A Message from NOTO’s Executive Director, Laurie Marcil
Well, we’ve had another busy few weeks here at NOTO and I wanted to provide an update on some of the items we have been working on. We want you to know that we are continuing to work hard to ensure tourism operators have the supports they need to come out of this pandemic strong and ready to open their doors to the world again.
We have been working closely with our lobbyist firm KW Mitchell to amplify our messages to Government on financial support programs as well as a border re-opening.:
We are targeting our efforts on specific funding programs that have been made available and seeking change to make them more effective. We are actively pushing for changes to the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). We know that many of you have made use of this program to keep payrolls rolling in your business and we want to ensure that you are able to continue using this program during the off-season.
The Rural Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) program has just received an additional $500M across Canada. In Northern Ontario, this program is offered through FedNor and the CFDC’s. The first phase of this program has been widely used by our sector. It offers 0% interest loans up to $40K with a $10K forgivable portion if paid back by Dec 31, 2022 (similar to the CEBA). Now that the Federal Government has finally identified the tourism industry as a hardest hit sector, we have approached FedNor about providing a larger forgivable portion and for the payback data to be push back at least one more year to Dec 31, 2023.
FedNor also offers larger loans for those who need it. These loans are up to $1M – 0% interest with a 5year payback. In our meeting this week we asked that the 5 year payback be extended to 10 years to better support recovery for our sector. We have asked for more details on this loan program and will share in the coming weeks.
We know that many of you have been holding back on applying for the loan programs and we completely understand that no one wants to take on more debt at a time like this but we are making every effort to ensure those loans programs offer manageable solutions. I encourage those of you who are really struggling to take a second look. If you are struggling with eligibility or have questions, please reach out and we will help find answers. We will keep you posted on any further successes with these programs. the need for funding programs that provide direct support to tourism operators.
We are also looking for more details on the newly announced Highly Affected Sector Credit Availability Program (HASCAP). We have heard that the eligibility of this program maybe dependent on the size of business including how many employees you have. See the article below for the details we have so far and stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
As vaccines become a reality, we are continuing to press Government to develop plans to safely re-open the border. In recent meetings, we have requested that proof of vaccination allow for international travelers to enter Canada. This is not a new experience for travelers around the world. There are countless countries that require proof of vaccination for different diseases before allowing entry. We do need to know if someone who is vaccinated is still able to carry the virus but starting this discussion is pointing us in the right direction.
We are continuing to ensure Government understands that our tourism operators are part of the overall solution. That the health and safety protocols we have put in place will help to protect staff, guests and our communities from spread once our guests arrive.
You will see below that NOTO, Destination Northern Ontario and TIAO are co-chairing a Northern Border Working Group. We held our first meeting this week. The work of this committee will help us coordinate efforts, conduct research and amplify our messages and recommendations to Government as well as help us prepare information to help our industry and their guests as things progress at the border. Please see more in the article below.
We have also been sharing feedback that we have received from some of you with regard to your insurance premiums. I noted that TIAO is asking for more details on your experiences. We encourage you to reach out to TIAO or us to ensure that TIAO has the information from this sector of tourism in their discussions with the Provincial Government.
As we have previously reported Transport Canada has proposed changes to pleasure craft regulations including the elimination of the rental boat safety checklist that many in our industry use. We are gathering background details, feedback from our members and working with our colleagues in the other provinces through the Canadian Federation of Outfitter Associations to push back on these changes. Next week you will see a brief survey to help our efforts. In the meantime, if you have thoughts you wish to share with me regarding these changes and the impacts they may have on your business, email me.
I encourage anyone who wants more detail on NOTO’s advocacy work to call me. We are happy to share and appreciate hearing directly from you.