Mid-Island Pacific Rim Election 2020 candidates.

BC VOTES 2020: Mid Island-Pacific Rim candidates discuss tourism during COVID-19

Provincial election will take place on Oct. 24

In an effort to inform the Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding constituents, we have supplied all candidates with a question. Each week, we will publish their answers to questions pertinent to this riding.

In this article, the five Mid Island-Pacific Rim candidates answer the following question: “How do you propose supporting the riding’s tourism sector, knowing that COVID-19 is not over yet?” (300 word maximum). Order of placement was done at random.

•••

HELEN POON

BC Liberals

Many tourists come to Mid Island-Pacific Rim to take in the natural beauty of the environment that surrounds us. Supporting the tourism sector is not just about short-term support, but also long-term support. Examples include building local sewage systems that are respectful to the environment that people come here to enjoy, and are able to support the swell of seasonal tourism; the safety of roads on which people travel on, and better communications to give people help and important information when they need it. These are benefits to our quality of life that all of us can enjoy.

A BC Liberal government will invest an additional $8 billion into existing infrastructure upgrades totalling $30.9 billion. We will enhance and protect our fish and wildlife. We will improve our parks and recreation sites. We will work with stakeholders to keep the gates open, recognizing the importance of outdoor recreation in the pandemic environment. The pandemic highlighted the critical importance of our farmers on our food supply, and we will restore their opportunities to participate in the tourism industry for supplemental income. We will work with the tourism industry and municipal partners to support the growth and development of regional tourism hubs in BC.

In the short term, we will provide the tourism sector, many of which are small businesses, the elimination of PST for one year, and the elimination of the small business tax of two percent. We will help small businesses adapt to COVID-19 personal protective equipment protocols using WorkSafeBC surpluses. We will support the hospitality industry by permanently allowing liquor delivery with takeout meals, wholesale pricing from any liquor store, and streamlined approvals for outdoor and patio dining. We will provide a loan guarantee program for BC’s more than 19,000 tourism and hospitality businesses.

•••

ROB CLARKE

BC Libertarian Party

Our provincial and federal governments’ current crisis management is causing more harm than it cures. Until the federal Liberal government eases restrictions on our borders we will be hard pressed to bring tourism back to normal.

Most of our tourism comes in the summer and this year’s season has already been long ruined by BC Premier John Horgan and medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Henry lost what little respect I had left for her advice when she was recommending maps to “glory holes” in Vancouver. No chance to transmit infectious diseases there… This is our chief health officer suggesting we go “have a little fun” at a glory hole during an apparent pandemic. While insisting we stand six feet apart and don’t shake hands but glory holes are fine. Let that settle in.

Hopefully in our region this cold and flu season passes with another lower-than-seasonal average of fatalities to pneumonia caused by colds and flus; then more people will be able to begin to relax a bit and we can all get over it together.

We would see tourism companies and clients be free to do business how they see fit. Free them from the restrictions that Horgan’s state of emergency and Island Health have placed upon them. Not just the tourism businesses, we would free all businesses to operate as they used to. Based on what the businesses and the clients agree upon.

If we let the government keep kicking our small and medium businesses around there will be none left.

However we manage it I pray we can get back to normal and get our tourism businesses and all the other ones that are not bankrupt yet, back to profitable business without further government loan/ bailout money before they are gone forever and with them all the jobs they provide and all the taxes they pay.

•••

EVAN JOLICOEUR

BC Green Party

Throughout the past three weeks I’ve travelled across our expansive and majestic riding, connecting with hundreds of people and listening to their concerns. Many people I’ve met are remaining optimistic, but there’s no question the weight of the pandemic has put devastating pressure on small business owners and tourism communities. Meanwhile the ever-worsening climate crisis has jeopardized the sustainability of our most famous attractions.

As a foundational industry for central Vancouver Island, our tourism operators are facing trials like never before. While enduring the first wave of COVID-19 and all of the restrictions, workers and families continue to make our communities proud while being on the front lines, taking significant risks to their health and well-being to provide services to those who visit and experience our beautiful communities.

