To the Coalition,
As we move towards Canada Day and Independence Day next week, I trust that you are all preparing for some socially-safe interactions with family, and in some places, friends as well. Above all, I wish you and your family health and safety during this complex and challenging time.
Since Heidi Welker, Laura Pallotta and I were in Ottawa for Hill Days with the Tourism Association of Canada (TIAC) and many other industry leaders in early February, our world has been turned upside down. I don’t need to tell you that.
In those early February days in Ottawa, we were pleased to have been raising the profile of the Business Events industry to Minister of Economic Development Melanie Joly along with other Ministers, bureaucrats and MPs from all parties. MMBC was profiled in many ways including the huge advocacy win of TIAC stating in their presentations that Business Events stimulates 34% of all tourism in Canada.
Next stop for the Executive of MMBC was Vancouver on March 11 as the same three representatives attended the Destination Canada Business Events Advisory Committee meetings. These meetings were surreal as we began to feel the shutdown happening around our world and our industry.
Since those meetings, the last time I travelled, there has been a call to action by our industry that we have not seen since the SARS crisis of 2003. Thankful for people like Tara Gordon and Barry Smith who, along with many in our industry, lived through SARS, MMBC began shifting into high gear to defend against the impact that COVID-19 was about to have on our industry.
The early work, as you will know focused on the Federal government. With TIAC’s role as our secretariat and advocacy partner, we had the right channels in place to inform and educate government of the impact that the crisis was having on the Business Events industry and how much it was going to continue to impact us going forward. With our voice being framed by the government as a component of Tourism, the Tourism message became our strongest channel of advocacy to Ottawa. Vince Accardi, Executive Director of Meetings Mean Business Canada, was at the frontline of communications along with Charlotte Bell, CEO of TIAC, they were in communications with the Ministries of Economic Development, Finance, and Small & Medium sized Enterprises to elevate the awareness of the pain being felt by the shut down of the industry. This was a broad message but inclusive of the entire industry.
Some of the specific initiatives that MMBC was involved with included:
Extending the Wage-Subsidy program
Changes to the CEBA loan program to address eligibility
Changes to eligibility for the BCAP program
Extending loan programs to indigenous financial institutions
Funding streams for businesses and DMOs unable to qualify for funding programs
Support for large sector corporations
These efforts led to government modifications to various programs to broaden the reach of the support. We continue to work with TIAC to integrate and profile the economic impact of the meetings and business events sector in our advocacy tactics and to look for opportunities to profile MMBC.
In an effort to further raise the awareness of the broad nature of the Visitor Economy, TIAC established a Recovery Task Force which included all tourism sectors. This group included Barry Smith and Cathy Pugh, Chair of Convention Centres of Canada who represented the Business Events industry very well. This group has produced a report which was sent to government and includes impact statements along with Industry support recommendations specifically focused on the Business Events industry. Here are some highlights:
Broaden Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to accommodate seasonal business and workers into winter 2020-2021
Development of a federally-funded Special Events (business events, festivals, fairs, sporting) Development Fund to attract US and International meetings to Canada
Provide increased funding to Destination Canada to support Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO) recovery and to support Meetings and Conventions
Many initiatives have included MMBC board members and affiliates. Task forces and leadership groups have been organized by our industry partners to elevate the industry in the minds of the government and those outside of our industry.
Some of the work that has involved MMBC in the past months include:
Barry Smith and Clark Grue joining the CAEM-led Canadian Task for recovery
Clark, Laura and Heidi have continued to serve on the Destination Canada-Business Events Advisory committee which now meets regularly
CBC article on the Meetings Industry published on May 27 featured MMBC. Read it here
Multiple webinars with various industry groups including SITE, MPI, CanSPEP and ILEA
Many of the Board members have been advocating on Provincial task forces
Many Coalition members have taken leadership roles to elevate the importance of the Business Events industry in their jurisdictions
MMBC has also been invited to join the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Association calls to share intelligence and lend our voice to the larger advocacy initiatives
Clark has been representing MMBC on the Canadian Tourism Roundtable initiated by industry
As the advocacy and outreach to government has shifted from awareness to reopening, MMBC has added some focus on the provincial governments. Just as the Federal government controls key financial support programs, the borders and airports, the provincial governments control the protocols for allowing groups to meet again. This creates a unique challenge for our industry.
Many of our Board members have engaged with provincial governments to push for reopening of our industry. Coast to coast, our leaders have either been in direct contact with provincial governments or they have been part of task forces focused on local rules for reopening. This continues in earnest across the country. These groups represent the best opportunity for our industry to influence government policy.
In addition to the government relations and advocacy, the communications committee of MMBC, led by Vice Chair Laura Pallotta, has developed the Rally for Recovery initiative which launched in June. This has grown into a newsletter which relays information from various sources about the best thinking on how we can work together to inform government about our various reopening efforts as well as the economic impact of our industry. Given how severely we have been impacted our voices need to be louder than ever.
To support and add to this work, this team has also developed a video campaign to better portray the impact of COVID-19 on our industry. The “Then & Now” videos provide a stark insight into the effects of the crisis on our industry.
We have also initiated a video series which reaches beyond our industry. Interviews with Canadian business leaders allows us to engage with people such as Perrin Beatty, President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, to gain their perspective on the meeting industry and how COVID has impacted our economy because we cannot meet. There is more work to be done and we are always exploring how we might influence key decisions by government as it pertains to our industry.
We continue to do our utmost within the limitations imposed by our volunteer-led coalition. As always, we are open to hearing how you can contribute to the cause and further our collective advocacy efforts.
It will take all of us to achieve the current goals of reopening safety and in a way that will return Canada to its rightful place as a brand-leader for business events globally. I encourage you to get involved, spread the word about the importance to #meetagain in a safe and healthy way.
Please lean into your social media channels to engage your networks on this important message. Encourage your colleagues to join MMBC and join our conversation on LinkedIn; follow us individually and support us corporately if possible. It will take our village working together from Coast to Coast to Coast as we Reopen, Recover and Renovate how we convene.
Thanks for all of your support during this challenging time.
Chair, Meetings Mean Business Canada www.meetingsmeanbusiness.ca News: https://www.meetingsmeanbusiness.ca/news Videos: https://www.meetingsmeanbusiness.ca/stories Join The Conversation On Linkedin @MtgsMeanBizCA
THEN + NOW VIDEO SERIES
Barry Smith, Executive Director, Convention Centres of Canada