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Federal tourism agency handed out bonuses and pay raises while industry locked down

Author: Franco Terrazzano 2022/09/14

OTTAWA, ON: Employees at Destination Canada received bonuses and pay raises in 2020 and 2021 while the tourism industry shut down during COVID-19 lockdowns, according to records obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation through access to information requests.

“A federal Crown corporation dedicated to promoting tourism shouldn’t have been giving its employees bonuses and pay raises while our tourism industry wasn’t allowed to host tourists,” said Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the CTF. “It’s a good bet that there weren’t many servers getting bonuses when restaurants closed down during the pandemic, so bureaucrats responsible for promoting tourism shouldn’t be receiving bonuses when the government wasn’t letting tourists travel to Canada.”

There were 84 Destination Canada employees that received a bonus in 2020, costing $617,095. In 2021, there were 92 employees that received a bonus, costing $604,153. The data shows 87 per cent of employees received a bonus in 2020 and 76 per cent received a bonus in 2021. 

Among its executives, the average bonus was $32,652 in 2020. Destination Canada noted that it reduced bonus pay for its executives in 2021, “in recognition of the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry.” However, bonus pay still worked out to $16,126 on average for each executive in 2021. 

In addition to bonuses, 79 Destination Canada employees received a pay raise in 2020 and 63 employees received a pay raise in 2021, costing $349,309 over the two years. No employees received a pay cut. 

Destination Canada is a federal Crown corporation whose objective is “marketing Canada nationally and abroad.”

In March 2020, the government prohibited “any foreign national, including U.S. nationals, from entering Canada in all modes of travel (air, land, rail and marine) for optional or discretionary purposes.” More than a year later, a federal government news release noted that “as a first step, starting August 9, 2021, Canada plans to begin allowing entry to American citizens … [who] have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to entering Canada for non-essential travel.”

Canada’s tourism spending was cut in half in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

“In 2020, almost 900,000 jobs were lost at the height of the crisis, representing 43 per cent of all tourism employment,” according to Destination Canada. “In 2021, tourism employment over the first 10 months of the year remained 21 per cent below pre-pandemic 2019 levels – a loss of 360,000 jobs.”

Destination Canada received $121 million from taxpayers in 2021-22 and $96 million in 2020-21, according to its most recent annual report.

“It’s tone deaf for Destination Canada to hand out bonuses and pay raises while the industry it’s supposed to promote was shut down,” said Terrazzano. “Federal Crown corporations should be sharing in the tough times, not handing out bonuses and pay raises while their neighbours outside government take cuts and lose their job.”