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What Does Recovery Look Like?

Behind the Scenes by Connie Munson: Lunch & Learn with Minister MacLeod

Lunch & Learn with Minister MacLeod – YouTube

Over 1400 people tuned in and had lunch on Tuesday, May 11, as they listened to the hour-long webinar of the Honourable Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture. The minister was joined in this informative discussion and presentation by Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. Williams was joined by Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, as various facets, trends, and predictions were examined on the impacts of Covid-19 on the heritage, sports, tourism, and culture industries in unpacking the move to a different normal over the next few months.

The focus of ‘walk your talk’ and show people how it is safe, fun, and worth it to engage with your business was supported by the statistics of the surveying done by Ipsos in understanding how consumer confidence and behaviours were trending. Helping to bring home the messaging on a personal level, the audience was urged to think beyond the busy charts and numbers and remember that the bottom line was in dealing with people just like them. Front of mind, the message was that it is all about managing expectations, whether it is your customers or volunteers.

To that end, video clips to demonstrate what people can expect to experience when they are onsite were emphasized. The reassurance of what will greet people is part of the picture and vaccination saturation, and overall infection rates in destination areas. Polling indicated 75% of people thought vaccination passports should be required to enter the country. 65% saw them as needed for admission to large gatherings, and 47% agreed that proof of vaccination should be shown to access shops, restaurants, and offices. People’s highest comfort levels were with outdoor functions compared to indoors. At the same time, on an international comparison, Canada showed as tentative in weighing overall anxiety versus opening to restart the economy. In support of border closures, Canadians ranked highest. Moreover, they ranked second most anxious in concerns for perceived risks of going on vacations. The polling showed that rapid testing did not inspire confidence to the same degree that masks, social distancing, and requirements of proof of vaccination did.

An analogy used was to think of a dimmer switch, rather than an on-off switch, to re-engage the public. Similarly, the variables of actual location and numbers in destination areas would impact the degree of involvement of different groups.

So, while the desire to travel is there, there are a tremendous number of factors still in play that will determine how many Ontarians explore their province in the coming months. The need for consistent and clear messaging about how it is safe, why it is fun, and what is offered has never been more critical. With that consideration, it is interesting to note that this ministry has the highest component of volunteer sector involvement.

Whereas employees can be told to do things, volunteers get to make choices; their commitment is based on what they value and choose to do. These groups are primarily dependent on volunteers: from boards of directors to fundraising; staffing shops and galleries; promotion and marketing to social media; writing grants; organizing practices and transporting players to league playoffs; funding and maintenance of historical sites and premises; and program development of all arts and cultural types ongoing which the public can access virtually or onsite. 

Along with the for-profit commercial venues, the cultural backdrop and ambience in destination areas depend on these volunteer-driven groups and organizations. Places to eat, shop, and stay over at require a context that helps to establish and stamp a unique identity on a location. With so much to discover and many places to stand in Ontario, recognizing the uniqueness and brand developed in the many tourism districts means acknowledging the immense contributions in unpaid hours and dollars donated by volunteers in keeping various historical, sports, cultural and arts events, and organizations viable.

There is vital work to be done as organizations and groups in this ministry continue to struggle with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Unpacking the implications of such heavy dependency on volunteer labour and donors’ dollars means examining overall funding structures. While some of the questions that arise are internal, can organizations let their fates depend on such high degrees of volunteer labour and fundraising? Other questions are best directed to different levels of government.

What financial resources can be directed to community groups and organizations for staffing? Are there some recommended models for shared access to a communication hub with professional promotion and marketing services as opening continues? What training can be developed and offered for internal positions in organizations? Are there consulting services available to help conduct a SWOT analysis on the operation models of groups?

With much to explore locally and across our beautiful province, those high hopes for safe adventures can be fulfilled in the coming months by showing people how it is safe, why it is fun, and what to expect. Ontario is yours and ours to discover!

Connie Munson (ecmunson)
Connie Munson (ecmunson)

Involved with several arts organizations in the area, such as Beaux Arts Gallery, Credit Valley
Artisans, and Headwaters Arts, ecmunson sits on the HA board and is honoured to have work
accepted in the DVSA’s prestigious event. A regular contributor to arts newsletters and local
media with arts and cultural related columns, she recently launched her website, Studio By
Design© with its subscriber-based Artful Pics BULLETIN.

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