Just before the Legislature rose for the May 24 break-week, Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes and I posed some tough questions to the government as to why small business operators and non-profits are ineligible for any of the $50 million announced to help the tourism sector emerge out of the pandemic.
During Question Period I asked the minister responsible for tourism why the Williams Lake Stampede doesn’t qualify for assistance, even though this is the second year it had to be cancelled due to COVID. Minister Melanie Mark invited me to “knock on her door”—and believe me, arrangements are already in the works—but that does not alter the fact that festivals and events from all over the province don’t qualify for funding either.
Coralee asked why Billy Barker Days or the Quesnel Rodeo don’t qualify for provincial funding either. Again, Minister Marks had little to defend the government’s BC Major Anchor Program announced on May 18.
This is rather baffling because Barkerville is one of the most iconic anchor properties in British Columbia. Coralee reminded the minister that the historic site attracts 70,000 visitors annually and represents $25 million worth of tourism income generated locally. This year they face a nearly $700,000 shortfall but can’t access the support.
We have others like the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo and many more in the local restaurant and hospitality sector that are barely hanging on and could just use a boost to get them through the time being. Stay tuned — Coralee and I intend to keep the government’s feet to the fire on this one.
Just a quick shout out to The Heritage Market at 108 Mile Ranch that is now open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and features more than 30 vendors this year.
Also a reminder that our localized TranBC Freshet Hotline is still active at 1-844-933-0333 if we experience further road damage.
Lorne Doerkson is the BC Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.