Ottawa, May 6, 2020: The economic COVID-19 impact to Canadian gardens is vast as they face an existential threat from the closures required to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canadian gardens play an essential role for Canadians and communities in terms of heritage, culture, education, environment, and their well-being and mental health.
“Canadian gardens maintain important living collections and play a key role in plant conservation and safeguard of our living national heritage. Public gardens provide much-needed opportunities for Canadians to assure their mental and physical health benefits during this unprecedented, stressful time for our society,” says Alexander Reford, Chair of the Canadian Garden Council and Director of Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens.
In many cases, gardens are key to the economic vitality of their community by being garden tourism attractions. Economic impact data compiled by the Canadian Garden Council shows that the public gardens contribute millions of dollars to the economy of large and small communities across the country.
Canadian gardens also are vital local sources of employment, supporting thousands of full time and seasonal jobs annually. Thousands of Canadian students pay for their studies by working in gardens and greeting the millions of visitors who visit them every year.
The destabilizing effects of the current crisis places the future of this key sector of the Canadian heritage, culture, and tourism economies at great risk.
Challenges Facing Canadian Gardens
As we write this, all public gardens, but three, are closed. The economic survival of Canadian gardens is based on people visiting them.
Canadian gardens operate on thin margins of financial sustainability, without large designated operational reserve funds, and are largely dependent on earned revenue from visitors passing through their garden gates.
Over and above losses in earned revenue, public gardens are expecting lost in membership support and charitable contributions as members and donors reassess their capacity to give, due to the economy’s volatility.
“Canadian gardens are being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 closures while needing to retain skilled staff to maintain living collections, all at a critical time in the season from both revenue and workload perspectives. Expenses are incurred daily, regardless of the closure of the garden. Our members are in a survival crisis,” says Michel Gauthier, Executive Director of the Canadian Garden Council.
“Canadian Gardens Need Government Financial Support”
Permanent closure of any Canadian gardens in communities across the country would be a terrible heritage and cultural loss for Canadians. Gardens need significant and immediate emergency financial assistance.
To survive and continue to bloom, post-COVID-19 closures, public gardens need the government to enact a targeted contribution program now and for the next six to 18 months.
A government investment will permit public gardens to:
- maintain their living collections
- maintain the skilled workforce – full time and seasonal – to deliver a quality experience
- employ young Canadians and provide them with valuable work and training experiences
- offset revenue loss due to a reduction in visitors
- offset revenue loss due to reduced earned revenue capability
- offset revenue loss due to reduced donations and membership
- implement new procedures, structures, equipment, and services required to open in the new normal post COVID-19
Canadians Want and Need Gardens: “It’s Time to Open Canadian Gardens”
Research demonstrates that public and botanical gardens have impressive appreciation from the public and are the first place people will look to visit post COVID-19.
Canadian gardens are community anchors, addressing challenges Canadians are facing in our everyday life in times of crisis like the one we are currently experiencing.
Opening Canadians gardens will also help our gardens to face hardship created by COVID-19.
“Our members are ready to open with appropriate COVID-19 safety procedures, as demonstrated by The VanDusen Botanical Garden, Tofino Botanical Gardens and The Butchart Gardens, so let’s open all gardens for Canadians to benefit from them and support the survival of our garden culture,” says Dave Cowen, Vice-Chair, Canadian Garden Council and Director of The Butchart Gardens.