Tourism recovery, economy discussed by MP candidates in election forum

Candidates talking business

Questions about support for the tourism industry through the pandemic generated a lot of discussion Monday night among MP hopefuls at a Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo all-candidate forum.

The forum was hosted by Radio NL, Kamloops This Week and the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, with NL News’ Brett Mineer helming the discussion.

Questions covering several topics were received in advance by the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, submitted by individuals and local groups and agencies.

The NDP's Bill Sundhu said Canada must get through the pandemic by getting people vaccinated so that recovery for the tourism, retail and hospitality sectors can continue.

“The federal government has a role as well in promoting tourism, providing supports in training for tourism, and also helping tourism industries through the difficult period with rent relief,” Sundhu said.

“Some of these programs are about to expire, but they should not expire until right through the pandemic and perhaps even longer to help rent relief, to hire workers, incentives to rehire workers and help with financing.”

Green candidate Iain Currie said climate change poses a major challenge for the tourism industry, especially this summer saw smoky skies and wildfires impacting businesses in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo region.

“This is a long term problem that will last beyond this pandemic, and so the government of Canada has to become a leader in fighting the climate crisis,” he said.

Frank Caputo, Conservative candidate, said his party unveiled a dine-out credit and a vacation credit that would encourage people to go out for dinner and travel in the region, and has other plans to support small businesses.

“This isn’t just an issue for Kamloops, this is an issue for our rural areas. We can’t forget the importance that small business plays in our rural areas, they are the economic engine that keeps us going,” Caputo said.

Liberal candidate Jesse McCormick said to ensure a strong tourism industry, action needs to be taken to “finish the fight against COVID-19.”

"There are two fundamental challenges facing the tourism industry in our region. One is COVID-19 and one is climate change, wildfires, smoke. Any answer that doesn't include those two things is a lack of leadership," he said.

Corally Delwo, representing the People's Party of Canada, said it’s important to learn to live with COVID-19, protecting the vulnerable and allowing healthy people to live their lives productively.

“These restrictions are one of the biggest problems for tourism, industry, hospitality, restaurants, everything. The problem is, we have classified people as essential and non-essential,” Delwo said.

Independent candidate Wayne Allan agreed it was important to move on from COVID-19 restrictions and bolster infrastructure that would promote tourism.

“We get a lot of foreign visitors here every year, and our own people are starting to explore this country as well. We need to finish our infrastructure, get our highways up,” Allan said.

Independent Bob O’Brien said he has spent 30 years in the hospitality and tourism industry, and believes it’s time to stop meddling in the industry by enforcing vaccine cards, especially as out-of-province tourists start to arrive in greater numbers.

He said it’s important that people internationally are aware of what Canada and British Columbia has to offer as a tourist destination.

“It’s a world-class destination, and I think we could spend more money promoting it,” O’Brien said.

Although advanced polling days are now over, voters can cast ballots early at any Elections Canada office — including the one in Northhills Mall — before 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Election day is Sept. 20.

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