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Ontario government eliminates tourism funding to Toronto and Ottawa

Last Updated May 7, 2019 at 5:36 pm EST

A still from a Toronto Tourism video references Drake, and promotes Toronto as Canada's downtown. YOUTUBE

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has eliminated all of its tourism funding to Toronto and Ottawa, to the tune of $13 million.

Tourism Toronto said the government told them in a recent phone call that their $9.5 million in provincial funding is being cut entirely. That is about a quarter of their budget of just under $40 million, said executive vice-president Andrew Weir.

“This will have real implications and we’re evaluating now what markets we can no longer promote Toronto in, which major conventions and events we can no longer bring to the city,” he said.

“By any objective business metric this is the time to be aggressive with tourism.”

Tourism last year in Toronto generated about $9 billion in direct spending, Weir said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said 44 million people visited the city last year to spend their money, but the province gets the tax revenue.

“We don’t get a penny of it,” he said. “The province is the beneficiary and yet they took a huge sum of money for Toronto and Ottawa, yes, the two biggest tourism centres in the province, and just took it away. I think that’s bad for Ontario.”

“it’s hard to argue the city is open for business when it is cutting funding dedciated to telling the world to visit Ontario,” read a statement from the city of Toronto.

Ottawa Tourism said their $3.4 million of provincial funding is being cut, which was 15 per cent of their budget.

A spokesman for the minister of tourism, culture and sport did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said in an earlier statement that the government’s new tourism strategy will be rolled out in the coming months.

“We are taking real action to boost Ontario’s tourism sector, and will ensure value for money in our tourism investments, so we can do what’s right for the people of Ontario,” Brett Weltman wrote.

NDP tourism critic Paul Miller called the tourism funding cuts “destructive” and said they will hurt the province’s economy.

“Investing in tourism doesn’t cost money – it makes money,” Miller said in a statement. “Doug Ford’s short-sighted and callous move to completely eliminate provincial funding to Tourism Toronto and Tourism Ottawa will jeopardize the billions of dollars in economic activity that tourism brings in.”

The funding elimination comes amid a host of other cuts to municipal funding, including to public health, child care, flood management and library services.

Tory said that will mean a more than $100 million shortfall for Toronto.