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Off to Ottawa to celebrate tourism and discuss the needs of our often-symbiotic industries and the Federal Budget.  

Following an exhilarating three days at RC Show 2024, it was on to Ottawa to celebrate tourism and discuss the needs of our often-symbiotic industries, followed by a rapid transition to the Federal Budget.  

Now in its 14th year, National Tourism Week (NTW) is a dynamic, week-long national campaign orchestrated by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC). This esteemed event took place April 15-19, and is a crucial platform for highlighting the pivotal role of tourism in Canada. Richard Alexander and I were thrilled to take part in the opening night reception to celebrate and emphasize the significance and influence of a robust, evolving tourism sector on the restaurant industry, and underscore the reciprocal contributions of a lively, flourishing restaurant scene to the tourism industry’s allure and ongoing success.

Impactful conversations were had with The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and The Honourable Soraya Martinez Ferrada, Minister of Tourism about the importance of our industry to the tourism product of Canada, communities across the country and the Canadian economy along with the value of youth employment with the foodservice industry. As the largest employer of youth and first-time jobs we provide an incredible service to the future of the Canadian workforce.

We were also able to connect with The Honourable Gudie Hutchings, MP from Newfoundland and a strong advocate for the hospitality and tourism industries.   

While in Ottawa we were able to meet with members of the Ministry of Employment and Social Development of Canada (ESDC) to continue discussions around Restaurants Canada’s immigration proposal and related industry labour requirements.

Many current immigration policies are not tailored to the needs of the foodservice industry and limit the number of new Canadians benefiting from employment opportunities in the sector. Our proposal outlines the means to change that. Policies that are good for restaurants are good for Canadian communities. Strong immigration policies will relieve labour shortages and help newcomers successfully transition into the Canadian workforce. More to come on these discussions and the policy proposal from Richard Alexander in the coming days.

As the leading employer of new Canadians, the foodservice industry is an important stakeholder in these conversations, a fact we were able to emphasize during continued conversations with Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and his team. We were able to underscore our acute, collective need for a strong labour pipeline and the undeniable importance of a thriving foodservice sector to Canadian communities and the local and national economies.

In our efforts to highlight the value and the impact our industry has on the lives of new Canadians, Restaurants Canada released a short video telling the story of one restaurant and its team that truly exemplifies the story of many foodservice operations across Canada. Please share widely and share our industry story! Having our industry engage in our social media campaigns impacts our message:  we are stronger together!

The National Budget is an important day for Canada. We were able to spend the budget session with Tourism and Hospitality Team Canada! Hosted by Destination Canada, we gathered with the Tourism Association of Canada, Hotel Association of Canada, and HR Tourism. 

While we are pleased to see the carbon tax rebate ($2.5 billion will be returned directly to approximately 600,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the form of a direct payment from the Canada Revenue Agency), there is plenty of work to be done to ensure the growth and prosperity of our industry.  Our strong advocacy will continue to focus on the lack of profitability, inflationary pressures and immigration needs tailored for our industry.

Please see our response to this year’s federal budget here.


From Richard Alexander | Executive Vice-President, Government Relations & Public Affairs

Protecting and Enhancing Your Supply of Labour

Last week’s meetings in Ottawa with IRCC and ESDC were extremely productive. As you may have read in the media, the federal government is under significant public and provincial pressure to place additional limits on open-permitted newcomers. 

Our trip last week was designed to impress upon the federal government the need for them to be cautious with changes and ensure that any restrictions implemented can be offset with a supply from other streams. 

We continued to see support for our primary immigration ask of a program to connect unemployed open-permitted newcomers with the tens of thousands of job opportunities in our industry. This is a win-win for government and our industry. Restaurants Canada is working on a plan with all our Regional Vice-Presidents to gain movement on our ask within a reasonable time. 

Restaurants Canada’s Sustainability Roadmap Nearing Completion 

Restaurants Canada’s new Vice-President, Sustainability, Jillian Rodak, started her first day at Restaurants Canada on April 15th.

She is quickly getting up to speed on our industry’s challenges and is working to finalize our sustainability advocacy plan in the coming weeks. We are calling this plan the “Sustainability Roadmap,” and it has been developed in partnership with RC’s sustainability committee comprised of members and our consultant, Clear Strategy.

