News from the Park – Let me tell you about Ontario and what a treasure Algoma-Manitoulin is!

A couple of years ago, clearly, before the pandemic hit, I was on one of my regular constituency clinic tours and found myself looking for something better to do than sit and watch television after a rather long drive and jam-packed day of meeting constituents.  One of the constituents I met invited me to her church that evening for a fun travel-themed social event.  So, always up for some fun and meeting new people, I joined in.

The evening included a thirty-minute slide show of one of the member’s trips to Australia.  Her photos were surprisingly professional as was her talk.  About 7 or 8 minutes into the presentation, there suddenly appeared a slide of two toddlers sliding down a steep pile of snow on a crazy carpet.  Clearly out of place for an Australian trip, the audience giggled and the presenter said, “Oh dear, that’s my granddaughters playing in the snow after a big dump we had a few weeks ago.  She talked on about it up for a short time telling us about the wonderful visit she had that day with her granddaughters.

A bit later, the same thing happened with a photo of a young boy proudly displaying a Valentine’s Day picture he painted for his Grandma.  Again, a feigned embarrassed comment from the presenter, commenting that her husband was really slipping up in setting up the slide show.  I think Dana’s husband ‘slipped up’ four times in that short slide presentation.

The lady sitting next to me leaned over and said, “Don’t believe a word Dana says about her husband messing up.  She slips those slides in herself every time she does a travel show.  She has a thick photo album in her purse that has let me tell you about my grandchildren embossed on it.  She is so proud that it’s kind of cute.”

I have to admit, I share a similar sentiment as Dana with my pride of Algoma-Manitoulin.  Among my colleagues, I am renowned for using every opportunity in the legislature to share with my members what an outstanding region our riding is. For a few years, I even delivered an auctioneer-style Member’s statement just before the summer recess in which I invited people to come enjoy spending time at the long list of events and attractions available summer long.  Algoma-Manitoulin is overflowing with pristine lakes and forests, high lookout vistas, spectacularly thunderous waves crashing on our shorelines and abundant opportunities to enjoy the magnificence of our wildlife.  And don’t get me started on the treasure-trove of outstanding citizens who make this land what it is.

Tourism is one of the biggest contributors to Ontario’s economy — even more so for our Northern economy.  All year round, visitors flock to every corner of this riding to enjoy the bounty that we have all around us every day.  The pandemic has hit most every business sector hard, but it has hit the tourism sector especially hard.  And tourism includes an incredibly wide spectrum of businesses.  Doug Ford has had months to step up to the plate to find ways to help our business community to get back on their feet and spur on economic recovery.  Just staving off bankruptcy as long as possible is not good enough.  We need to grow.

So many streets in this province are dotted with For Lease signs and papered-up windows.  Our Re-opening days are still in their infancy and noticeable improvement is still weeks away for thousands of Ontario-owned businesses.  Many of Ontario’s local businesses — and jobs — are at risk of not being able to hang on until the upturn actually begins.  Entrepreneurs in Ontario are watching their dreams crumble and so many families continue to struggle to put food on the table and pay off their burgeoning debts.

But New Democrats understand there is a better way.  Tourism businesses — restaurants, campgrounds, museums, attractions, and more — have been devastated by the pandemic.  People’s jobs and livelihoods are still at risk.  That is why we have proposed creating the Travel Ontario Tax Credit (TOTC).  It is a way to kick-start meeting the needs of our business community right now.  Working families in Ontario would truly benefit physically and emotionally from a much-needed vacation this summer.  By encouraging people to seek such respite, it would get the hospitality, arts, and culture sectors back on track.  A TOTC would mean that for every dollar a person spends, they’ll get a dollar back up to $1,000.

The TOTC is a bill proposed by my colleague MPP Wayne Gates (Niagara Falls).  Wayne pointed out that in 2020, the Ford government promised to adopt the bill.  But then Ford watered it down so families would only get a meagre $200 back when they spend $1,000.  Now, Ford and his government have walked away from the idea until at least 2022-23.  Even at that, Ford’s version will come a day late and a dollar short by that late date.

When you look at this bill in terms of where our business sector and economy is right now, it is truly a win-win.  The TOTC will supercharge our tourism industry from the ground up by giving people the help they need to take a much-needed vacation.  And just imagine the jobs we can save, the jobs we can create and the economic stability we can give to our communities with this plan.

It is painfully obvious to the people of Ontario that this long, painful lockdown is the result of Doug Ford’s poor pandemic choices — not the choices of business owners and working folks. But even at this point, it is not too late to take steps that will at least help bring us up out of this terrible pit.  I am confident that the TOTC will help undo some of the damage that Ford heaped upon all of us.

There is no better place in the world to travel than Ontario.  The beauty, diverse cultural experiences, world-class outdoor recreation and incredibly special hospitality industry make this province the perfect place to safely enjoy a break this summer.  The TOTC would keep the dream alive for the small businesses in the sector, create jobs we desperately need right now, and give families a break.  Let’s re-open our doors by offering an enticing incentive for people to explore Ontario and all that we have to offer, thus creating jobs, economic stimulus, and hope.

So, in the same proud spirit as Dana at her church travel presentation, Let me tell you about Ontario and what a treasure Algoma-Manitoulin is.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters.

Mike Mantha