OTTAWA — On Feb. 22, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the Federal Budget, entitled Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class. The Hotel Association of Canada was among a group of a select few stakeholders invited to the finance minister’s Lock-Up where attendees were given an advance copy of the budget documents. This 2.5-hour closed-door meeting allowed HAC to review the budget before it was released publicly and provided an opportunity to meet with senior officials from Finance concerning its contents.
No big ticket items. The budget did not contain significant amounts of new spending or any “big ticket items”, but sprinkled funding to support several themes aligned with the government’s agenda, the HAC said. The good news for the hotel industry is that the budget contained no major surprises of any consequence, and collectively, some of the smaller measures will have a positive impact on the industry.
Investments in the Canada-China Year of Tourism, under the banner of the New Tourism Vision, will support greater visitation into Canada; measures for CATSA will support smoother airport screening and alleviate congestion; investments in rail transportation will assist with mobility; investments in parks could lead to greater attraction; preservation of wildlife will keep Canada’s assets intact; and monies to support temporary foreign workers and youth employment could support the industry’s labour shortage. HAC will be thanking Minister of Tourism, Bardish Chagger, who continues to be a strong champion for our industry.
Uncertain fiscal and macroeconomic picture. More broadly, the Liberals under Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Morneau are dealing with an uncertain fiscal and macroeconomic picture with large variables such as NAFTA renegotiations, and a potentially darkening national economic picture heading into the final year before they must make their re-election pitch to voters in 2019. We can expect many more pre-election tax and spending items in a year’s time, as the government prepares that pitch in earnest with the 2019 budget. Today’s document charts a relatively cautious path forward, aligned with its election promises.
On the issue of fair taxation for online platforms like Airbnb, it is not surprising that fair taxation was not included in this budget. The industry’s record-performing year did not help our efforts to garner fast attention on this issue. Our goal of tax fairness is a much longer-term project and more likely achieved in a pre-election year. We are actively working with Finance officials to build a fair framework for a future budget.
Hotel jobs for Syrian refugees. One key project that was not included in this budget document, but which will be announced soon, is a multi-million dollar program to mobilize Syrian refugees into hotel jobs. HAC is working with the Minister of Immigration on this announcement as we speak. Stay tuned for details in a few weeks.