One of our P.E.I. senators rose to speak in the Senate Monday and – get this – it actually had nothing to do with senators’ expences.
During Question Period Catherine Callbeck asked about the sharp decline in Canadian tourism numbers.
As a representative for our Island, which relies so heavily on tourism, Callbeck is concerned, as all Islanders should be, about the decline in the number of visitors coming to Canada over the past decade.
“Once the seventh most visited country in the world, a new report by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce shows Canada’s position as a tourist destination has plummeted to 18th in the world,” she told the Senate.
In terms of numbers, that means four million fewer people came to Canada in 2012 than in 2002. In 2002, 20 million foreign visitors came. Ten years later, that number had dropped to 15.9 million.
The senator from Central Bedeque admitted she was concerned about what this decline could mean for the Island, its workforce, and economy.
She also asked why the federal government was ignoring “a problem of this magnitude.”
Good question. It deserves a good answer.
Tourism is a vital industry on P.E.I. According to our Department of Tourism and Culture, tourism on the Island provides over 7,000 full-time equivalent jobs. The industry accounts for about $380 million in economic activity each year and seven per cent of our GDP, which the senator notes, is the highest percentage of any Canadian province.
Despite the significant drop in Canadian tourists, the federal government cut the Canadian Tourism Commission’s budget by $63 million this year.
Callbeck accused the federal government of turning its back on the tourism industry, noting the CTC needs the money to market Canada on the world stage.
“I simply cannot understand how a government that claims to be so concerned with jobs and the economy could allow such a vital industry to decline under its watch,” she added.
The tourism industry employs 1.6 million Canadians and contributes $80 billion to the Canadian economy every year.
The Canadian chamber said domestic tourism remains strong, but it’s the foreign visitors who spend the money. The chamber’s figures suggest foreign visitors tend to spend nearly $1,200 more per visit.
Now it’s not surprising that the Liberal Senator is criticizing the Conservative government, but she has a valid point.
If tourism is so crucial to the Canadian economy, why would the federal government slash funding in the midst of such a steep decline.
All department budgets have suffered through the economic recession, but we shouldn’t be continuing to cut an industry that’s already bleeding profusely.