Tourism operator calls on government to provide compensation for losses

·2 min read
Bob Boyle, owner of the Brackley Drive-In, suggests government provide direct grants of 15 to 20 per cent of a business's sales from 2019 for those hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Bob Boyle, owner of the Brackley Drive-In, suggests government provide direct grants of 15 to 20 per cent of a business's sales from 2019 for those hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

A longtime business owner on P.E.I. says more needs to be done for the tourism industry for some businesses to survive the summer.

Bob Boyle, owner of the Brackley Drive-In and Brackley Country Inn, said the province's offer to cover interest payments and to defer property taxes until the end of the year is a help, but what operators really need are grants to help offset their losses.

Boyle said tourism needs a safety net to get through COVID-19 like other main industries on P.E.I.

"If you were told that the lobster fishery would be closed tomorrow, there'd be compensation and safety nets put in place. If farmers couldn't plant a crop tomorrow, there would be safety nets put in place. We're at the same level right now. We can't put in a crop. We see that there's going to be a drought this summer."

Boyle suggests direct grants of 15 to 20 per cent of a business's sales from 2019 for those hardest hit.

But Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay said that kind of program would cost well over $100 million, which P.E.I. can't afford.

"With only having 65,000 taxpayers in P.E.I., $100 million is just not sitting in the bank for us to use. So, that's why we've been really creative with our programs," he said.

"We've got some real initiatives coming out as well that's going to help our tourism operators."

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

Since last spring, the province has had a program in place to cover interest payments on certain types of debt for tourism businesses. It was supposed to end this September, but on Tuesday, the government announced it would extend the program for another year.

The province also announced on Tuesday that tourism businesses can hold off paying their property taxes, interest free, until Dec. 31.

MacKay said government will announce more supports in the next few weeks.

"We represent 160,000 people in P.E.I. At the same time, we have to be fiscally responsible. And what I can say is, all through COVID, we've given everything we absolutely can. And we've seen that through every program we've rolled out."

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