MCTR FOCUS ON RESOURCE ISSUE DECLINING
Originally Published in the September 1993 issue of The Outfitter Magazine.
On August 10th, the newly-appointed Deputy Minister of the MCTR, Dr. Elaine Todres, visited my resort while she was enjoying a summer vacation with her mother and children. Dr. Todres was also accompanied by three Regional MCTR staff.
My wife Carol and NOTO Director Mal Tygesson joined me in welcoming the Deputy Minister and we were able to talk informally with her for 90 minutes about issues of concern to our industry.
We explained that we would like to see the MCTR be more active in marketing and even sport shows.
We asked the Deputy how the decision was made in the Budget to eliminate the Provincial Sales Tax Rebate for non-residents?
She indicated that Budgets are prepared in secret and reconfirmed the Government’s direction toward deficit reduction and halting the flow of money across the border into the U.S.
We told the Deputy that we appreciate the need for secrecy in Budget deliberations, but still question why there can be no pre-Budget consultation with groups that may be affected by the Budget. In other words, Budget provisions are just “dropped” on industry with no opportunity to comment.
We also requested the Ministry open up better lines of communication with NOTO to help ensure NOTO is more informed and involved with regard to Government decisions that may affect tourism.
The Deputy Minister reacted favourably to our message of greater communication and promised to take this message back to the Minister.
Both Mal and I were concerned, however, when the Deputy Minister explained that the MCTR could not be active in the future when the industry faced issues with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
She noted that as the Ministry is down-sized and field staff are stretched thinner, the MCTR has fewer resources at its disposal to deal with MNR-related issues. Therefore, she indicated that less focus would be placed on issues the Ministry had no control over.
She was also concerned about the potential trade-offs that may have to take place when dealing with MNR.
It is tough to swallow that “our” Ministry may not be as active in future resource issues, when they are so vital to the future of the resource-based tourism industry in Northern Ontario.
From resource management to work permits, the MNR has a tremendous impact on our businesses and their viability.
Just look at some of the issues NOTO and the industry are currently fighting: waterlot lease fees, increases to outpost camp fees, Timber Management impacts, border water issues with Minnesota, problems with fisheries management, licensing issues, etc… These are all MNR-related issues.
Recent President’s Messages have been strong in condemning the Ontario Government’s link of Culture, with Tourism and Recreation, the recent slashing of MCTR marketing budgets and replacing experienced senior Tourism staff in the Ministry with individuals who have no tourism background.
The message seemed clear…MCTR would focus on Culture, leaving Tourism to be the poor cousin. As much as I hoped it would not be true, Dr. Todres remarks have rekindled some of these thoughts.
I have already sent the Deputy Minister a letter expressing my concern with the apparent new direction the Ministry is heading in. It would seem that the resource-based industry in Northern Ontario will soon have a much weaker Ministry to help advocate on its behalf with Government.
Rest assured, however, that NOTO will continue to fight hard for the industry, regardless of the MCTR’s efforts. NOTO remains the only provincial tourism voice working on your behalf on resource-based issues.
Tourism Strategy Update
Last month I gave the membership some background on the ongoing Tourism Sectoral Strategy that is currently being developed for Ontario’s Tourism Industry. At this time, I would like to update you on an important working group session that NOTO was involved with dealing with Tax and Regulatory issues facing the industry.
Six working groups in total were developed to deal with the 6 Key Result Areas that were identified after the first round of Regional Meetings that took place. The key areas are:
Tax Regulatory issues
Human Resources Development
Tourism Sector Communications
Organization and Funding
On August 24th and 25th, NOTO’s Research Analyst, Jim Antler, attended the session on Tax and Regulatory issues on behalf of NOTO. He was joined by Steve Konopelky (a NOTO member who was nominated by the Timmins Regional Working Group ), representatives from Tourism Ontario, Motels Ontario, the Ontario Restaurant Association and Attractions Ontario among others.
The purpose of these working groups was to identify tax and regulatory barriers to Ontario’s Tourism Industry, to come up with strategies and objectives for overcoming these barriers, and to develop specific action plans for meeting these objectives. I am pleased to provide you at this time with some of the results of this session. The following statements are DRAFT proposals which will be reviewed by the Regional Committees and the Steering Committee for the Sectoral Strategy who may propose modifications.
After the Steering Committee reviews the results of each of the working groups, another round of Regional Meetings will be held to discuss the various strategies, objectives and action plans. Further modifications can be suggested at that time.
The Tax and Regulatory Working Group came up with the following 6 major strategies for the industry.
Strengthen, elevate and ensure ongoing recognition of the Ontario Tourism Industry in the creation, administration and enforcement of public policy.
Rationalize existing tax instruments which are applied to the Ontario Tourism Industry to improve competitiveness and minimize inequities.
Ensure that current and future environmental legislation (i.e. the proposed Environmental Bill of Rights) will enhance the growth and sustainability of the Ontario Tourism Industry.
Ensure the sustainability of resource-based tourism businesses by providing a more integral approach to land/resource management and planning, which must include full recognition of tourism as a legitimate and important economic activity.
Recognize and accommodate the distinct characteristics of the tourism industry in the design and implementation or regulations and legislation protecting the rights and interests of workers.
Establish and maintain defined standards of consumer protection and quality assurance in all businesses which provide accommodation services to the traveling public.
After these strategies were developed, action plans were determined for each strategy. For the sake of being brief, only the proposed objectives dealing with ## 4- Land/Resource Management will be listed here.
Develop a resource-Based Tourism Policy that will incorporate policies on access, uses and management with an ecosystem approach to resource management, and with all users having an equal say in land use management.
Change policies which restrict acquisition of Crown Land for tourism uses so that tourism operators may take ownership of land which is or will be key to their sustainability.
Streamline and reduce the municipal and provincial land use and planning regulations applicable to the Ontario Tourism Industry.
Create legislation which will require the MCTR to approve all government policies respecting the use and management of land and resources while taking into account the implications for the tourism industry.
As noted earlier, these strategies and objectives are only DRAFT proposals and are subject to review by the Steering Committee and at upcoming Regional meetings. In other words, they are subject to change.
However, I felt it was important to inform you of the working group’s efforts and especially the efforts of Jim Antler and industry. Without NOTO’s attendance at the working group session, resource-based tourism issues probably would not have been addressed in such a definitive manner.