Ted Arnott, MPP
Wellington – Halton Hills
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2010
McGuinty Liberals abandon Niagara tourism, PC critic charges
(Queen’s Park) – After 100 days on the job, the new Minister of Tourism has yet to set foot in
Niagara Falls—one of Ontario’s most significant tourism destinations.
“This minister has been in the portfolio for 100 days, but what has been accomplished? It would
seem very little,” charged Progressive Conservative Tourism Critic Ted Arnott this week in Question
Period. “We don’t even have an explanation as to why he’s sitting on the Sorbara report.”
Mr. Arnott, the MPP for Wellington-Halton Hills, asked the first two leader’s questions on April 29,
filling in for PC Leader Tim Hudak during the daily Question Period.
Applying more taxes won’t save the Ontario tourism industry, added Mr. Arnott.
“The HST is scheduled to take effect in 63 days,” he noted. “The minister has just 63 days to help
the Niagara tourism industry by cutting some of the taxes that are crippling its competitiveness.”
Mr. Arnott asked the minister to name just one tourism industry leader from Niagara who favours the
HST. The minister did not provide a name.
– 30 –
Mr. Ted Arnott: Millions of people visit Niagara Falls every year, but apparently the Minister of
Tourism isn’t one of them, so this question is to him. The Niagara region is one of Ontario’s most
important tourism destinations. Niagara’s tourism industry leaders want to meet with the minister to share
their vision. But in the 100 days since he was appointed minister, they tell us the minister is ignoring
them. They wonder if he’s even set foot in the region. Is the Minister of Tourism avoiding Niagara Falls
because he has nothing to say, or is it because he can’t explain why the Premier handed out an untendered
contract for Casino Niagara after the ban on untendered contracts?
Hon. Michael Chan: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about tourism in Ontario. During my 100
days-the opposite member was right-I’ve been very busy with a lot of briefings in terms of culture and
tourism. At the same time, in terms of the Niagara Falls area, we have appointed a new chair for the
Niagara Parks Commission. So there are lots of things going on. I myself visit Niagara Falls every year,
and many, many times. I will be visiting that area in the near future.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?
Mr. Ted Arnott: The Casino Niagara deal was handed out in open defiance of the Premier’s ban on
untendered contracts. In fact, it was so blatant that the RFP could have been written by Smitherman. The
minister need not avoid Niagara for that. In Niagara, they all know about the decision to abandon the
RFP, and it came after the casino’s existing landlord hired Liberal lobbyist Bob Lipinski. Meanwhile, their
once-lauded Sorbara report on tourism is gathering dust on the minister’s shelf. Is the minister avoiding
the Niagara tourism industry so he doesn’t have to face this question, or is it so that he doesn’t have to
explain Bob Lipinski’s mysterious success fee to lobby for the Maid of the Mist?
Hon. Michael Chan: To the Minister of Finance.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: As minister responsible for the OLG and the Niagara casino situation, I am proud
that this government has made a record investment in convention and tourism in that area by building the
new convention centre. The process associated with Fallsview and the Niagara casino has been, in my
view, appropriately handled. We are investing to ensure the future success of that gaming facility. It’s an
important part of our gaming infrastructure. We remain committed to it. That’s why we made the
investment in the convention centre. That’s why we will continue to work with the region to promote not
only the casino, but all the wonderful tourism opportunities in the Niagara region.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Final supplementary?
Mr. Ted Arnott: The supplementary question is to the Minister of Tourism, and I would respectfully
request that he take the question and not refer it. This minister has been in the portfolio for 100 days, but
what has been accomplished? It would seem very little. We don’t even have an explanation as to why he’s
sitting on the Sorbara report. It’s not that the minister has lacked opportunities to meet members of the
tourism industry in Niagara. Just yesterday, the Minister of Training made an announcement at Great
Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, but the tourism minister missed the opportunity to join him. Is he refusing
to meet with the Niagara tourism industry because he’s embarrassed by the Liberals’ paralysis on tourism,
or is it so he doesn’t have to explain why they appointed Fay Booker to the Niagara Parks Commission
when her main qualification appears to be her Liberal Party membership?
Hon. Michael Chan: Thank you once again for the question, and thank you for the opportunity to talk
about tourism in Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Minister, no-
Hon. Dwight Duncan: I refer it to the minister.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you.
