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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 7:12 PM 

“We are angry”: ACITA blasts Boissonnault for “driving the lifeboat away as we drown”

“We are angry”: ACITA blasts Boissonnault for “driving the lifeboat away as we drown”
Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault addresses media on March 17, 2022.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) is expressing anger at the Canadian government following Thursday’s 2022 federal budget reveal, which signalled an end to government COVID-19 aid programs.

“To say our association and the independent travel advisors we advocate for are disappointed at the 2022 federal budget would be an understatement,” ACITA wrote in a statement that was posted to social media.

ACITA, since June of 2020, has been fighting for many things on behalf of independent travel advisors, with targeted support being one major component.

Independent travel advisors (ITAs) have been without sector-specific help (despite being among the hardest-hit entrepreneurs) since the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) ended in October 2021.

READ MORE: “The time for extraordinary COVID support is over”: Budget 2022 to phase out aid; no help for ITAs, says ACTA

During the pandemic, Ottawa’s leading federal aid programs, such as the CEBA, CERS, CEWS and RRRF, excluded many hard-hit small businesses.

Of ACITA: Judith Coates, TTAND (left); Brenda Slater, Beyond the Beach (top, right); Nancy Wilson, TravelOnly (bottom, right). (Supplied)

ITAs haven’t received the same level of support as storefront travel agencies, who have been able to use wage and rent subsidies to stay afloat.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, presenting her budget in the House of Commons yesterday (April 7), said Canada’s economy has recovered and, therefore, “the time for extraordinary COVID support is over.”

READ MORE: After two years of COVID, the “level of frustration has reached its peak,” says travel advisor

This means all financial support programs are being phased out, “despite the impact of the Omicron variant and the delayed revenue model of our sector,” Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), pointed out in a statement last night.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presents Budget 2022 on Thursday, April 7. (File photo)

It also means Ottawa has not budgeted for an extension to the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program wage and rent subsidies, which have provided storefront agencies with much-needed support.

“It is expected that wage and rent subsidies will end as scheduled on May 7, 2022, and no direct financial support for independent travel agents is forthcoming,” Paradis said.

Which implies that the independent travel agent relief proposal, or the ITARP, that ACTA submitted to Ottawa in December will not pass.

READ MORE: Boissonnault’s pro-tourism words fall flat with ITAs as fight for targeted aid continues

The ITARP was aimed at creating equity between ITAs and other travel and tourism small businesses, so its presumed end comes as a huge blow.

“We are angry,” ACITA wrote in its statement. “We are angry at two years of failed promises. We are angry because we have lost hundreds of independent travel advisors over the past two years.”

“We’re angry for Carrie who is in her 70s and cannot retire.”

“We’re angry for Heather who now has to sell her home.”

“We’re angry for Liz who now has depleted savings and is on the brink of losing her home.”

“Failed promises have failed our sector.”

Not giving up

ACITA’s anger is justified, given that the ITARP was created at the encouragement of Tourism Minister and Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault because independent workers were excluded from Ottawa’s Bill C-2 Financial Support legislation.

“Randy Boissonnault promised us a lifeline but instead we’re watching him drive the lifeboat away as we drown,” ACITA wrote.

“We are fighters that refuse to give up. We will come back stronger and fight harder.”

ACTA, too, is disappointed that the 2022 federal budget fails to address the ongoing need for support for travel agencies and independent travel agents, “who are still far from recovery,” Paradis said.

Paradis said ACTA will work closely with the Ministry of Tourism on the new post-pandemic Federal Tourism Growth Strategy to “ensure resiliency and opportunity” in Canada’s travel and tourism sectors.

ACTA will also be providing further analysis of the 2022 budget at its upcoming town hall on Monday, April 11 at 1 p.m. EST. Click here to register. WestJet will also be in attendance.

A French edition will also be held on April 13 at 11 a.m. EST. Click here to register.

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