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Feds providing $5.8 million to tourism in Saskatchewan

Federal money from PrairiesCan going to 14 Sask. tourism projects across province.

REGINA - Tourism projects across Saskatchewan got some much-needed support from the federal government on Thursday.

Federal Minister of Tourism Randy Boissonnault was on hand at Mosaic Stadium for the announcement of a federal investment of $5,814,879 to 14 Saskatchewan tourism operators, going to create or enhance tourism experiences across the province.

The money is coming from PrairiesCan through its Tourism Relief Program. That is a $500 million program over two years, with money going to support tourism organizations in adapting their operations, while investing in products and services to facilitate future growth. 

Of the 14 projects receiving funding the biggest amount is $2 million to Tourism Saskatchewan to help them assist tourism organizations in delivering new products and experiences.

Amounts of $500,000 each are going to MLTC Program Services Inc., Redberry Lake Biosphere ReserveAssociation, Inc., and Globe Theatre Society out of Regina. Saskatoon Visitor and Convention Bureau. Inc. is getting $498,000. 

Other recipients are Saskatchewan Science Centre, Newsask Community Futures Development Corporation, The Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL), Saskatoon Fireworks Festival Inc., Western Development Museum, Smoky Burn Outfitting, Metis Nation Saskatchewan Secretariat Inc., Champetre County Wild West Resort, and Buffalo Pound Eco Lodge Inc.

The announcement was attended by Mayor Sandra Masters and several members of Regina council, as well as several representatives from the tourism sector in the province.

The tourism industry in Saskatchewan and across Canada was particularly hammered battered during the COVID-19 shutdowns. The indication from Minister Boissonnault is the industry wants to move beyond simply recovering from the pandemic, towards “revival and into growth,” he said. 

He also pointed to the importance of tourism to the economy, noting one in ten jobs in Canada. relies on the visitor economy.

“The visitor economy is Canada’s number one service export. And my province just next door, after oil and gas the number two export is the visitor economy. This is big business.”

Players in the tourism sector in Regina welcomed the funding announcement and what it means for their industry in their remarks to the audience. 

“Tourism is about convincing people that you have the very best city to live in in all of Canada, and we do,” said Tim Reid, CEO of REAL, about the investments coming to Regina. He, too, had a similar message that it was time to put the pandemic in the rear view mirror.

“Let’s stop recovering and let’s start talking about thriving. Let’s stop worrying about the past and find a new path forward to the future.”

Sandy Baumgartner, CEO of Saskatchewan Science Centre, said that from funding through the Tourism Relief Fund “we were able to begin that journey last year and host a major exhibit called Indigenous Ingenuity.”

“By hosting that exhibit, it provided us wonderful opportunities to showcase Indigenous culture not just about First Nations in our province, but across the country.”

Jaime Boldt, Executive Director of Globe Theatre, pointed to how financial support from the fund went towards renovating their heritage Prince Edward Building. She said the renovation means new and improved programming there.

“We understand at the Globe we are part of a very large revitalization at work Regina’s downtown. And hopefully it’s the first of many catalyst projects that will attract visitors, and stimulate growth for decades to come, resulting in a vibrant downtown and a city that attracts and retains citizens."

Jonathan Potts of Tourism Saskatchewan said the funding would bolster “efforts to attract new travel markets to ensure long-term industry growth.”

Among other things Potts noted it would help them pursue the growth of business events in the province. “This is something where we see tremendous, tremendous potential for Regina, for Saskatoon and other parts of the province.”

In speaking to reporters Boissonnault, who is MP for Edmonton Centre, confirmed the money was all-new money.

“How they got the money is because they applied. I mean, the federal government can’t provide funding to organizations that don’t apply, and the work of PrairiesCan and work of Tourism Saskatchewan to make sure that people applied to the Tourism Relief Fund is what led us to today which is almost a $6 million morning.”

Boissonnault added “Ottawa may seem far away, but there are programs and funding available. We just need organizations to apply. And then we connect organizations with the officials like PrairiesCan so that they can get their best feet forward. I mean these are our tax dollars, I want to see them coming back to Saskatchewan.”