Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland made a “virtual visit” to the Yukon on May 4, including a discussion with tourism operators and MP Larry Bagnell.
“I want to say in general, to the Yukon and to the people of the North, you may not appreciate just how much we people here down South admire the way you’ve handled COVID. It has really been impressive,” said Freeland. “You took some really hard decisions early on, and I’m proud to be a citizen of the same country.”
Freeland’s meeting with tourism representatives Allison Camenzuli and Tourism Industry Association (TIA) President Neil Hartling was focused on the recently passed federal budget.
The budget is focused on restoring jobs and post-COVID-19 recovery, and also included specific commitments to northerners including green energy and changes to travel benefits.
The budget also included one billion dollars dedicated to the tourism industry, which Freeland said has been in the “bull’s-eye” of the pandemic.
Hartling agreed, pointing out that although the territory is an “island” of safety right now, the decisions to close the border have had an impact on tourism businesses.
“We don’t have the population base for any meaningful staycation pivot,” explained Hartling.
Freeland answered questions from Yukon businesses, including Air North, Dalton Trail Lodge and Northern Tales Travel Services.
She promised that support will be offered to smaller airlines in the North during the pandemic and that additional funding has been provided to the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency in order to support businesses.
Camenzuli shared how quickly her team was forced to change the business, navigate tight timelines for support funding and work harder than ever in order to turn a profit.
“We’re not even the business that we were previously. Local Yukoners, we just can’t thank enough, for keeping us alive and keeping us going. We’re working hard and we’re getting through it,” she said.
“At the same time, that was with three times the work, three times the sweat equity, and a completely different product we’re now offering for locals,” she said.
Freeland commended business owners who have been innovative through the pandemic.
“I am hopeful this is going to be the summer of the Canadian staycation. We have the most beautiful country in the world, we have amazing entrepreneurs like Alison who offer Canadians amazing experiences,” she said.
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