Extension of Job-Protected Infectious Disease Emergency Leave
The Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development has confirmed that job-protected unpaid infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL) will now be extended until January 1, 2022, inclusive. As businesses have experienced unprecedented revenue losses and interruptions due to COVID-19, the IDEL is a measure designed to ease staffing and financial burdens on businesses by temporarily freezing layoffs. Under the IDEL, non-unionized employees whose work hours have been temporarily reduced or eliminated due to COVID-19 will not be considered to be laid off under the Employment Standards Act. This layoff freeze protects employees, allowing them to be reinstated, be free from penalty, and earn credits for length of employment and seniority. It also protects businesses from the obligation to issue termination pay after the end of the layoff period.
Working with our partners, specifically Tony Elenis and the ORHMA team, TIAO has advocated for this extension to the IDEL. This extension will help tourism businesses across the province continue to retain their staff as their operations endure the uncertainty of the current reopening pause and the fourth wave of the pandemic. It will also offer an extended financial reprieve for tourism businesses juggling reduced hours, who are still struggling to recoup revenue losses amid continued capacity restrictions. TIAO welcomes this announcement and will continue to advocate for a regulatory environment which supports the recovery of tourism businesses across Ontario.
Improving Rural Access to High-speed Internet
Many Canadians have lacked access to high-speed internet, impacting their ability to work, learn and keep in touch with family and friends. The Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada have partnered to support projects that will provide high-speed internet access to the entire province of Ontario by 2025. Both governments will contribute equal investments, totalling more than $1.2 billion in order to provide internet to nearly 280,000 rural Ontario households.
This investment will move Ontario almost 40% of the way in its plan to achieve 100% connectivity for all regions in the province by 2025. Reliable high-speed internet is crucial to business and therefore important to the capacity of Northern tourism businesses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and remain competitive against domestic and global tourism destinations.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
At TIAO, one of the first emergency COVID-19 asks of government was for a wage subsidy for our industry. In April 2020, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) was created. This program is a key part of the recovery process for the tourism industry and at one time was accessed by 64% of our members. This program has been extended numerous times and acts as a lifeline for sustaining hospitality operations.
This subsidy is one of the most utilized government support programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. TIAO, TIAC, and the Coalition of the Hardest Hit Businesses have campaigned the federal government to sustain this program into 2022 as after fifteen months of lockdowns and restrictions, increased fixed costs, and rising debts, the need for the continuation of support programs is vital to the recovery and future of our industry.
Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy
From the beginning of the COVID-19 response, TIAO has advocated for commercial rent relief for businesses across the province. TIAO was imperative in working with both federal and provincial governments to extend the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, as well as to then replace this program with the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy program. This program lowered rent for small businesses that were affected by COVID-19 by 75 percent. The impacted small business tenants are businesses who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70 percent drop in pre- COVID-19 revenues. This support program is also available to non-profit and charitable organizations. This program is vital as it covers commercial rent or property expenses, ensuring businesses are able to sustain their operations.
In the Federal Budget in April, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, announced the planned phase-out of the CERS program by the fall of 2021. TIAO is advocating for the continuation of this program into 2022 as removing financial supports for the tourism industry at this stage is dangerous to the survival and future success of businesses.
Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)
The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program was created in April 2020 and currently, 63% of TIAO members have had access of up to $60,000. The program provides interest-free loans to both small businesses and not-for-profits. CEBA is available from more than 220 financial institutions across the country and allows for loan forgiveness of thirty-three percent for businesses that repay the loan on or before December 31, 2022.
TIAO advocated for allowing businesses that do not operate from a business account to still qualify for the program and this change ensures that more small businesses are able to apply for the program, ensuring more small businesses are able to sustain themselves and access financial support from the federal government.
Temporary changes to ESA legislation
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been historic layoffs with almost 200,000 job losses. TIAO advocated for temporary changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and on March 19, 2020 changes were made to the ESA. These changes include Bill 186: Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2000, which entitles all employees to unpaid, job-protected leave in the case of infectious disease emergencies. This ensures employees are protected when required to take leave from work because they are in isolation, quarantine, or need to provide care for children or other relatives due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Ontario Travel Tax Credit
In November 2020, the Government of Ontario announced the creation of the Ontario Tourism Travel Credit which encompasses $150 million dollars to incentivize Ontarians to travel when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. TIAO’s own pre-budget submission for such a program was featured heavily in the budget document detailing the reasoning behind its creation.
This tax credit will allow for a twenty percent return on every dollar spent and applies to all travel within Ontario and will be available for all of 2021. This is a part of the province’s investment into tourism for pandemic recovery and, to protect jobs, sustain tourism businesses, and promote Ontario businesses.
Ontario Travel and Tourism Small Business Support Grant
The grant provides one-time payments of $10,000 to $20,000 to eligible small businesses in the tourism and travel sector to support them during their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a part of Ontario’s 2021 Budget that is investing more than $400 million over the next three years to continue to support the province’s tourism industry.
