B.C. Family Day date change a negative for Revelstoke tourism businesses

Province appears set to align B.C.'s family day with Alberta's, something Revelstoke tourism operators have opposed because it won't allow for the visitor load to be spread over two long weekends.

File photo: A long line-up at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort gondola base early in the 2016-17 season. The resort has announced new gondola cabins and lift chairs for the 2017–18 season designed to alleviate big lines in the morning. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

B.C.’s provincial government appears set to change B.C. Family Day to align with other provinces by 2019. It’s a plan that isn’t sitting well with the Revelstoke Accommodation Association (RAA) and the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations say changing the date of B.C.’s Family Day will negatively affect Revelstoke’s tourism-based sector.

B.C.’s Family Day currently falls on the second Monday in February, while Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick all observe the holiday on the third Monday in February.

In a statement to the Mountaineer, Minister of Labour Harry Bains said Premier John Horgan made it clear last fall the plan was to change Family Day to line-up with other provinces by 2019. The Family Day Act was passed in 2012 under premier Christy Clark. The second Monday in February was chosen in order to help promote tourism and to allow B.C. residents to enjoy visiting winter tourist destinations in the province on their own day.

Vancouver resident Andrew Johns began an online petition in 2015 pushing to change the date of B.C’s Family Day to align with other provinces. The petition argues not having B.C.’s Family Day on the same day as other provinces hinders the ability of families to connect, which he said is the intention of the holiday. Johns also argues federal employees still find themselves working during Family Day weekend. Family Day is not a national statutory holiday, meaning even if the date was changed, federal employees would still be required to work.

Meghan Tabor, RAA marketing manager, said having B.C.’s Family Day separate from other provinces allows for the number of tourists to be spread out over two weekends. She said aligning B.C.’s Family Day with other provinces’ family days would overrun the community and create a negative experience for tourists. The RAA has signed a petition created by the Tourism Association of BC asking the province to keep Family Day on the second Monday in February.

Jana Thompson, executive director of the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, agrees having B.C.’s Family Day on the same day as other provinces will create a hectic weekend for local businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses. Thompson said chambers in most tourism-based communities in B.C. align with Revelstoke’s wish to keep B.C.’s Family Day separate. The Revelstoke chamber, along with chambers in Golden, Fernie, Invermere and other tourism-based communities, has sent letters to Minister Hogan urging him not to change the date of B.C.’s Family Day.

Thompson said changing the holiday by a week will not only align it with the rest of Canada, but also with President’s Week in the U.S.

“The economic impact to Revelstoke would be massive,” said Thompson.

At their 2017 convention, a large majority of Union of British Columbia Municipality mayors and councillors voted in favour of the switch, despite a vocal opposition led by resort town mayors and councillors.

Minister Hogan said the province will be looking to engage with British Columbians to ensure there is a smooth transition for the planned date change for Family Day in 2019.