Saskatchewan calls Ottawa's boost to Quebec, Atlantic tourism 'outrageous'

REGINA — Saskatchewan says it wants in on the federal money Ottawa is sending to eastern tourism industries hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Scott Moe tweeted a letter to federal Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly that expresses disappointment Western Canada was left out of a $46 million package to help Quebec and Atlantic Canada's tourism industries.

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Joly said earlier this week the country's tourism industry has been hard hit by the global health crisis. A lot of the money going to the Quebec and Atlantic Canada had been earmarked in the federal budget.

Saskatchewan's minister of parks, culture and sport accused Ottawa of only being interested in supporting the tourism sector in Eastern Canada.

In the letter, Gene Makowsky calls it "outrageous" and says the Saskatchewan's tourism industry put more than 70,000 people to work last year.

"It is my expectation that there will be a more substantial announcement made in support of Western Canada in the coming days to ensure all regions in Canada receive equitable treatment through these unprecedented times," he says.

Makowsky says the province received about $1.5 million in support for its tourism sector, with Western Canada getting $3.45 million. He says Saskatchewan should be entitled to $4.3 million.

"I don't think a tour operator in Saskatchewan is less hurt than in Quebec," he said. "Our operators are hurting just as much as anywhere.

"I think we're getting short-changed here in the West."

Ottawa says there has indeed been support for the industry in the West.

The federal government says the four Western provinces are receiving more than $300 million through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, which was set up to help businesses through COVID-19, and there's more support coming for tourism in Saskatchewan.

"Covering those who don’t qualify for existing programs, including many tourism operators, the (fund) has already seen myriad applications from Saskatchewan’s tourism businesses," says a statement from Terry Duguid, parliamentary secretary to the federal minister.

"Our message to Saskatchewan’s tourism businesses and those whose livelihoods depend on them is clear: We’ve been here for you with immediate measures, we’re here for you now as our economy reopens and we’ll get through this together. "

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2020.

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