Ontario Tourism Recovery Program
The tourism industry is one of the hardest-hit sectors in Ontario due to COVID-19; over 200,000 jobs and more than $18 billion dollars in revenue have been lost. After relentless advocacy efforts by TIAO, TIAC, and sectoral partners, the #hardesthit businesses, such as those in tourism, are a priority to the government strategy moving forward.
The Ontario government announced $100 million dollars in the Spring 2021 budget for a one-time Ontario Tourism Recovery Program. It will support established and proven tourism businesses that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the overall tourism industry’s recovery from COVID-19. The program will “provide support for historically successful businesses that have helped to drive employment and visitation in their regions by assisting with costs related to restructuring, safe reopening, recalibrated marketing activities, and partnership development.” This new initiative touches on some of TIAO’s pre-budget recommendations, like the importance of anchor tourism businesses and the need for support for reopening and marketing.
Industry Level Trailer Plate Solution
At the request of TIAO member Boating Ontario, TIAO alerted key political and bureaucratic policy advisors to the issue of
dealers having to buy a new trailer plate for each boat, snowmobile, or ATV that they moved. On behalf of its members, TIAO coordinated and participated in several meetings with the Ministry of Transportation, and attended a stakeholder consultation at the MTO office alongside industry stakeholders, and representatives from the Roadside Enforcement Division of the Ontario Provincial Police. This discussion went over the proposed service plate solution and worked out the details regarding weight restrictions, towing capacities, and all other areas that could lead to unintended consequences for the safety of Ontario highways.
After this stakeholder consultation, TIAO met directly with the Minister of Transportation and staff at the 2019 ROMA Conference. As a direct result of TIAO’s meetings with the Ministry of Transportation, an announcement was made in March 2019 at the Spring Cottage Life Show. The Ministry announced their decision to cut red tape for the tourism industry by extending the service plate program to include recreational and off-road vehicles.
This win reflects the full potential of government and industry collaborating to save the tourism industry thousands of dollars a year and is a huge step forward in cutting red-tape so that tourism businesses can continue to create jobs and drive the economy.
Tourism Oriented Directional Signage
Many tourism businesses across the province were adversely affected by the TODS program announcing a significant price increase. Together with
Attractions Ontario and the Ontario Museum Association, TIAO reacted quickly to this issue and met with staff from both the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to explain the impact of the price increase.
At this meeting TIAO requested that TODS pricing be held at the 2018 rate through to 2019, that both ministries agree to reviewing any future price increases, and to implement a reasonable time frame for business owners to anticipate and prepare for cost increases. After the meeting, TIAO reached out to its members to collect copies of official bills and receipts from the TODS company to provide proof that some businesses were subject to a 300% price increase.
Late in December 2018, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport contacted TIAO directly to share their decision to announce a price freeze to maintain the 2018 TODS pricing through to 2019, and that the Ministry would also review the process and timeline for any future increases.
Repealing Bill 148 – Employment Legislative Changes Applicable to the Tourism Sector
A huge area of concern for the tourism industry was Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, that received Royal Assent in 2017. Bill 148 not only raised the minimum wage from $11.60 to $14 per hour, but put into motion a range of changes to the Employment Standards, Labour Relations, and Occupational
Health and Safety Acts.
In its third year of working on the Bill 148 file (in 2018), TIAO sent a survey to TIAO members and used a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and thematic coding to organize and analyze data on how TIAO members/businesses were impacted by the legislative amendments of Bill 148. Some of the key findings from this
analysis included the high cost of administering changes to overtime calculations, the speed at which the wage increase was made, and the impact of the increase of Personal Emergency Leave Days on small and seasonal businesses.
Using data collected from the members survey, and policy research, TIAO met with the Minister of Labour, shared the key findings on the impact of Bill 148 on Ontario businesses, and provided six policy amendments.
In November of 2018, Bill 47 received Royal Assent, repealing much of Bill 148. The Minister of Labour’s Chief of Staff referenced the AMO meeting with TIAO as being highly influential in their repeal of Bill 148 and the design of Bill 47.
Of note - one of TIAO’s direct policy asks to repeal the January 1, 2019 planned minimum wage increase to $15 an hour was implemented. This represented a cost savings of over $7 billion for Ontario businesses.
Being the Voice of Tourism – Waivers in Ontario’s Recreational Sporting Industry
TIAO member Ontario Federation Of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC), approached TIAO to go through all materials ahead of a Supreme Court of Canada case and intervene on the appeal case on behalf of the greater industry. TIAO’s feedback on the case played a role in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to affirm that waivers under the Occupiers’ Liability Act are not defeated by the Consumer Protection Act.
This decision put new force into waiver arguments, not just in Ontario but it will help cases in British Columbia and other provinces. This is just one example of the many ways that TIAO acts as the voice of tourism.
New Tourism Strategy for Ontario
In early conversations with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, under the new Ford government, TIAO requested that Ontario create a new
tourism strategy to maximize the economic impact of Ontario’s $34 billion tourism industry.
On October 23rd, 2018, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport announced the development of a new Ontario tourism strategy at the 2018 Ontario Tourism Summit, emphasizing the government’s commitment to tourism as an economic driver.
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