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Politics

Ontario government eliminates $13M in tourism funding to Toronto, Ottawa

The front entrance of Ontario's Legislative Building at Queen's Park.
The front entrance of Ontario's Legislative Building at Queen's Park. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has cut $17.5 million in tourism funding across the province, including eliminating money that had gone to Toronto and Ottawa.

Tourism Toronto said the government told them that their $9.5 million in provincial funding is being cut entirely. That is about a quarter of their budget of just under $40 million, executive vice-president Andrew Weir said Tuesday.

“This will have real implications and we’re evaluating now what markets we can no longer promote Toronto in, which major conventions and events we can no longer bring to the city,” he said.

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“By any objective business metric this is the time to be aggressive with tourism.”

WATCH (Jan. 24, 2018): 2017 was a record-breaking year for tourism in Toronto
2017 was a record-breaking year for tourism in Toronto
2017 was a record-breaking year for tourism in Toronto
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Last year, tourism in Toronto generated about $9 billion in direct spending, Weir said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said 44 million people visited the city last year to spend their money, but the province gets the tax revenue.

“We don’t get a penny of it,” he said. “The province is the beneficiary and yet they took a huge sum of money for Toronto and Ottawa, yes, the two biggest tourism centres in the province, and just took it away. I think that’s bad for Ontario.”

Transitional funding of $3.9 million is being provided this year, but after that, will be eliminated.

READ MORE: Ontario child-care advocacy says municipalities getting at least $80M less for child care

Ottawa Tourism’s $3.4 million of provincial funding is being cut. The organization says that was 15 per cent of its budget.

After repeated requests to the minister of tourism, culture and sport’s office, Michael Tibollo’s spokesman provided a funding chart late Tuesday that showed the cuts will hit all 13 regional tourism organizations.

Tourism Northern Ontario will see a cut of nearly $1 million from last year’s funding of $4.9 million.

Last year’s total funding across the province was $36.6 million.

READ MORE: Ontario tree nursery to destroy about 3 million trees due to provincial cutbacks

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Tibollo said protecting core services means making difficult decisions.

“I have asked our agencies and partners to work collaboratively with us to find efficiencies and maximize value for taxpayer dollars,” he wrote in a statement.

“My staff and I are exploring other alternatives that may help offset these adjustments, as we consider broader initiatives to the tourism industry in developing our new Ontario Tourism Strategy, which will be released in the coming months.”

READ MORE: Hamilton’s tourism sector soared to new heights in 2018, budget presentation says

NDP tourism critic Paul Miller called the cuts “destructive” and said they will hurt the province’s economy.

“Investing in tourism doesn’t cost money – it makes money,” Miller said in a statement. “Doug Ford’s short-sighted and callous move to completely eliminate provincial funding to Tourism Toronto and Tourism Ottawa will jeopardize the billions of dollars in economic activity that tourism brings in.”

The funding decision comes amid a host of other cuts to municipal funding, including to public health, child care, flood management and library services.

Tory said that will mean a more than $100 million shortfall for Toronto.

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