Travel and tourism is the world’s number one employer and represents more than 10% of global spending. Yet, the Harper Administration has repeatedly undermined Canadian tourism. Where Canada was once in the top seven destinations in the world, we have dropped to 18th.
Here is a short list of anti-tourism measures enacted by Stephen Harper since 2006: the Conservative government removed the GST-HST rebate for foreign visitors, eliminated all tourism promotion for Canada in the U.S. market, dramatically cut the budget for Tourism Canada (now based in Vancouver), undermined the predictability of employment insurance for seasonal workers, legislated as part of the C-45 omnibus bill that tourists from all countries where visas are not required must obtain a permit from the Minister of Immigration (although exempting the USA through the Security and Prosperity Partnership), and decided against a Canada Pavilion at the next World’s Fair.
The tourism sector in Canada is unique in that it makes a significant contribution to every region’s cultural and economic well-being. It goes beyond creating jobs and foreign exchange revenue. It enables Canadians to explore our land and helps knit our country together. With revenues of over $74 billion in 2008, tourism constituted 2% of Canada’s GDP and employed over 660 000 Canadians. This is nearly as much as our forestry and agricultural industries combined. Within the federal government, the Ministry of Industry has the lead responsibility for tourism policy.
The Greens believe we must foster a sustainable, green tourism industry and market it responsibly throughout the world. We believe we must provide exceptional tourist experiences by having the finest National Park system, the best museums and cultural activities, and the most hospitable service. To do this, the Canadian government must play a bigger role in promoting, coordinating, and guiding efforts across the entire country.
Green Party MPs will:
Reverse the anti-tourism decisions of the Harper administration: restore the GST-HST rebate to foreign visitors, restore advertising in the US (our biggest market for Canada as a prime destination), reject the changes to penalize seasonal workers in the Employment Insurance system, and eliminate the requirement for a permit to visit Canada from those countries where no visa is required;
Create a separate federal Department of Tourism to coordinate all aspects of tourism. This ministry will focus on helping the fastest-growing sector of global tourism, ecotourism, become stronger, and through special programs encourage Aboriginal Canadians to assume a bigger role in our tourism industry;
Increase funding to the arts, culture, and heritage sector (see Part 4.16 Arts and Culture);
Work to make sure our borders are open and security measures are reasonable;
Build a low-carbon tourism sector based on intermodal rail and bicycle touring.