Kimberley is designated a Resort Municipality by the government of British Columbia and as such, receives yearly funding for tourism infrastructure projects.
It has long been a pet peeve of Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick the manner in which Resort Municipality funding is allocated, and he has embarked on a mission to change it.
The first step was getting some consensus from other resort municipalities, and with seven of the 14 in the Kootenays, McCormick was able to ascertain that other communities would welcome a change as well.
However, the big factor is Whistler. It’s the biggest resort in B.C. and it receives the lion’s share of the yearly funding.
McCormick met with Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden last week.
“It was a good meeting considering I was basically saying ‘will you give up some money for the rest of us?’,” McCormick said.
However, he says there is a way that Whistler would win as well with a change to Resort funding.
“Whistler is a true resort. Everything is built around infrastructure. A ton went in because of the Olympics. But now they need to use the money to get people there.
“But 70 per cent of Resort Municipality funding must be spent on capital projects. Only 30 per cent can be used for softer expenses, say ski shuttles.
“Whistler is getting $7 million a year and they are having huge difficulty spending it inside the rules. The majority of the rest of us just don’t have enough RMI funds. Kimberley gets about $100,000 a year. Whistler is big, thousands of beds. They get two and half million tourists a year.
“We don’t begrudge them the money they get. The goal here is to get Whistler to redistribute some of that capital. We need to convince the province to loosen up the rules on how the money can be spent.”
McCormick says that with all issues around the HST in 2011, the funding formula changed from a hotel tax to a grant.
“The government puts $10.5 million in a pot each year. In the last couple of years, as tourism grows, the amount we are raising based on hotel tax has gone over $10.5 million. This year the province has clawed back the over-spending by 17 per cent. Kimberley went from $100,000 to $83,000. Whistler went from $7 million to under $6 million. That money they just lost, I hope could be distributed to the rest of us.”
McCormick has spoken with Bill Bennett about the issue and found him receptive.
“But it’s not his Ministry. He is interested in helping.”
There is an upcoming meeting of mountain resort municipalities in June and the goal of that meeting will be to come up with a proposal the group can take to the provincial government.
“The current RMI agreement expires in 2017,” McCormick said. “We want to have something to present so we can say ‘here’s what we think will work’. Even if it’s just going back to the tax. We need to have a proposal. Otherwise the provincial government will just say, ‘here’s how it’s going to be’.”