It has been one year since the COVID-19 pandemic not only shut down the world but also impacted many lives and businesses in Ontario that will reap the repercussions for years to come.
Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, held a virtual tele-townhall meeting on March 12 to share details of new funding for the sectors most affected and additional plans to recover the province.
“I know who’s been hurt and I know that we’re going to have to figure out ways to support you and it’s going to take a long recovery so we’re working on details for a number of different things,” MacLeod said. “I wanted to make sure today that you knew there is an optimism and a sense of the ability for us to get back up and going again.”
MacLeod said the ministry has been allocated an unprecedented amount of funding over the past months in order to stabilize the sectors, adding that there will be hundreds of millions of dollars into the sectors to make sure that the province can recover post COVID-19.
Over 800 people attended the tele-townhall meeting on Friday and questions ranged from small business funding relief, to the fate of sports tournaments this summer, film production, and festival support programs, to name a few.
On relief for small businesses, MacLeod said there is a $1000 grant for property tax and energy bill relief as well as the small business grants, adding that more information will be announced this week.
“We will have more to say next week when we unveil some of the hardest hit sectors supports and we’re looking forward to getting that out the door and then making sure you’re adequately supported,” MacLeod said.
MacLeod said sports tournaments will depend on vaccinations, adding that just like live music, the problem is the fans in the stands.
MacLeod also said the ministry will be running a $20 million reconnect festival and events program that continues to support festivals and events that operated last year.
“We recognize when you have to go drive in and virtual and we want to make sure that post pandemic that the bones and the infrastructure and the framework is there,” MacLeod said.
On Dec. 17, MacLeod announced the Reconnecting Ontarians: Re-emerging as a Global Leader- A road map for economic and social recovery through Ontario’s Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries white paper which she said will soon turn into a reality at Friday’s meeting.
The white paper is a policy proposal that addresses how to support a broad-based recovery strategy. It centers around multi-year planning that lays out 15 proposals to recover Ontario’s creative industries during and post pandemic.
Some of the proposals included in the white paper look at broadening Ontario’s volunteer base, competing for global festivals, events and conferences, skills development/redevelopment in creative, tourism and hospitality industries and travel incentives in 2021 to encourage hyperlocal tourism.
MacLeod said that work will be accelerated by the tourism task force that she recently appointed. Their focus will be on the $150 million travel incentive and building out itineraries across Ontario so that travel can happen when it is safe to do so.
MacLeod said they are looking at signature destinations that would include Niagara Falls, 1000 Islands, the Windsor Peche Island area, Blue Mountain and Muskoka, adding that northern Ontario is also very key to this.
“We are working to make sure that the money continues to flow through the sectors and that we have that five-year recovery plan in place so that we’ll be competitive globally,” MacLeod said.
MacLeod said the task force will be reporting their progress by April 15.
Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times