Canada’s new minority government can provide the tourism industry with lobbying challenges—but also important new opportunities, industry leaders were told today at the opening session of the annual congress, sponsored by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), in Ottawa.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party was returned to power in a federal election on Oct. 21 but received less than a majority of seats in the House of Commons. Four other parties also nabbed seats, forcing Trudeau to rely on support from one or more of them if he is to pass his legislative agenda. Moreover, stark provincial differences in voting outcomes mean the Liberals have to juggle regional interests sensitively.
In a panel discussion about navigating this new political landscape, Christine McMillan, a partner with government relations firm Crestview Public Affairs, told tourism leaders to make their issues known to all Members of Parliament, not just cabinet ministers, and to MPs of all political stripes. Given the fact an election could be triggered anytime, she said, “MPs must be election-ready at any time. That means backbench MPs have never mattered more. TIAC members should be talking to their local politicians, briefing them on your advocacy issues.” She said opposition members will have more clout because the Liberal government has to rely on their support.
Hill and Knowlton vice-president Elizabeth Roscoe agreed. She added that parliamentarians will have to stay close to Ottawa in case of last-minute votes in the legislature, so parliamentary committees become a more central means of communicating industry positions than meetings in member constituencies.
She noted that the Liberals will depend particularly on the progressive New Democratic Party, which promised a universal pharmacare program during the election campaign. This, she suggested, will be the biggest budgetary challenge the government faces, possibly threatening to derail resources from other new initiatives the tourism sector might want. “But we’re in a spend environment rather than a cut environment,” Roscoe noted, “so initiatives already established in recent budgets are probably safe.”
In introductory remarks, TIAC president Charlotte Bell observed that one-third of all MPs are first-timers, especially among opposition parties, so tourism leaders “have a lot of work to get to know and educate them about our concerns.” She reiterated the need for multi-partisanship to get things done.
While TIAC will be competing with 2,700 other organizations for politicians’ attention, Bell said the industry has economic clout—at $22.1 billion, it’s the largest trade sector in terms of export revenue—and tourism can speak with a single voice about its good-news industry that benefits all Canadians. “Tourism appeared in some form in every party’s campaign platform,” she added, “and that’s the first time for that.”
TIAC is Canada’s leading tourism association, bringing together members from across all industry sectors. Its two-day convention continues today and tomorrow.