Implement a program to direct new funds to airports to compensate for their lost revenues and increased costs, as well as to ensure that airports and local economies continue to be stimulated by capital spending;
- Suspend the federal excise tax on jet fuel;
- Suspend the Air Transport Security Charge;
- Suspend NavCanada navigational fees;
- Stimulus funding for the industry, including additional marketing dollars for Destination Canada;
- Tourist incentives to visit and travel within Canada (e.g. free park admission program);
- Streamlined visitor visa application processes; and
- Tax credit for domestic tourism/travel related expenses to encourage the return of domestic tourism after the COVID-19 crisis subsides.
Aside from the aforementioned measures, TIABC and our counterparts will continue to solicit ideas from our respective industry stakeholders for the federal government to consider. The following are but two examples received this week:
- Allow unemployed or cash-strapped Canadians to withdraw a specified maximum amount from their (dwindling) RSPs without penalty or tax implications.
- For international employees in year one of a temporary work visa, provide an automatic extension for six months or an opportunity to reapply to fulfill the original term.
Keep the innovative ideas and recommendations coming for TIABC to advance within senior levels of government because, as you know, #BCTourismMatters.