Hon. Michael Chan: It is Ontario’s highest priority to build a stronger, more competitive economy. So
the tourism industry in Ontario is facing numerous challenges, including increases to passport fees and the
rising dollar. We are facing these challenges head-on. Our government is fostering a competitive business
environment that will attract jobs and bring investments to Ontario, as well as to the Niagara Falls area.
This is why we are moving forward with the implementation of 13 new tourism regions. This will
improve and coordinate tourism marketing, attract more visitors and generate more economic activity. In
the 2009 budget, we announced $40 million in annual funding to support the industry.
Ontario Hansard – 29-April2010
Mr. Ted Arnott: This question goes again to the Minister of Tourism. The minister has had 100 days to
meet with the Niagara tourism industry but he appears to have confirmed that he has not. The HST is
scheduled to take effect in 63 days. The minister has just 63 days to help the Niagara tourism industry by
cutting some of the taxes that are crippling its competitiveness. Can the minister name just one tourism
industry leader from Niagara who favours the HST?
Hon. Michael Chan: Thank you again for the question. I’m going to talk about the HST the opposite
member talked about.
Come July 1, the HST will be in place. This will help all businesses in Ontario, as we know that there’s a
tremendous business tax reduction. It would help create jobs. According to the Jack Mintz report, the HST
will generate close to 600,000 jobs, attracting $47 billion in investment to Ontario. This is good for
tourism because it creates jobs. People are going to go back to work, and when they are working they
generate revenue, they generate income through their households and they have disposable income to go
around Ontario promoting our domestic tourism market.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?
Mr. Ted Arnott: Twelve days ago, I visited Niagara-on-the-Lake. If the Minister of Tourism took the
time to meet with the tourism industry in the past 100 days, he would have heard from Janice Thomson.
Ms. Thomson is the executive director of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce. She says,
“The HST will be increasing the tax on accommodation when people have less money to spend already.”
The HST may be on top of destination marketing fees that add a 3% tax on overnight visits. What makes
the minister think that charging 16% on accommodations will make Niagara more attractive to potential
Hon. Michael Chan: Refer to the Minister of Revenue.
Hon. John Wilkinson: I say to the member, I appreciate the question in regard to revenue. Specifically, I
can say to the people in the tourism industry and I can say to the good people at the Niagara-on-the-Lake
Chamber of Commerce, I’d be happy to visit them as I’ve visited-
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Order. Minister?
Hon. John Wilkinson: The tourism industry, particularly hotels and restaurants, have been very clear that
the nature of our tax reform lowers their cost of business. For the first time, the PST that they have been
paying, which has been embedded in their prices, will come back to them by way of an input tax credit
that lowers the cost of business. So not only are we lowering- Interjections.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Members will please come to order. Final supplementary.
Mr. Ted Arnott: The tourism industry doesn’t want to hear from the tax man, they want to hear from a
Minister of Tourism who will stand up to support them.
Day trips from the US have declined dramatically because of a high Canadian dollar, and the Liberals’
greedy tax grabs will not make overnight stays any more attractive. The tourism industry wants a plan, not
another attack on their competitiveness. They thought they had a plan with the Sorbara report, which is
now gathering dust on a shelf. Instead, they’ve ended up with a government that is now adding a new tax
on top of destination marketing fees, on top of a municipal marketing fee of 3% or more, meaning visitors
may actually pay up to 19% tax on accommodations.
What is the minister doing to fight for the tourism industry in Niagara Falls and across the province that is
under attack by the Liberal government’s tax agenda?
Hon. John Wilkinson: I refer that to the Minister of Tourism. It’s a tourism question.
Hon. Michael Chan: Thank you very much for the question. The member opposite was right.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Order. Minister?
Hon. Michael Chan: The member opposite was right. It has not been easy in the last year or two and the
tourism industry has faced many challenges. The rising dollar is one challenge we will face head-on.
This is why we are committed to investing in key marketing campaigns like There’s No Place Like This.
This campaign helps us better market Ontario and Niagara Falls. From the spring of 2007 to the fall of
2009, the campaign generated more than 1.5 million trips. We will continue to build on this campaign to
ensure that Ontario remains a must-see destination in domestic, national and international markets.