Jean-François Lussier, chairman of the RVDA of Canada

Advocacy Day in Canada Touches on Increased Sales and Labor Struggles

The evening of April 25 kicked off Canada’s Advocacy Day with a reception held on Parliament Hill in its main Centre Block building. About 50 members of Parliament were in attendance, which is said to be the event’s highest numbers yet. The next day, members of the RV Dealers Association of Canada and Canadian Camping and RV Council would meet with the members to discuss tourism, skilled trade and the drawn-out NAFTA negotiations.

“It’s kind of a moving target,” said RVDA of Canada President Eleonore Hamm, laughing. “The main concern for us is that about 95 percent of our RVs are imported from the U.S. That’s most of all of the RV market, so we do need to have an easy trade agreement so that the products can keep coming in. Before free trade in the 1980s, there were duties on vehicles and RVs, and that would have made the product six or seven percent more expensive.”

Like many in the auto and RV industry, Hamm hopes for negotiations to wrap up shortly. Currently, discussions are slated to wrap up by the end of May. But it was only one of the main concerns.

On Thursday, April 26, Parliamentary Sec. for Small Business and Tourism Alaina Lockhart addressed the morning crowd eating breakfast before the more than 15 meetings between RV industry members and delegates began. Among the talks was the aluminum and steel tariffs imposed recently by the U.S.

“We need the product to be able to come through,” said Hamm. “Increased costs of the materials because of tariffs could have an impact on the affordability of product.”

It’s a concern because while Canada is exempt from the steel and aluminum tariffs, it’s uncertain how long that may last.

“We are very dependent on trade, and we need to have a fair agreement in place.”

Vocalizing the issues with Parliament may be enough to maintain the growing trend of Canadian RVers. An upcoming follow-up to RVDA of Canada’s 2011 state-of-the-industry study shows that about 2.1 million RVs are on the road in Canada now with a 13 percent overall increase in retail sales and service.

And much like in the U.S., there’s shortage of servicing RVs. Given the growth rate, repairing RVs in a timely manner is becoming increasingly difficult.

“We definitely need skilled labor if we’re going to reach the 550,000 projection,” she said.

Similarly, the RV Industry Association will be detailing a new tech certification initiative during Committee Week that addresses this concern. With book-less classes, RVIA believes that getting techs hands-on with equipment, earning specific certificates like boy scout patches, will increase the workforce and improve the current servicing dilemma hurting the industry’s customer retention rate.

Lastly, Canada’s Advocacy Day brought more attention to the country’s more than 4,231 campgrounds, about which 80 percent were constructed in the 1970s and have yet to see proper upgrades to keep up with consumer demands.

It’s a common issue seen in the U.S., as well, which political organizations like the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable are trying to address and will likely be a talking point during Committee Week beginning June 3.

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