Grosse Île, Quebec
22 May 2015
Thank you very much.
And thanks for your introduction, Maxime.
First of all I’d like to welcome all my parliamentary colleagues who are here with us today, beginning with our MC, Denis Lebel.
Master of Ceremonies is not his true calling, however.
In his day job as Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs, Denis is responsible for thousands of projects creating tens of thousands of jobs across Canada.
And as Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, he works tirelessly for progress and prosperity in all of Quebec’s regions.
So let’s have a round of applause for Denis!
I’d also like to welcome my Albertan colleague, Blake Richards.
Blake is the Member of Parliament for Wild Rose and chairs the parliamentary tourism caucus.
Nice to have you here, Blake.
Let’s also welcome the chair of the Quebec Conservative caucus, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, for Official Languages and for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, Mr. Jacques Gourde.
But in particular I’d like to extend my greetings to all our Parks Canada employees and such stakeholders as Canadian Tourism Commission President David Goldstein, whose organization will soon be rechristened Destination Canada.
Last but certainly not least, I am pleased to welcome the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, and Agriculture, a gentleman who devotes a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to Quebec’s economic development, the Honourable Maxime Bernier.
I’m here to talk about the work Maxime is doing.
I’m also here to support his efforts to achieve a very important objective.
As you know, visits by our American friends have been on the decline in recent years, but this is beginning to change.
So the time has come to invite them up for a visit again.
So I’m principally here today to announce that our Government will contribute substantial matching funds in support of a new marketing strategy aimed at attracting more American visitors to Canada.
This strategy will use social media among other tools, and the Canadian Tourism Commission will be our principal partner.
Our goal is nothing less than to re-establish our Canada as the true north strong and free, as the premier tourist destination for Americans.
My friends, it’s always a pleasure for me to visit this beautiful region, and I’m excited to be visiting Grosse Île for the first time.
But as we stand here today in this sacred, historic place in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, gateway for centuries to the North American continent, we are all deeply moved.
For it was here that thousands of men, women and children came for more than a century, carrying with them little more than their hopes and dreams, only to perish from disease before they could reach their goal.
Starting in 1815, wave after wave of mostly Irish immigrants entered the St. Lawrence in the hope of finding a better life in North America, including – I should mention my wife’s own ancestors.
In 1847 alone, during the great Irish famine, close to 100,000 of them made the trip.
Many thousands sadly got no further than the graveyards on this island.
Those dark years when Grosse Île served as a quarantine station evoke a terrible sadness that the passage of time can never fully heal.
But the contribution by the Irish to the history and culture of Quebec and of Canada as a whole is part of our heritage as Canadian citizens.
And so I am announcing that to better highlight Canada’s precious Irish heritage, our Government will be making a substantial investment in the improvement of this historic site here at Grosse Île.
Now is the right time to showcase our rich history, geography and culture to our American neighbours.
This, of course, includes sites located in Quebec, as well as the culture of the great Quebec nation.
In fact, we have already supported a number of cultural events in the province, including the Festival d’été de Québec.
After the events of September 11, 2001, the Canada-U.S. border had to be tightened.
Later, the global economic recession left a toll as well.
In 2010 the Canadian Tourism Commission suspended its campaigns in the United States to focus on emerging markets like India, China, Brazil and Mexico.
But the U.S. economic recovery, wide distribution of passports in the United States and an exchange rate favourable to Americans are all indications that now is the time to re-establish contact with our globetrotting neighbours to the south.
This initiative will be rolled out in conjunction with our tourism industry partners, including the provincial and territorial governments, regional tourism agencies and the private sector.
Our Government will match the funds invested by our partners, making for a potential total investment of up to 400 million dollars over a three-year period.
My friends, when we think of tourism, we usually think of vacations, travel and exotic locales.
But tourism is also an engine of economic development in all the regions of our country.
Canada’s tourism sector is a major contributor to our economy.
Comprising broadly of almost 200,000 businesses right across the country in industries such as transportation, accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, and of course travel services.
In 2012 tourism represented approximately two per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product, accounting for nearly 35 billion dollars.
The tourism industry supports economic activity in each region of Canada.
Tourism created over 600 000 direct jobs in 2012, both in urban centres and in rural and remote areas.
And small and medium-sized businesses are far and away the biggest beneficiaries of tourism spending.
Some 98% of Canadian businesses involved in tourism each employ fewer than 100 people.
In closing, my friends, I’d like to express my complete confidence in the tourism promotion initiative that Maxime is spearheading.
Any doubts one might have as to its success are quickly dispelled by looking around us in this magnificent region and across Canada.
We inhabit one of the world’s most beautiful nations, a free and prosperous land, and we want to share with our neighbours our immense pride and happiness at living in such a country.
Thank you very much.