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Niagara Falls
Monday, April 15, 2024
Opinion: Let’s work together to support Royal George revitalization
MPP Wayne Gates. Evan Loree

Wayne Gates
MPP, Niagara Falls riding
Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report

On Feb. 13, I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my election to represent Niagara-on-the Lake, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie as your Member of Provincial Parliament.

It has been the honour of a lifetime to represent this community for four terms — and one of the privileges of my time has been to be the provincial voice of a community as unique, historic and beautiful as  Niagara-on-the-Lake.  

Niagara-on-the-Lake has so much to offer visitors and residents alike: dining in the “Culinary Capital of Canada,” our wineries, breweries and cideries, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, historic attractions like Fort George, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, the Apothecary and, of course, the Shaw Festival.  

These unique elements of our community not only do so much to support our local economy and good jobs — they also form the basis of the unique character of this town and our people.

As your MPP, it is my role to work together with all stakeholders, from all levels of government, business owners, workers and residents alike, to ensure Niagara-on-the-Lake and all its features are supported in a culturally sensitive manner.  

One example of how we have accomplished good things for our community was the important win we got late last year on common-sense reforms for our wine industry.  

The elimination of the basic 6.1 per cent tax on Ontario winery retail sales was a major win for winemakers, workers, and residents alike.

Niagara is the biggest wine-producing region in the country, and it contributes over $1 billion to Canada’s GDP.

The elimination of this basic tax will help Niagara’s economy and create more jobs for residents. 

I was proud to introduce legislation to eliminate this tax three times since 2018 — and by working together with winemakers, workers and industry experts, we got a major win that will support the tourism industry and job creation right here in Niagara. 

Now, we have another opportunity to make smart investments to support local industry and our cultural heritage.  

We need to work together to ensure we protect the Shaw Festival’s Royal George Theatre.

One of the Shaw’s three main venues, the Royal George attracts more than 100,000 annual attendees, who bring over $70 million annually in revenue to surrounding businesses.

However, it was built a century ago as a temporary building and its clay foundation has been dissolving for decades.

The Shaw has been mitigating this for years, but without a crucial investment from the provincial and federal governments, the Royal George will be forced to close at the end of 2024.  

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Shaw and the Royal George to our community.

The  Shaw Festival is the second-largest theatre company in Canada and is one of the top 20 employers in the Niagara region, directly supporting over 2,500 jobs.

The Shaw is also the largest generator of economic impact of any arts and culture charity in Ontario, generating more than $238 million in annual tourist spending.

The Shaw averages 800 to 900 performances a year, and 90 per cent of performance attendees cite the Shaw as their primary reason to visit.

They also attend many other activities during their multi-day stays, helping to support other crucial provincial industries, such as viticulture, restaurants and retail.

In fact, every $1 spent at the Shaw generates about $7 or more in additional spending in the local economy.

The Shaw has already made incredible fundraising efforts toward saving the Royal George — another example of the innovation and leadership shown by its executive director, Tim Jennings, and its senior leadership team, like how they kept 600 employees working full-time during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

But we need the provincial government to do its part to assist in revitalizing their Royal George.

And investing in the Royal George project will yield enormous benefits — including creating 850 new jobs in Niagara and an additional $80 million in annual GDP. 

Let’s continue to work with all levels of government to make the right investment to protect the Royal George – supporting a key local industry in Niagara as well as an important element of our shared cultural heritage.

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