As the second wave nears, there are many uncertainties and it’s not just the crushing costs. It’s the anxiety of not knowing whether they will be able to pay rent and pay staff — their mental health is suffering because of it.

All of this in the midst of an unnecessary election called by a power-hungry NDP — provincial government financial support has been delayed due to this election. We should be implementing these supports, not debating on the campaign trail.

The BC Greens have a plan to tackle these urgent challenges right now. We will provide funds to help pay the rent this winter. Our plan focuses on working with the not-for-profit tourism businesses, Indigenous ecotourism, cultural facilities and attractions to develop a granting program that will ensure these businesses can survive. This plan will work with the federal government to establish a repayable loan program that exceeds the criteria for the small tourism operator grant program.

It’s about simple, straightforward financial support today and not a year from now.

•••

JOSIE OSBORNE

BC NDP

Tourism is the top or second largest sector in almost every community in Mid Island – Pacific Rim. I’m proud to have been active in the tourism industry for 20 years and to be mayor of a tourism community for seven-and-a-half years, and it was heartbreaking to see and experience the quick and devastating impacts of the pandemic in Tofino. Across BC, the tourism industry placed health above all else and took a huge hit with layoffs, temporary closures, significant loss of revenue, and new costs to adapt. Despite the domestic visitation to our riding’s communities this summer, international border closures and physical distancing requirements continue to seriously threaten the sector. Our tourism businesses and communities absolutely must receive targeted support from all levels of government so we survive not just this winter, but also the next several years.

When the pandemic hit, BC’s NDP government deferred tax remittances and lowered business property tax by 25 percent—quickly providing relief alongside federal business loan and subsidy programs. Then, throughout the pandemic, the BC government consulted extensively with business owners, sector associations and marketing organizations to hear their priorities for recovery and ideas to help BC remain a globally competitive destination. As a result, BC’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan includes comprehensive supports to tourism businesses and communities, including: $300 million to provide fully-funded grants (not loans) to businesses, with a specific tourism grant top-up of up to $10,000; $100 million into community economic recovery infrastructure, specifically targeting tourism amenities, rural communities, and Indigenous cultural heritage; and almost $20 million into marketing and destination development.

Mid Island-Pacific Rim needs an MLA who understands the tourism industry and is a strong and respected advocate. If elected MLA, I’ll use my all my skills, knowledge and relationships in the tourism industry to work hard for businesses and communities.

•••

GRAHAM HUGHES

Independent

I do not think prioritizing tourism makes sense when our core needs are still not, and were not being met prior to COVID-19. The environmental issues created by lacking infrastructure were made worse by the lack of tourism sector. While regions like Tofino rely heavily on tourism for their local economies, welcoming more than one million tourists a year as we were is great in theory, but with no sewage facilities, we were welcoming one million tourists a year to take a dump directly into the ocean we harvest food fish from. Last year, Port Alberni’s beaches were locked down from E. coli bacteria shortly after welcoming a cruiseship, and while unconfirmed the ship was the source, it doesn’t seem like we’re ready for our economy and communities to rely on mass tourism.

The priorities for our region, like housing, homelessness issues and the opioid crisis, restructuring how we deal with crime to increase community safety, ensuring our salmon runs remain healthy and sustainable, and investing in our entrepreneurs and businesses will ultimately allow tourism to be a successful industry post-COVID. If we get our communities clean, livable, successful, and full of opportunity, tourists will come and so will new families to invest and build their lives here.

We live in a region that requires no advertising—people want to see what we have to offer. If we’re able to show them our best, and use this period to become our best—tourism will recover. The tourism sector’s job losses are temporary; through infrastructure projects, jobs will be there to keep families afloat until the tourists can return.

BC politicsBC Votes 2020Comox ValleyCumberlandParksvillePORT ALBERNIqualicum beachTofino,ucluelet

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