Tourism vi­tal as fis­cal cri­sis grips the Rock

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - DESTINATIONS - By Sue Bailey

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Tourism is al­ways vi­tal for New­found­land and Labrador, but never more so than this year as a fi­nan­cial cri­sis rocks the prov­ince. “We have a lot rid­ing on the sum­mer,” said Court­ney How­ell, who runs Grates Cove Stu­dios and restau­rant with her hus­band Ter­rence, a wood­worker and artist, on the north­ern tip of the Avalon Penin­sula. It’s their fourth sea­son pre­par­ing a lo­cally sourced menu billed as New­found­land Ca­jun home cook­ing. They also pack pic­nic lunches for ocean-view walks along the Bac­calieu Trail, and of­fer unique re­treats in two va­ca­tion homes from which you just might glimpse an ice­berg or hump­back whales. How­ell said book­ings are slightly up this year. She’s among many en­trepreneurs hop­ing a good sea­son will help buf­fer a pro­vin­cial bud­get that has be­come a flash­point for anger and worry. It con­tains sweep­ing tax and fee hikes but still projects a $1.8-bil­lion deficit this year. The oil price crash since 2014 has drained the cof­fers of a gov­ern­ment that heav­ily re­lied on prof­its from its off­shore sec­tor. “You can tell peo­ple are very ner­vous,” How­ell said. “It’s go­ing to make the dif­fer­ence to us, as much as peo­ple can sup­port lo­cal (busi­nesses), it makes a huge, huge im­pact.” About a two-hour drive south in the cap­i­tal St. John’s, restau­rant own­ers and other busi­nesses must also ab­sorb higher taxes im­posed in the city’s last bud­get. “It’s life or death this year for some peo­ple be­cause of the city tax is­sues,” said Nancy Brace, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion of New­found­land and Labrador. “They’re hang­ing on by their fin­ger­nails.” Chinched Bistro is lo­cated near the newly ex­panded St. John’s Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. With a main ballroom that can hold just over 1,500 peo­ple, the cen­tre could be a much needed eco­nomic boost, said bistro co-owner Michelle LeBlanc. “We have to think pos­i­tive, be cre­ative and work to­gether,” she said of down­town busi­nesses.

GE­ORGE Murphy, a night dis­patcher and driver for Jiffy Cabs in St. John’s, said the ex­o­dus of big-spend­ing oil ex­ec­u­tives over the last year was a ma­jor blow even be­fore the pro­vin­cial bud­get came down. Many driv­ers don’t know if they can last an­other six months, he said. “We have this dis­cus­sion at quiet times, at three o’clock in the morn­ing, di­rectly on the ra­dio.” Res­i­dents are no­tice­ably belt-tight­en­ing, Murphy said. He wonders if tourists will be put off by a Har­mo­nized Sales Tax go­ing up to 15 per cent from 13 per cent on July 1. That is on top of a 16.5 cents per litre gas tax in­crease — dou­ble the cur­rent rate — as of June 2, adding about $8 to fill a mid-sized ve­hi­cle. Tourism Min­is­ter Christo­pher Mitchel­more down­played the lat­ter con­cern, say­ing prices at the pumps were higher last year. He ex­pects gaso­line rates will be com­pa­ra­ble even with the higher tax fac­tored in. Tourism, worth $1 bil­lion a year to the prov­ince, is a bright light of hope and op­por­tu­nity, he said in an in­ter­view. “I was on the North­ern Penin­sula, the west coast (of New­found­land), the Bon­av­ista Penin­sula, and all in­di­ca­tions are for a very strong tourism

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.