Business Minister Geoff MacLellan says news of a support package for Nova Scotia's tourism industry is days away and that it won't be the only help coming from his government.
"That announcement is imminent," MacLellan told reporters following a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Perhaps no industry in the province has been affected more by the economic fallout from COVID-19 than the tourism sector. After posting revenues of $2.6 billion in 2019, tallies for this year are expected to be about $900 million, a decline due to travel restrictions and other public health measures required to contain and limit spread of the disease, along with people's simple reluctance to stray too far from home.
The pending announcement is what will happen with a $50-million fund being administered by Dalhousie University with input from government officials. MacLellan couldn't say if the assistance would come through a single program or multiple avenues.
No 'magic wand'
Whatever form it takes, the minister cautioned that it would not be "that magic wand that addresses all issues," given the level of demand and losses the industry faces.
"It's going to help some, but as we've done all the way through here with policy, we roll it out, get a reaction from the stakeholders impacted and then see what's next in terms of solving problems where we can," he said.
The immediate purpose of the support package will be to help keep as many people in the sector afloat as possible, said MacLellan. It's not possible to quantify how many businesses might be at risk of being lost, but "there's a lot of perilous situations out there," he said.
The government and sector representatives are looking at all available options to help, said MacLellan. That includes legislative changes that might help with doing business, new marketing efforts and also trying to shift to a 12-month tourism season within the Atlantic bubble in hopes of keeping people moving throughout the region during non-traditional travel months.
"It's not going to be, 'Here's the $50 million, good luck with everything, we're out of this conversation,' because that's not going to be the case," said MacLellan.
"We're going to be ... be responding to tourism supports and accommodation supports and service sector supports for years. There's no two ways about it."
Calls for economic task force
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the magnitude of the situation for tourism and the economy more broadly calls for a COVID-19 economic recovery task force, something he said that's been effective in other jurisdictions.
"This is a contraction at a level that is beyond everyone's experience who is working in the tourism industry today. Therefore, all of the expertise and all of the capacity that can be marshaled in the province should be brought forward for laying out a path for the sector," he told reporters.
Progressive Conservative MLA Brad Johns repeated a suggestion his party has previously made to try to help the sector: providing tax credits for Nova Scotians who spend money within the local tourism industry. The government has previously rejected that idea.
Johns said it's disappointing that it's October and the government plan still hasn't been released.
"The tourist industry is pretty much over [for the year] except for anybody who wants to drive around and see the leaves in Cape Breton."
MORE TOP STORIES