One way to virtually guarantee a face-to-face conversation with a provincial cabinet minister or MLA is to hang out at the Helijet or Harbour Air terminals in downtown Vancouver or Victoria. Similarly, when the House of Commons is in session, the Air Canada lounge at YVR is a good place to find BC-based MPs en route to Ottawa on a Sunday morning.
Chance as they might be, these encounters often produce the best results since politicians tend to be more open and forthright, not to mention unencumbered by the formalities of gathering in an office at the Legislature or on Parliament Hill with a bevy of bureaucrats in tow.
Of course, the more common practice is to set up meetings with a specific agenda and intended outcome where discussions are generally recorded (by a staff member) and commitments made to follow-up and exchange further information or ideas.
Regardless of the preferred tactic, each year (although paused during COVID) our national counterparts at TIAC organize what’s called Hill Days, which consists of a two-and-a-half-day blitz on our nation’s capital to meet with various Members of Parliament to discuss tourism issues, as well as policies the federal government might consider to help the industry move forward. Some of my provincial counterparts and fellow TIAC board members, along with a few DMOs, related sector associations, and private business operators are also part of the Hill Days caravan.
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, I tag-teamed with Whistler-based Brady Smith of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada to meet with BC MPs representing both government and opposition…the purpose of which was to reiterate the key recommendations in TIAC’s submission to inform the impending Federal Tourism Growth Strategy. Of course, Brady and I brought an Indigenous and British Columbia lens to our discussions while ensuring every politician understood the key tenets of TIAC’s brief.
Yet, not unlike running into a decision-maker in an airport, the informal evening reception on Wednesday was another conduit to advancing some of our provincial and national objectives given the attendance of multiple Members of Parliament.
I had the opportunity to connect with Federal Tourism Caucus Co-chair Patrick Weiler (MP for West Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky country) who asked me about federal issues that impact TIABC members. I referenced the jurisdictional division over the Species at Risk file, arbitrary fishing measures imposed by DFO, tax leakage by international companies in the sharing economy space, unsettled treaties, and the unfair tax rate imposed on campgrounds deemed by Revenue Canada to be investment vehicles for developers instead of what they really are…small, seasonal businesses largely owned by families that desire to keep operating their campgrounds.
Fortunately, Patrick is not only a strong supporter of our sector but is committed to working with TIABC and our sector partners in the coming months to further understand the issues, and more importantly, advance solutions for government consideration. I’ll have more to share in the near future on next steps for all concerned.
In the meantime, hats off to TIAC CEO Beth Potter and her entire team for coordinating the annual Hill Days event, intentionally timed this year on the heels of federal pre-budget submissions forwarded by TIAC, TIABC, ITAC, THRC, and many other tourism agencies. I believe our collective efforts will pay off down the road.
Incidentally, the Air Canada lounge at YOW is a great way to connect with BC-based professional colleagues who also regularly travel to Ottawa to advocate on behalf of their sectors or organizations. Despite the distance, ironically, it’s occasionally a more convenient meeting place and often leads to collaborative strategies and partnerships.
I’m curious to know who I’ll bump into during my next trip to YOW in November. Regardless, I’ll be prepared with key messages and requests.