Ottawa and the Atlantic provinces are teaming up with industry to spend $24.5 million over three years on touting Atlantic Canada as a top travel destination.
Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said Tuesday estimates based on business cases suggest the plan could deliver big returns.
“This investment is so critical because it’s going to help generate $200 million in export revenue for Atlantic tourism businesses over the next three years, add 200 new businesses to the sector and create 6,000 new jobs,” he told a news conference as Atlantic premiers and federal ministers met in western Newfoundland.
Ottawa will provide about $11.4 million as the four Atlantic provinces and local tourism industry associations chip in the rest.
The project will target vacation markets in the U.S., the United Kingdom, China and Germany.
“We need to make sure that people recognize this can be a great destination for them and their families,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
“There are things that we will do individually as provinces, but I think we do better when we market this region collectively.”
Rob Moore, the Conservative opposition critic for Atlantic Canada, pointed out that the Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership and the Atlantic Canada Agreement on Tourism have boosted the region internationally since 1994.
“This is simply, for the most part, a renewal of that program,” he said of Tuesday’s announcement. “They’ve renamed it.”
Moore said the region relies disproportionately on a seasonal industry worth about $5 billion a year and the equivalent of 57,000 full-time jobs, according to the Atlantic Canada Agreement on Tourism website.
“I worry about the centralization of decision-making under this government,” he said in an interview. Moore noted that Bains, a minister from Ontario, also oversees the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency – a portfolio traditionally held by an Atlantic Canadian.
“We’re looking for the 32 Atlantic Liberals to stand up more for the region.”
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen also told the news conference a pilot project announced last year to increase immigration to Atlantic Canada is working.
More than 200 candidates have been endorsed to apply for permanent residence and more than 400 employers can now recruit immigrants for job openings, he said.
Hussen announced a new service team of 12 federal workers to help cut through red tape.
“This team will help employers, provincial governments and candidates themselves to navigate the immigration system. They will answer inquiries in real time, and they will also be able to do some outreach and promotion work.”