Cost Relief Victories and More to Come

Restaurants Canada has already achieved two big wins for the industry in the cost relief category: the cap on the federal alcohol excise tax, and carbon tax rebates for small businesses. Both of these victories will result in billions of savings for the industry as a whole, and thousands—if not tens of thousands—for individual restaurants, depending on the type and size. 

Your Government Relations team’s efforts continue with a number of additional cost relief asks. The asks include solutions at both the provincial and federal levels.

After extensive research and discussions with government we have determined that the main area of opportunity at the federal level is lowering EI and CPP premiums for the coming two years. This will be a hard lobby and difficult to achieve, but there are several supporting factors helping our efforts.

First, we can easily demonstrate that if government is interested in helping our industry in these challenging times, payroll taxes are the best way to support. In our industry it takes 12.8 employees to generate $1M in revenue compared to four employees in a clothing store. We are a labour-intensive industry, and any changes to payroll taxes have a disproportionate impact on our success.

Second, other business associations have already signed on to advocate for limits to EI and CPP increases and will lend their support. 

Third, there is precedent for such a move. In 2013 the federal government chose to freeze employment insurance premiums for three years, “as a way to support small and medium-sized businesses”. Given the unique and unprecedented pressures facing foodservice businesses today, such a measure would have an even more positive impact on our industry. Restaurants Canada is currently in the process of making an access to information request surrounding that decision and working with a consultant to build a solid position paper on this ask. 


From Maximilien Roy| Vice-President, Federal & Québec

Federal Budget

On April 16th, the federal government presented its 2024-25 budget—at least what was left to announce after two weeks of pre-budget announcements.

Apart from the 2 per cent cap on the alcohol excise tax, the main element impacting our industry is the carbon tax rebate for small and medium-sized businesses. The money will come in the form of a direct payment from the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), and a total of $2.5 billion will flow towards 600,000 SMBs.

Other measures that may be of interest include:

  • $351.2 million in 2025-26, for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. The funding will be used to provide well-paying summer job opportunities, including in sectors facing critical labour shortages.
  • Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for innovation-enabling and productivity enhancing assets, such as computers and data network infrastructure. Businesses will benefit from enhanced write-offs for their investments, increasing their cashflow while making their businesses more productive and innovative.

The government also announced an increase to the inclusion rate on capital gains above $250,000 from one-half to two-thirds, which will lead some businesses to pay more taxes. This will rake in $19.3 billion over five years of new revenues for the federal government.

We will continue to advocate for measures to offset inflation, reduce the impact of the labour force shortage and reduce payroll taxes.

Immigration ad Labour

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller is set to meet his provincial counterparts in May to further discuss immigration and labour needs. This will be a stepping stone towards addressing upcoming immigration targets and how to balance them with labour demands. 

With 78,000 positions currently unfilled, the foodservice industry has the highest number of job vacancies in the private sector, accounting for one out of every six private sector job vacancies in Canada. In the weeks leading up to this meeting, we will remind policymakers at all levels of government of the dire situation we are facing as an industry, and that when we thrive, the communities we operate in thrive as well.


From Jordi Morgan | Vice-President, Atlantic Canada

Nova Scotia: Province Responds to Unprecedented Labour Demand by Pausing Access to Restaurants

The Nova Scotia Department of Immigration says it is pressing “pause” as of noon April 17, 2024, on the intake of new applications under its Provincial Nominee Program for the foodservice and accommodation sector. The province says it has been provided a federal allotment of 3,750 potential new Canadians for this stream and has received an unprecedented 3,000 applications from our sector to date.

The sheer number of applications is a clear indicator of the strong demand for labour. Foodservice is Nova Scotia’s fourth-largest employer responsible for 32,000 jobs or 6.4 per cent of the total workforce. The most recent StatsCan numbers show the industry has still not recovered from the pandemic with total restaurant employment 5,000 jobs below 2019 levels.

This latest move by Nova Scotia’s Labour, Skills and Immigration department amplifies the urgent need for the federal government to provide more predictable immigration policy measures targeted and tailored to the sector. Restaurants Canada is committed to working with both the federal and provincial governments to find solutions to these issues and streamline Canada’s immigration system and, as a result of this announcement, we’re in the process of setting up meetings with both provincial and federal politicians and officials to provide alternative supports.

Atlantic: Premiers Push Back on Carbon Tax

Just ahead of the federal budget the Council of Atlantic Premiers (CAP) wrote to the federal finance minister Chrystia Freeland, and Rechie Valdez, Minister of Small Business, regarding billions of dollars in carbon tax rebates overdue to Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises.

