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Q&A with The Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism

Randy Boissonnault

The Honourable Randy Boissonnault is the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister or Finance. Minister Boissonnault was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 and was re-elected in 2021, representing Edmonton Centre.

You joined us at the 2022 RC Show, which had the theme of ‘REVIVAL’ as we look beyond the pandemic. Tell us what the revival of Canada’s foodservice industry means for tourism. 

Food and Beverage services are one of the five industries that make up the tourism sector in Canada, and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we experienced back-to-back record years. This is no surprise as the Canada brand is strong and we have a large market to the south of us. 

From the beginning of the pandemic, the Government of Canada regularly connected with small business owners, including restaurateurs and others in the food services industry, as well as with industry leaders and associations like Restaurants Canada to better understand and respond to their needs. 

As a result, the Government of Canada provided $23 billion to help many tourism businesses and establishments weather the impact of public health measures and border closures due to the pandemic. 

The government is investing $30 million to improve the Foreign Workers Program and make it more accessible, efficient and agile to support the food and beverage industry as it works to bring in the good people needed to rebuild. 

Randy Speaking

In addition, the government is poised to kickstart tourism in Canada and support the resurgence of the food and beverage industry with a new Federal Tourism Growth Strategy. We have begun a series of consultations with stakeholders, provincial and regional partners as well as industry leaders, including from culinary tourism, and we will use this Strategy as our roadmap to achieve long-term success for Canada’s tourism sector. 

Culinary tourism – where food is the destination – helps us connect to what is being grown and produced locally while celebrating the hard-working farmers, producers, distillers, chefs and restaurants that make it possible. And when it comes to culinary destinations, Canada has it all: from the plentiful seafood from our Atlantic and Pacific coastal regions, to the wineries of Ontario and artisanal cheese-makers in Quebec, to farmers’ markets in every province. Let’s not forget the rich Indigenous history experienced through the food, music and song of pow wows.

The government is investing $30 million to improve the Foreign Workers Program and make it more accessible, efficient and agile to support the food and beverage industry as it works to bring in the good people needed to rebuild.

Our restaurant sector received an important boost with Michelin’s decision to expand its famed food guide Toronto in recognition of Canada’s largest city as an international culinary destination. I hope this is only the beginning of acknowledging some of Canada’s most acclaimed eateries at the global level. When international visitors return in full force to Canada, I am convinced that they will discover our restaurants and culinary experiences as something that is uniquely Canadian, evoking the diversity of cultures and flavours that the will find only in our country. 

I know these are the kinds of mindful, meaningful and sustainable experiences that today’s travelers, both from Canada and abroad, are seeking.

Culinary tourism – where food is the destination – helps us connect to what is being grown and produced locally while celebrating the hard-working farmers, producers, distillers, chefs and restaurants that make it possible.

Can you tell us about some meaningful ways that restaurants give back to the local community? 

The restaurant industry is a key source of employment in the Canadian economy. According to Statistics Canada the accommodation and food services industry provided over one million jobs in 2021. As well, restaurants support local agriculture, fisheries and food processing operations. When we shop or dine at a local business or restaurant we support our country’s economic development. Restaurants are also an important gathering place where we meet friends and family, build relationships and create memories. Patrons share photos of their dishes on social media and are inspiring us to try to replicate them at home. 

Restaurants are the lifeblood of regional food culture and when you choose to dine at a restaurant, you invest in your community and preserve local agriculture. 

Minister RC Show

What are some of the hardest challenges that restaurants have struggled with due to the pandemic? 

Disruptions and unpredictability have taken a steep toll on the tourism sector – including the restaurant industry. Health restrictions required the closing of restaurants and they had to lay off too many of their staff members. And when restaurants could reopen they had to reconfigure their environment to ensure the safety of their patrons, they had to develop and apply health protocols for their staff and clients. 

This being said, I must acknowledge the tenacity, hard work and passion of restauranteurs. They got creative, leveraged the digital economy, catered meals, and reinvented the take-out dinner. I salute them for their resilience and innovative spirit.

Restaurants are the lifeblood of regional food culture and when you choose to dine at a restaurant, you invest in your community and preserve local agriculture.

With restrictions lifting, it’s time to look ahead. There is hope on the horizon. I am extremely happy that now restaurants can open their doors wide and again welcome patrons in Canada’s fine dining establishments. 

Thinking about the revival of foodservice, what restaurant were you most excited to get back to when indoor dining opened back up? 

There are a lot of extraordinary restaurants and diverse cuisines in Edmonton, but one restaurant that I was really excited to go back to was Bianco. As they say: “good food starts with good ingredients, and good ingredients are best handled by passionate people”, and I’ll never get tired of their delicious rustic Italian cuisine.

What kind of moments are you most looking forward to being able to enjoy again at this restaurant?

It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to enjoy great food in a great atmosphere. Whether it is a night out with friends, family, or just dinner after work with my partner, these are the moments we have all been missing over the past two years and its so nice to be back. 

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