Coalition of MPs seek help for remote camp owners


Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski is creating a tri-partisan coalition to draw attention to the plight of remote camp operators in northern Ontario.
Together with Conservative MP for Kenora, Eric Melillo, and NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay, Charlie Angus, the three drafted a letter outlining concerns they’ve heard from the tourism industry.
The letter was addressed to Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, Marc Miller Minister of Indigenous Services and Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.
“In all three of our ridings, there are a large number of small businesses that earn livelihoods through tourism, including fly-in fishing companies, lodges, and recreational equipment manufacturers. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting travel restrictions within the province and at the border, all tourism to our region has stopped,” stated the letter. “These businesses, which would normally be preparing to open at this point in the year, are looking towards a summer with likely little to no revenue if the restrictions continue.”
High start-up and insurance fees, particularly for fly-in fishing companies and lodges, coupled with sweeping cancellations, has forced many camp owners to assess whether they open at all for the season.
“Existing supports are not adequate for these businesses,” continued the letter. “Due to the payroll requirements on the Canada Emergency Business Account and limited-time frame on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), these supports are not accessible to many of these small companies. Additionally, quite a few of the tourism operators in our region are start-ups who do not qualify for the new loan programs, and are facing financial ruin as a result.
“Many tourism operators also rely on funding from programs like the Canada Summer Jobs program – funding which they will not be able to access if they don’t open or are forced to open later than usual.”
Along with seasonal tourism businesses, the larger air carriers servicing remote communities in Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) are also facing severe financial challenges, the letter states.
“For example, Wasaya Airlines, a 51 percent First Nations owned and operated airline that has been transporting food, equipment, and healthcare providers and patients to remote communities for over thirty years, has reported that their ability to continue operating will be threatened without emergency funding. A similar situation is facing North Star Air, Bearskin Airlines, and a number of other carriers. Many communities in NAN are already highly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to drinking water advisories and limited health services. Allowing these air carriers – which are the lifelines for these communities – to cease operations at this time due to costs would only add to the challenges they are facing, and potentially put lives at risk.”
“Urgent action is needed now,” stated the letter, which requested the following assistance measures for First Nations supply and seasonal tourism businesses:
• Immediate relief to help cover start-up costs for seasonal tourism businesses, particularly insurance costs for air-carriers. These costs can run upwards of $180,000, typically due May 1.
• Non-repayable loans to help these businesses cover costs throughout the summer. Grants would alleviate much of uncertainty facing these businesses going forward.
• An expansion of the CEWS beyond June. Having only one month to access the CEWS is not adequate.
• Help address the fact that many seasonal pilots over the age of 40 cannot get medically certified to fly commercial this season.