Federal help coming soon for struggling tourism sector, P.E.I. premier says

·2 min read

Premier Dennis King says a federal aid package for P.E.I.'s devastated tourism industry could be on the way soon.

In the P.E.I. Legislature on Wednesday, Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker pushed the premier for what the province plans to do to help the industry survive and make it to the 2021 season.

King said his government put $70 million into the tourism sector as part of the province's COVID-19 relief plan.

"Which is a drop in the bucket to what they need, absolutely," King said.

"I've also been lobbying for 23 straight calls with the prime minister of Canada. I understand the federal government is close to coming out with a package for the tourism sector."

'It's tough'

Tourism is P.E.I.'s third largest industry, bringing more than $500 million into the provincial economy every year.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

But not this year — King said that is likely going to be cut by as much as 75 per cent.

"There's not much a federal or provincial program can do to replace 75 per cent of your business. It's tough," the premier told reporters.

"From the very beginning we haven't tried to make everybody completely whole. We've been trying to do everything we could to keep them operational, to get them through."

Bevan-Baker said P.E.I. only needs to look to Nova Scotia for ways to help.

'We've helped those in the industry'

That province will give a tax break — up to 25 per cent — to tourism operators on their 2020-2021 property taxes.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

"A question to the premier, what kind of immediate relief will your government here on Prince Edward Island, in this province, be providing tourism operators," asked Bevan-Baker.

King said one of the first and largest investments the province made as part of its COVID-19 recovery plan was the $70 million it earmarked for tourism.

"We've helped those in the industry that needed to defer payments, we've given them money to get through. We've come up with tourism incentives programs to get people moving around the Atlantic bubble," he said.

The Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island said thousands of P.E.I. tourism jobs are at risk of being lost, and one in seven businesses are at risk of permanent closure.

Last month, it launched a new campaign called Tourism Counts to raise awareness about the importance of tourism on P.E.I. and its value for the Island economy.

King said the operators he's talked to remain positive about the 2021 tourism season despite so much being unknown.

"I tip my hat to the tourism sector, they've been resilient, they've been innovative and they've been largely positive at a time when it would be very easy to be negative."

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