The letter, signed by CAP Chair, Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, on behalf of all four premiers, asked the federal government to find a resolution that supports impacted businesses.

On Tuesday, April 16th, Chrystia Freeland responded, promising “urgent” action in the budget. Money collected through the carbon price’s fuel charge to small businesses will be returned as a “refundable tax credit”. The Canada Carbon Rebate for Small Businesses involves more than $2.5 billion collected through the federal fuel charges in provinces where the carbon tax applied over the last five years.

Nova Scotia: NSCC Food and Beverage Management Course

If you or someone you know in the foodservice sector is looking for career advancement, here’s some good news from the Nova Scotia Community College. The Food and Beverage Management program provides an opportunity to gain the skills needed for a supervisory or management position in the food and beverage industry.

The program includes leadership and communication strategies, human resource management, marketing, brand recognition and technology integration, financial management practices, menu development, regulations and legislation training and more.

Find out more here.


From Kris Barnier | Vice President, Central Canada and the North

Manitoba: Upcoming Visit to Winnipeg

I am looking forward to visiting Winnipeg tomorrow to attend the Manitoba Hotel Association (MHA) and Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservice Association (MRFA) Tradeshow, as well as the MRFA Board of Directors meeting. 

While there, I anticipate engaging with professionals from the industry as well as establishing relations with key government offices.

Manitoba: Premier Announces Return of Jets Whiteout Street Parties to Downtown Winnipeg

With the Winnipeg Jets securing a playoff spot in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, on April 10th Premier Kinew announced the province will provide $75,000 per playoff round to support the parties, which will take place before and during every Jets home playoff game.  

More information is available here.

Ontario: Premier Doug Ford and Ministers Open RC Show in Toronto

Premier announces $1.4M for restaurants and meets with Restaurants Canada to speak about the state of the industry. 

We were thrilled and honoured to have Premier Doug Ford open RC Show 2024 in Toronto on April 8th. The premier was on hand for the ribbon cutting ahead of offering opening remarks at the official opening ceremonies.

Flanked by his Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Neil Lumsden, and his Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson, the Premier spoke to actions his government has taken to support the restaurant industry and took time to recognize the contributions the sector makes to the province’s economy, culture and communities.   

The Premier and his ministers also took time to meet with Restaurants Canada President and CEO Kelly Higginson and myself for a discussion on the dire state of the industry and how the cost pile-on, regulatory burdens, and other challenges are threatening the viability of the foodservice industry. The Premier and his ministers listened, and we will continue to engage them on further opportunities for relief and support. 

Kelly and I also had the opportunity to meet with Ontario’s Minister of Small Business, Nina Tangri during the show. In addition to stopping to talk with Restaurants Canada Board members, the Premier and his ministers also walked the floor and stopped at several booths to greet and speak with exhibitors.

Ontario: Consultation on Personal Long-Term Illness Leave under the Employment Standards Act underway.

Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), there are fourteen leaves of absence that provide job protection to employees for various reasons. Employees, whether full-time, part-time, permanent, or contract, who are covered by the ESA, may be entitled to these leaves.

The ESA provides three days of unpaid personal sick leave per year for illness, injury, or medical emergency. The government is seeking input on a potential new long-term, job-protected leave of up to 27 weeks. This would align Ontario’s leave with the length of Federal Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits and provide Ontario workers the longest job-protected sick leave among the provinces.

Per the Government’s website “The ministry is not currently proposing legislative change. However, in the event that feedback to this consultation document leads to future legislative changes being proposed, the ministry will undertake necessary analysis to identify impacts.”

More information on the consultation can be found here.

Comments are due back to the ministry by May 6th.  If you have comments or concerns, you’d like to share with Restaurants Canada, please send them to me at:

Ontario: Restaurants Canada Attends Grow Ontario Food Summit

At the invitation of Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Restaurants Canada Board Member Court Desautels and I attended the Grow Ontario Food Summit on Friday, April 12th.

The event served as an important opportunity to talk about strategies to protect and grow Ontario’s agricultural sector, with the Government of Ontario recognizing the vital role the foodservice sector plays in preparing and serving Ontario grown, raised and crafted foods and beverage alcohol. 


