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CFIB ranks Whistler second-worst for municipal spending

Mayor says statistics "meaningless" for community



The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its fourth annual B.C. Municipal Spending Watch report this week, and according to their metrics Whistler is second worst in the province when it comes to municipal spending growth.

The report compares the spending growth in over 150 municipalities across B.C. to their population growth from 2000 to 2009, while also looking at the change in per capita spending. Communities are ranked by size and by region as well as overall, and there is a separate table in this year's report for vacation and destination regions where the permanent population doesn't reflect the need for services because of second homeowners and visitors.

The report also tracks how much a family of four might have saved in that time period if budget increases were tied to the rate of inflation and population growth.

Provincially, the CFIB report shows that operating spending, adjusted for inflation, increased 46 per cent from 2000 to 2009 while population increased just 12 per cent. In 2009, total municipal spending reached $4.4 billion, up $339 from 2008. All figures are in 2000 dollars.

Whistler saw its population grow 11 per cent in that 10-year period, while the community's operating spending increased 86 per cent. Per capita spending growth was 68 per cent, and in 2009 the municipality spent $6,306 per capita - the highest outlay by any community, though the report acknowledged that Olympic costs were at least partly responsible.

"Although high spending growth can be partially attributed to the preparation for the 2010 Olympics, there is evidence that Whistler has been on a steady spending spree since 2000."

CFIB also reported that a family of four in Whistler could have saved $36,663 if spending had been tied to inflation.

Only Lytton fared worse than Whistler under the CFIB's microscope. From 2000 to 2009 Lytton's population decreased 29 per cent, while operating spending increased 85 per cent.  Per capita spending growth was 161 per cent, and per capita spending is $4,826. A family of four could have saved $42,175 by tying increases to inflation.

Compared to other resorts, Whistler also had issues. Tofino saw its population grow 24 per cent from 2000 to 2009, while operating spending rose 100 per cent. Per capita spending growth was 61 per cent. While spending growth was higher than Whistler, per capita spending was $2,039.

Mayor Ken Melamed addressed the report in a conference call with media on Tuesday, and said their response has not changed since last year. "We observed that the CFIB report is actually meaningless in the Whistler context because Whistler is such a unique resort community, it's the only resort community of its kind in Canada."

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