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Jun. 23, 2021 | Wednesday
Editorials and Opinions
Opinion: Baldinelli omitted key budget details

Andrea Kaiser
Special to The Lake Report

Conservative MP Tony Baldinelli's op-ed column last week, ("Liberal budget shortchanges tourism sector"), omitted key facts about the federal government’s support for tourism and hospitality workers and small businesses.

I understand that part of his role as a member of the official opposition involves criticizing the government’s policies, but I do not believe that it is appropriate to leave out key details.

There is no doubt the tourism and hospitality sectors have been among the hardest hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic. The federal government has supported these sectors through critical programs like the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which has helped keep more than 5.3 million Canadians – including many in hospitality and tourism – employed during the pandemic.

The CEWS program was originally set to expire in June 2021, but the budget extended the program through the summer to September 2021 to help hospitality and tourism businesses get through the summer. Baldinelli criticized this extension in his column as inadequate, but then stood up in the House of Commons to vote against extending it at all.

His column also failed to mention the budget clearly committed to further extending the program until Nov. 20, 2021, “should the economic and public health situation require it.” The government has consistently demonstrated it is willing to do what it takes to support workers and businesses during this difficult time and any suggestion to the contrary is simply not accurate.

Unfortunately, our Conservative MP hasn’t shown the same commitment to bridging us through the pandemic. In the past, he and his party have called for the cancellation of the CERB program, criticizing it as a “big, fat government program.” In reality, the program kept food on the table for thousands of families who lost their livelihoods due to this once-in-a-generation pandemic.

The next omission from Baldinelli's column was his failure to mention the new Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP), announced in the budget. The proposed subsidy will cover a portion of the extra costs employers take on as they reopen, either by increasing wages or hours worked or hiring more staff.

The aim is to make it as easy as possible for businesses to hire new workers as the economy reopens. The CRHP will be a critical payroll support program for small businesses in the tourism and hospitality program, and will provide incentives for them to hire more people as soon as it is safe to do so. Unfortunately, our MP voted against this program just last week.

Perhaps the most curious of omissions by Baldinelli was any mention of the tourism sector-specific aid programs included in the budget. It provides more than $1 billion in specific support for the tourism and hospitality sectors.

The Tourism Relief Fund “will support investments by local tourism businesses in adapting their products and services to public health measures and other investments that will help them recover from the pandemic and position themselves for future growth.”

Similarly, the budget includes $400 million in financial support for festivals, artistic and cultural events, theatre performances, heritage celebrations and local museums, all of which form part of our tourism sector.

Why did our MP exclude these programs from his column? Perhaps it's because he emphasized his personal political objectives over factual communication with his constituents. This type of purely partisan communication is exactly what makes so many Canadians cynical about politics.

This federal government is not perfect, but it has been hepting Canadians with one of the most comprehensive COVID-19 support packages among developed countries. Moreover, the government's record ought to be evaluated by the opposition on the basis of facts, not misleading columns that exclude critical details.

Andrea Kaiser is the federal Liberal candidate for Niagara Falls riding, which includes Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie.