In just its third year, organizers reported that Canadian RVing & Camping Week, which begins tomorrow (May 23) and runs through Sunday (May 28), has gained a strong foothold among Canadians.

Hosted by Go RVing Canada, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) of Canada, and the Canadian Camping & RV Council (CCRVC), the week is a celebration of RVing and camping in Canada, and encourages Canadians to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Shane Devenish, executive director of CCRVC, said the week has become a “national point of pride for all of us involved in the Canadian RV and camping industries.” Making this year’s week extra special, he pointed out, is that participating dealers and campgrounds raised funds for Make-A-Wish Canada to help provide experiences and opportunities for deserving children.

On May 19 — the eve of a three-day weekend as Canadians are celebrating Victoria Day today (May 22) — Devenish spoke with RVBusiness about the event, as well as providing a favorable update on the state of Canada’s RV and camping industries.

Devenish also offered an update on the country’s campground taxation issue. Canada’s 2017 Federal Budget did not include measures to allow private campgrounds in Canada to qualify for a Small Business Tax Deduction. Because of this, campgrounds have been subject to retroactive tax increases recently implemented by the Canadian Revenue Agency, which have been as high as 300% in some cases. CCRVC and RVDA of Canada, among others, have been fervently working to counteract this taxation.

RVB: Canadian RVing & Camping Week begins tomorrow and it has become quite an event in just its third year of existence. Why has it been able to come so far so fast? 

Devenish: It has become somewhat of a national point of pride for all of us involved in the Canadian RV and camping industries. RV and camping enthusiasts circle the May long weekend as the start of our camping season for millions of Canadians after what usually is a long and cold winter.

Back in 2015, we thought that it was the perfect opportunity to do a Canadian Camping Week that would serve as the unofficial launch of our season across Canada. We got Federal and Provincial government proclamations and campgrounds from across Canada to participate in order to gain awareness about RVing and camping, which we still incorporate in this, our third year. However, we really gained momentum in the last two years when the Canadian Camping and RV Council joined forces with Go RVing, which had held an inaugural National RV Weekend in 2015 that included a fundraising event for Make a Wish Canada.

Discussions between Go RVing and the Canadian Camping and RV Council ensued in 2016 and we decided that it only made sense to combine the two events into one long week that encompassed both objectives. We have participation from RVDA dealers and over 75 campgrounds in the Make a Wish event on May 27 and several hundred across Canada that are offering discounted camping rates and special activities.

What is extra special this year is that we are actually granting a wish for a 6-year-old boy named Parker who is suffering from T-lymphoblastic lymphoma and wanted to go camping with his family as “that is his favorite thing to do.” We are especially grateful to Forest River, their dealer Niagara Trailer Sales, along with Emerald Lake Campground where Parker will discover at 3 p.m. on May 27 that his wish has been granted.

RVB: How is the RV industry faring in Canada so far this year? Are we seeing signs of a rebound?

Devenish: Perfect timing to ask this question. Through tracking, we know that most, if not all, of our RV shows held earlier this year during our show season were up in both attendance and retail activity. We recently calculated our wholesale shipments for the first quarter of 2017 versus 2016 and it looks like, if our statistics are right, we will be up 23% to 25% so far, which is an outstanding start to our year.

With most of the RVs sold in Canada coming from the U.S., we are, of course, very watchful of our dollar versus the U.S. It has stabilized, but we do see daily volatility at times depending on the temperature of U.S./Canada government relations for the day.

RVB: On the camping side of things, we should get an update from you on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and its efforts to re-classify private campgrounds that would, in essence, subject park owners to a huge tax increase. What’s the latest on that issue?

Devenish: The RV and camping industries are continuing their lobbying efforts with the Canadian Federal Government and Canada Revenue Agency. The way that the “Interpretation Bulletin” from CRA (which re-classified the taxable status of private campgrounds and authorized the retroactive tax increase) is currently worded is much too arbitrary.

It is evident to everyone including our private campgrounds and House of Common MPs (ministers of parliament) that something needs to be done to provide a clear and bright line for the campground industry to operate within.

The thought that CRA could interpret a campground’s classification differently today than in the past — even though we all acknowledge that the rules have not changed — and, in turn, retroactively tax someone with a 300% increase is most worrisome to private campgrounds, to say the least.

The Canadian Camping and RV Council and RVDA of Canada Directors had what we believe to have been a very successful lobby day on April 6. We had nearly 50 MP meetings on Parliament Hill and our reception on the eve of our Lobby Day had another 30 MPs stop by for appetizers and drinks. We are continuing dialogue with all of those who we met during the week.