From Mark von Schellwitz | Vice-President, Western Canada

British Columbia: Member Reception May 27th in Vancouver

We would like to invite all BC Restaurants Canada members to join the Restaurants Canada Board of Directors and Leadership Team for a May 27th reception and industry awards presentation in Vancouver at Joey One, 507 Burrard Street. Here are the invite details.

As per the invite, please RSVP by May 13th, to:

British Columbia: Awaiting BC Chicken Marketing Board Price Increase Proposal Decision

Restaurants Canada continues to be in contact with the BC Farm Industry Review Board (FIRB) as we await a decision on the BC Chicken Marketing Board’s proposed 10 per cent price increase proposal.

FIRB received the last of the various stakeholder submissions on April 1st and is reviewing all the submissions with a decision expected soon.

We will advise members of FIRB’s decision on the proposed chicken price increase as soon as it has been made public.

British Columbia: Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act

Further to previous updates, Restaurants Canada and other business sector stakeholders continue to be active in expressing liability and other concerns regarding Bill 12- 2024 Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act.

Over the past couple of weeks Restaurants Canada and other business associations met with Ministers, Opposition MLAs, the Premier’s office, the Attorney General, and government lawyers asking for the legislation to be paused and amended to address the business community’s concerns. We are working on proposing some amendments to the legislation. The Attorney General has attempted to reassure businesses legally operating in BC they have nothing to worry about as the legislation will only target those companies that are knowingly and willingly causing health harm as expressed in the Attorney General’s April 5th Bill 12 letter responding to the business community’s March 28th Bill 12 letter.

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of the legislation and any possible amendments the government may make before passing the legislation.

Alberta: Restaurants Canada Meets with Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction Minister

On April 15th Restaurants Canada and a couple of Alberta Regional Advisory Committee members met with Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction Minister Dale Nally to discuss the state of the industry, liquor policy and ongoing efforts to reduce the red tape and regulatory burden on the hospitality industry. The meeting was productive and culminated in the Minister’s understanding of the challenges facing the industry.

We appreciate the Minister’s ongoing efforts on red tape reduction initiatives and his receptiveness to our red tape reduction recommendations.

Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada Vice-President Western Canada, Dale Nally, Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction, and Mo Blayways, Restaurants Canada member and Owner of 1st RND in Edmonton

I would like to remind you the Government of Canada mandates specific (large) businesses to annually disclose their measures to address and reduce the risks of child and forced labour within their operations and supply chains by May 31st of each year.

Entities required to report include:

An “entity” includes a corporation, trust, partnership, or other unincorporated organization that:

  • Is listed on a Canadian stock exchange; or
  • Has a place of business in Canada, does business in Canada or has assets in Canada, and meets at least two of the following conditions for at least one of its two most recent financial years:
  • $20 million or more in assets
  • $40 million or more in revenue
  • an average of 250 or more employees

The new guidance clarifies that the definition “entity” is interpreted broadly, extending to “similar forms of business organizations”, and may include foreign entities operating outside of Canada.

To help clarify requirements and support affected members, Restaurants Canada is hosting a government-led webinar, Reporting Requirements for Combatting Forced & Child Labour – Due May 31, on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. ET. We will be joined by Chad Westmacott, Director General of Community Safety (Corrections and Criminal Justice) at Public Safety Canada. He will be providing an insightful presentation and addressing any questions regarding the reporting obligations under the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act. Registration is open now.

To ensure a comprehensive session, we encourage you to submit your questions to Kris Barnier, Vice-President Central Canada by Monday, April 22nd, at:

In closing, I would like to share that Value Chain Management International (VCMI) is conducting a national online, bilingual Food Loss and Waste (FLW) study in conjunction with RC Show food waste reduction partner, Second Harvest. Marking the five-year anniversary of their first joint survey effort, they seek to examine changes that have occurred in FLW since 2019 and the reasons for such changes. This important study covers the entire chain, from production to consumption, for all foods and will:

  • Benchmark Canadian FLW against estimates published in 2019.
  • Quantify the GHG emissions and water footprint associated with FLW.
  • Identify FLW in distinct types of foods (e.g. tree fruit vs. root crops; pork vs. beef).
  • Estimate the proportion of avoidable FLW that is associated with date codes.

I encourage you to complete the survey on behalf of your organization by Wednesday, May 1st:

Complete the English survey
Complete the French 

Yours in pursuit of fair recognition and respect for the extraordinary economic, cultural and community contributions our sector makes every day,

Kelly Higginson