By Karyn Pugliese | Published May 7th, 2012
Tonight at 8 pm ET watch on ichannel or join us online to listen to our interview with the Liberal MP for St. Barbe – Baie Verte, Newfoundland and Labrador, Gerry Byrne.
Melissa from North York starts the ball rolling this week, asking Former Liberal tourism critic, and the current Critic for Economic Development in Atlantic Canada, Gerry Byrne, how travel in Canada can be made more affordable. She notes she visited Paris last year, and the cost of the flight was cheaper than flying to Newfoundland.
Tourism is one area Byrne agrees Canada needs to develop economically. His home province of Newfoundland and Labrador has worked hard to promote tourism, and attracts 500,000 tourists each year.
“If Canada were able to do the exact same thing we would have 33 million passengers, 33 million tourists, to take in everything that is great about our country,” says Byrne. And — it goes without saying — to drop tourism dollars into the Canadian economy.
Byrne agrees with Melissa that the high cost of air travel is a problem that discourages both domestic and foreign tourism. Canada, he says, is consistently listed by potential tourists as the number one place they’d like to visit, but less tourists are coming each year. In fact, Byrne says Canada has slipped from number 7 to number 15 as a travel destination. Air travel costs are part of the problem, and to get those costs down Byrnes says Canada needs to create economies of scale, which ironically means prices won’t drop until we attract more tourists. So how do you break what sounds like a vicious cycle, especially considering the economic woes plaguing European and US economies?
Byrne would like to see Canada target tourist from emerging economies like India, China, Brazil and Mexico. Byrne sees recent restrictions on foreign Visas as part of the problem.
“Mexico for example,” says Burns. “Canada had a huge trade developing with tours and between Canada Mexico. Increased restrictions went in place and quite frankly the entire market sucked just dry.”
He notes that Canada just received preferred foreign destination status from China a move he applauds, but says took too long. “We should’ve been in there, faster, stronger, harder to get that much quicker and I think quite frankly the benefits would’ve been there,” he says.
All this leads to another issue. Are there cases where we should restrict trade and tourism? China is often criticized for having a poor human rights record. So when do we trade, when do we sanction?
On China Byrne says it’s time to trade: “This is one of the largest emerging market places anywhere in the world. They’re an economic powerhouse, they’re already investing heavily into Canada why not allow that to be a two-way bilateral trade situation?” He says, adding, “Most higher-level thinkers, those that have really strong an expert opinions in this field, feel as though engaging in the country both economically, cooperatively, and diplomatically creates an environment where you actually create meaningful change. Does that create a blank check? Do you just simply say ‘Well let’s sign deals and trade agreements with anybody and everybody, regardless how ruthless the regime is?’ Well no obviously not. Syria, being a prime example. There’s a situation where we know that tyranny is occurring, and that sanctions are required, and that we had to actively engage with a stronger hand. Iran – the exact same situation, were sanctions, economic sanctions must be put firmly and forcibly in place. But first and foremost a diplomatic dialogue has to occur. There has to be a multilateral engagement with them, otherwise are we really expecting them to get anywhere if we just simply put forward the strong-armed first, without any engagement on the other side? I don’t think that’s ever going to work.”
“China in all fairness – and I’m making a very broad statements that may be subject to criticism, fair game – it is making progress in certain fields. And I think because of China’s engagement with the Western world, its increasing engagement with the Western world, that’s part of the reason why that’s happening,” he says.
We have this, plus questions from David from Halifax about Canada’s international reputation, from Vickie in Toronto on affirmative action and Brandon Pardy, aka @LabradorLibre, on the Muskrat Falls Hydro Electric project.
All this and more tonight at 8 pm ET.