These companies got Ontario taxpayer money for tourism losses during pandemic
Airlines, breweries and movie theatre chains were among the biggest recipients of $100 million in Ontario taxpayer funding designed to compensate the tourism industry for pandemic losses, CBC News has learned.
Premier Doug Ford's government initially declined to name the companies that received funding through its Ontario Tourism Recovery Program, so CBC News obtained the list through a freedom of information request.
The list reveals that the maximum grant of nearly $700,000 each went to Air Canada, WestJet and Porter Airlines, as well as a brewery, a winery and companies that own hotels but whose main business is construction or real estate.
The Ford government had announced the fund in 2021 to provide grants to tourism businesses whose revenues plunged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program documents said the money was for "Ontario-based, tourism businesses in the for-profit attractions and accommodations sectors that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 … private sector tourism businesses that are significant drivers to their regional tourism economies."
The grants totalling $99.5 million went to 571 companies, according to information released to CBC News through a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
The maximum grant was $695,000. That went to 55 companies, the bulk of them hotel operators, as well as airlines, transport companies, and the operators of high-profile tourism attractions, such as Canada's Wonderland and African Lion Safari.
Some of the companies that received $695,000 each:
A spokesperson for Tourism Minister Neil Lumsden said businesses that offered visitor experiences, tours, information sessions and demonstrations were eligible for the funding.
"The Ontario Tourism Recovery Program has significantly supported employers across Ontario with a proven track record of attracting visitors and generating tourist spending," said Lumsden's press secretary Alan Sakach in an email to CBC News.
"This program was one of many supports to ensure tourism in Ontario continues to be a key driver for the province's economy," he said.
Nearly half of the tourism recovery program's total funding went to the 68 companies that received grants of more than $500,000 each. Restaurants were not eligible to apply.
Sakach said the government provided more than $3 billion in supports for Ontario small businesses — including restaurants and the tourism sector — throughout the pandemic.
Christopher Bloore, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, said businesses were grateful that they could put the provincial money directly toward mitigating losses and covering operational costs, something they could not do with the federal tourism relief fund.
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