Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program

Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: Minister Chagger, thank you again for coming.

As you know, Canada has a program to provide an incentive for foreign tour operators to sell tourism packages to Canada. I was very disturbed to learn recently of an experience with this program by a company that brings special programs to our ski resorts in British Columbia, especially since they have been designed to come at a time of year when the resorts are not busy.

This company followed all the rules as laid out in the rebate program as implemented by the Canada Revenue Agency, but after submitting a GST tax rebate application under the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program on July 25, 2017, they received their rebate on October 6, 2017, two and a half months later, and, they said, “We were disappointed to find that our company was awarded less than one third of the rebate we qualified for.”

Madam Minister, this company had priced their product counting on the GST rebate that they were entitled to under the existing program. They are now out several thousands of dollars and have appealed the decision to the CRA.

Minister Chagger, I am sure you recognize that being treated like this is not an incentive for a foreign tour operator to bring people to Canada.

Can you tell us how this can happen? How can the CRA deny tourism partners that we rely on the very rebates that they are entitled to? Can the CRA change the rules and retroactively deny our tourism partners the money they are due?

Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you, honourable senator. I have to say that your work on the tourism file has been greatly appreciated, and you know that I have said that to you as well. Even when we met with the all-party tourism caucus, to have your presence helps raise the level of discourse to ensure that those voices are heard.

I welcome the opportunity to follow up on that file; I’m not personally aware of that specific file. I would welcome the opportunity.

What I do know is that we want to see tourism year-round. What we have been trying to do by working with tourism operators — I must say that the tourism industry is a $90 billion industry. For the first time, we have a full Minister of Small Business and Tourism at the cabinet table. This year we saw the one hundred and fiftieth celebrations of Confederation bring in a record number of tourists, second only to 2016.

Next year is the year of Canada-China tourism. I know many tour operators from abroad will be coming to Canada. I would not want to see that incident repeated. I would welcome the opportunity to follow up on that file.

We want people to have a good experience. We want tour operators to bring people to our country. We know that tourism is our largest service export. I look forward to working with you on this.

Not only will I work with you, but as you know that falls under the jurisdiction of the minister of the Canada Revenue Agency. I have no problem, once again, similar to the previous question, of working closely with that minister to ensure that those concerns are addressed.