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The value of outdoor recreation

Prince Geoerge-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer Credit: Bernard Thibodeau, House of Commons Photo Services
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer

BY BOB ZIMMER

Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released a report showing the positive impact the outdoor recreation industry has had on the American economy with an economic output of $788 billion that supports 5.2 million jobs.

Like our neighbours to the south, Canada’s outdoor recreation industry is also vital to our national economy. It is estimated that the collective outdoor recreation industry produces $24.6 billion in economic activity each year, which generates over 470,000 direct jobs, $7.1 billion in taxes, and $52.1 billion in total revenues. 

Let me repeat that. This is an industry that collectively produces $24.6 billion in economic activity each year, which generates over 470,000 direct jobs, $7.1 billion in taxes, and $52.1 billion in total revenues.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on many of Canada’s outdoor recreation businesses. While many Canadians are turning to outdoor recreational activities as a way to safely stay active during the pandemic, many businesses that rely on international tourists, like guides and outfitters, are struggling to survive. 

For example, according to Scott Ellis, Executive Director of the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia, 93 per cent of their clientele is international, with the vast majority coming from the United States.

Statistics Canada recently released a report on how travel restrictions have impacted Canada’s tourism industry, which includes outdoor recreation. According to the report, in March 2020, the number of international arrivals to Canada from other countries fell by 54.2 per cent from February 2020, representing the largest single monthly drop since 1972. Not only that but total paid employment in the tourism industry for April and May 2020 declined by almost 60 per cent from 2019 levels, more than double the declines seen in non-tourism industries.

As Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Outdoor Caucus, I understand how important outdoor recreation is not only to our national heritage, but also to our national economy.

I have heard from many workers and business owners who have said that measures like the wage subsidy aren’t helping. Others have said that programs like the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund simply don’t go far enough.

With the Canada-U.S. border currently closed to non-essential travel, an entire summer and fall season has been lost and there is ongoing uncertainty about what will happen this winter.

These are businesses that are vital to our rural and remote communities and I will continue to push the Liberal government to do more to support our outdoor recreation industry until the Canada-U.S. border can safely be re-opened.

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