Just days after the Ontario budget was unveiled, the MPP for the Bay of Quinte was in Prince Edward County to announce some COVID-19 relief funding — money that aims to benefits small businesses and the tourist sector struggling to recover from the pandemic.
A winery served as the backdrop for Monday’s announcement. Todd Smith says the province’s recent budget focuses on not only protecting people’s health, but also protecting the province’s economy. To that end, he announced, the provincial government is committing $200 million to support the tourism industry as well as small business.
Smith says half of that amount, $100 million, is a stimulus program.
“The program will protect critical jobs in tourism-reliant communities like here in the county,” Smith said.
“It will help them sustain tourism businesses which have had to fully or partially shut down due to mandated COVID-19 restrictions, and it will support tourism operations and businesses as they pivot and recalibrate operations to reopen safely and focus on the domestic market during this ongoing crisis.”
Smith went on to say that the province will also invest an additional $100 million for a new one-time relief program for small businesses.
“This includes not just wineries, but it also includes hotels and motels. Travel agencies have been affected — they’ve been open, but nobody’s travelling these days so the folks are not requiring the services of travel agencies, so it’s good that they are included in this new fund,” Smith said.
Amusement parks, recreational camps and overnight summer camps for youth were also hit hard by the pandemic, Smith said.
Monday’s announcement was made at a Prince Edward County winery and those in charge of Karlo Estates liked what they heard. Sherry Karlo is the president of the Wellington-area business.
“There is a lot more expenses in making sure that we’re creating the safest fun place in the county. And it just gives us that security to be able to continue making products and meet the requirements of our projected sales,” Karlo said.
“If we don’t have cash flow then we can’t make the wine, and then therefore when we are fully recovered we won’t be prepared, so this is a really great opportunity for the whole wine industry.”
Smith says tourism plays a critical role in the Ontario economy. Prior to the pandemic, tourism generated more than $36 billion in economic activity and supported approximately 400,000 jobs in the province.