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'Tourism is big business': Feds dole out $14M for local projects

Funding announced Monday in Barrie includes money for attracting new events, upgrading city parks, and improved food facilities at Hardwood Ski and Bike
Randy Boissonnault, minister of tourism and associate minister of finance

Anyone doubting tourism is about big money should think again.

The federal government announced nearly $14 million for 45 projects in Barrie and surrounding Bruce, Grey and Simcoe counties on Monday morning.

“We (Canada) are a winter country that hasn’t mastered winter tourism,” said Randy Boissonnault, minister of tourism and associate minister of finance, at the Peggy Hill Team Community Centre in Barrie. “Tourism is big business.

“As we move past the acute phase of the pandemic, Canada’s tourism sector is showing strong signs of growth,” he said. “As we move to revival and growth, we continue to provide targeted support to businesses and communities so they can deliver unforgettable experiences as well as make significant investments in resilient public infrastructure.”  

The funding is also to create jobs, grow local economies and provide accessible, public community spaces for all to enjoy.

Barrie will receive $110,000 to partner with Tourism Barrie to create a sport tourism strategy, which will provide information and recommendations to attract sports events to the city.

The city is also receiving more than $1.4 million to revitalize and construct play courts and playgrounds, install new energy-efficient lighting throughout the city, rehabilitate the landscape at John Edwin Coupe Park and renew the streetscaping around the downtown Barrie Public Library.

“Barrie is a four-season destination and we rely on tourism as a valuable economic driver,” said Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall. “The sports tourism strategy will help us attract more sports events to Barrie, which will fill hotel rooms, create jobs in the hospitality sector and grow the visitor economy.

“This funding is not only going to help our community bounce back post-pandemic but support the growth and development of our local economy in a substantial way,” Nuttall said.

Hardwood Ski and Bike in Oro-Medonte Township will receive a contribution of as much as $100,000 to purchase and retrofit a modular trailer with industrial kitchen equipment. This investment will help to create a full-service food facility.

“Thanks to this support … we have been able to build a new food service facility and improve the experience of visitors to the resort,” said Gareth Houben, Hardwood’s president.

Hardwood is a four-season resort that offers rentals, lessons, and kilometres of rolling trails through hardwood and pine forests for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, trail running and hiking, attracting more than 50,000 visitors each year. 

The John Edwin Coupe Park landscaping project in Barrie will, when complete this spring, have new lighting, trees, park benches and bike racks, Nuttall said.

Two other Barrie projects are also receiving funding.

First is the St. Vincent Park accessible playground reconstruction, with a fully wheelchair accessible swing and nature play circuit. Other upgrades include paid pathways, lighting, seating areas and landscaping. The park is scheduled to open in late spring.

The funding will also pay for the new pickleball courts at Eastview Park and reconstructing Ferndale Park’s tennis courts.

“By maximizing access to parks and recreation opportunities, these projects contribute to a thriving community,” Nuttall said. “These important projects will not only help bring tourism dollars to our city, but contribute overall to a growing economy, job creation and a vibrant city.”

This federal money comes through the Tourism Relief Fund and the Canada Community Revitalization Fund.

The $500-million Tourism Relief Fund is helping tourism-oriented businesses and organizations recover from the pandemic and prepare for future growth, with a minimum of $50 million of the fund allocated to supporting Indigenous-led projects or Indigenous-focused projects. FedDev Ontario is contributing nearly $120 million of the funding across southern Ontario.

With a two-year national investment of $500 million, the community revitalization fund supports projects that build new community infrastructure and revitalize existing assets, bring people back to public spaces safely and stimulate local economies. This includes $139 million for projects in southern Ontario, delivered by FedDev Ontario. 

Boissonnault was speaking Monday on behalf of Filomena Tassi, minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, of FedDev Ontario.