Voice of the BC Tourism Industry


The Honourable Mélanie Joly letter dated May 20, 2020




Dear Colleague:

The COVID‑19 pandemic has resulted in an incredible amount of uncertainty for Canadians in all corners of our country. While only months ago, we were all looking forward to another record‑breaking year, global travel and tourism have now been disrupted like never before. For the 1.8 million Canadians whose livelihoods depend on tourism—including many of you—this situation has understandably caused serious anxiety about what the future may hold.

Our government stands shoulder to shoulder with our tourism operators and the many Canadians they employ. Over the past two‑and‑a‑half months, we have taken decisive action to support you. In implementing emergency measures, we have made a conscious effort to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Tourism-related businesses can benefit from a variety of support measures, as listed below:

–          The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy covers 75% of an employee’s wages—up to $847 per week—for employers of all sizes and across all sectors who have suffered a drop in gross revenues of at least 15% in March and 30% in April and May. Recognizing the importance of this program for both employers and employees, the Prime Minister recently announced that it will be extended until August.

–          The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CERCA) initiative offers forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners so that they can reduce the rent owed by small business tenants by at least 75% for the months of April, May, and June 2020.

–          The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) provides interest‑free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not‑for‑profit organizations to help cover operating costs while revenues are temporarily reduced. Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022, will result in loan forgiveness of 25% (up to $10,000). Recognizing the importance of this program for so many small businesses, the Prime Minister recently announced that its criteria have been expanded to include more businesses that are sole proprietors receiving income directly from their businesses, businesses that rely on contractors, and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll.

–          We have provided additional liquidity support under the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC). BDC and EDC are working with banks and credit unions to coordinate credit solutions for individual businesses, including those in the tourism sector. Both the CEBA and BCAP can be accessed in parallel for up to $12.5 million in additional liquidity. The program was recently expanded to include mid‑sized companies with larger financial needs and will include loans of up to $60 million per company and guarantees of up to $80 million.

–          All workers, including the self‑employed or contractors, should know that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is a taxable benefit that provides $2,000 every four weeks for up to four months to workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic. The CERB applies to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self‑employed individuals, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) and are unable to work due to COVID‑19. Additionally, the CERB has been extended to include seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and to workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID‑19.

–          We have also provided $306.8 million in funding to help small and medium‑sized Indigenous businesses and to support Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs). This funding will allow for short‑term, interest‑free loans and non‑repayable contributions through AFIs, which offer financing and business support services. The initiative will support an estimated 6,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis businesses, including many in the tourism sector.

–          Festivals, events, and other similar attractions will find help under the COVID‑19 Emergency Support Fund, which provides $500 million for cultural, heritage, and sports organizations so they can continue to support artists and athletes.

–          Large employers who are facing challenges can look to the recently announced Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), which will provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through conventional financing, in order to keep their operations going. The LEEFF program will be open to large for‑profit businesses—with the exception of those in the financial sector—as well as certain not‑for‑profit businesses with annual revenues generally in the order of $300 million or higher. This program will be delivered by the Canada Development Investment Corporation. More details will be forthcoming.

–          All payments of GST/HST and import duties for all businesses, including individuals who are self‑employed, are deferred until June 30, 2020.

–          The Canada Revenue Agency will defer tax payment obligations until August 31, 2020, to help businesses with cash flow.

A comprehensive list of all support measures announced to date for both businesses and individuals can be found by consulting Canada’s COVID‑19 Economic Response Plan.

Canada’s six regional development agencies (RDAs) are taking a leading role in implementing measures to help businesses and individuals within communities across the country. RDAs are providing as much flexibility as possible with their existing recipients, including deferral of loan payments, while offering additional support through existing funding which totals $50 million across all RDAs. In addition, $1 million in funds from the Canadian Experiences Fund has been repurposed to alleviate pressures on Indigenous tourism businesses.

Most prominent, the RDAs will be implementing the new Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, which will mitigate the financial pressure experienced by businesses and organizations to allow them to continue their operations, including paying their employees and supporting projects by businesses, organizations, and communities to prepare now for a successful recovery. This initiative includes two components:

o   $675 million to support regional economies, businesses, organizations, and communities in regions all across Canada; and

o   $287 million to support the national network of Community Futures Development Corporations, which will specifically target small businesses and rural communities across the country.

Canada is known around the world for its natural beauty, and there is no better example of this than our national parks. I know that the closure of parks and historic sites due to COVID-19 has had a serious impact on local tourism operators, businesses, and Indigenous communities. I am pleased to share that my colleague, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, has announced that, starting on June 1, 2020, Parks Canada will gradually resume some operations at certain national parks, national historic sites, historic waterways, and national marine conservation areas. This will include access to some trails, day use areas, and green spaces, and some access for recreational boating. As they resume operations, Parks Canada will continue to work closely with local tourism‑related businesses and associations.

As we face this unfolding situation together, you can rest assured that our government is here for you. I have had the privilege of hearing directly from many tourism‑related businesses, associations, and individuals during a series of nationwide virtual town hall meetings, as well as through countless personal conversations. Open, frank dialogue is essential to solving our shared challenges, and I encourage all of you to keep bringing your ideas and concerns to me and my team. I look forward to continuing these conversations in the days and weeks to come.

I also encourage you to share this email and its resources with your networks and with businesses you feel might benefit from more information on the federal government’s support for those affected by COVID‑19.

The decisions we make now will determine how our economy bounces back from this crisis; we are choosing to invest in Canadians and our businesses and get them the help they need. Our focus is on supporting people, helping us weather the storm together, and emerge stronger than before.

We are here for you now—we will be here for you in the weeks and months to come and we will get through this together.

We’ve got your back.


The Honourable Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P. / L’honorable Mélanie Joly, C.P., députée


COVID-19 (coronavirus) update: see details