As Whistler's Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) committee lays out its plan for 2017, the long-term future of local programming still has some question marks attached.
The provincial Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) program is in place until December of this year, after which there is no firm commitment — but Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) officials seem confident the program will continue.
The provincial government is reviewing the program, "but we've always gotten really positive feedback from them. They see the merits of the RMI program," said Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey, after the Feb. 7 council meeting.
"We don't have any final decision at this time, but we're hopeful that they've heard us. The mayor certainly has minister (of tourism Shirley) Bond's ear, and we had a big meeting at UBCM where we laid out the benefits, so I'm cautiously optimistic."
The RMOW is expecting RMI payments to be somewhere in the $6 million range again this year, which will be put towards local programming and animation initiatives.
The proposed FE&A budget for 2017 is $3.16 million (the same as 2016), and is divided into different categories.
Under the Attract, Retain, Augment (ARA) category (third-party event investments), 16 events will split $737,600, pending approval through the municipal budget process.
Two new events made the funding list this year: a multi-sport, U18 Youth Festival modelled on the Whistler Cup ($20,000, intended to study the event, tentatively planned for April 2018) and a high-profile, as-yet-unnamed guest-speaker event at the Audain Art Museum ($17,000).
The biggest chunks of FE&A funding will go to Ironman ($250,000), Tough Mudder and Tough Mudder Half ($112,500), and the World Ski and Snowboard Festival ($100,000).
Other events getting funding this year: Whistler Film Festival ($40,000), Cornucopia ($40,000), Children's Festival ($30,000), Whistler Pride ($25,000), RBC GranFondo ($22,500), Crankworx ($20,000), Whistler Village Beer Festival ($15,000), Whistler 50 and Ultra ($15,000), Writers Festival ($12,000), Half Marathon ($10,000) and Thinkbike (formerly Outerbike, $8,600).
"The 2017 FE&A planning process has once again been rigorous, comprehensive and evidence based," said Sue Adams, chair of the FE&A oversight committee, in a presentation to council.
"I want to acknowledge the hard work and the many hours invested by everyone involved to ensure the outcomes meet the goals of the FE&A program and therefore assist the provincial government in achieving RMI goals.
"I'm very satisfied that the 2017 FE&A planning process has been conducted with the utmost integrity."
After the presentation, Coun. Sue Maxwell asked if there was a way to require events to reduce their waste.
"We're looking at creating a special event bylaw which will actually give the RMOW more of a mechanism to deal with issues like that," said manager of village animation and events Bob Andrea, adding that most of the events are very cooperative.
"I think if there are issues they are unintended, and people are very, very quick to try and rectify and they work with us on an ongoing basis," he said.
"So we don't really need the hammer, but it's good to have it."
This year's FE&A budget allocates a smaller amount to ARA ($737,600 compared to $844,500 in 2016) and directs more to original programming, like GO Fest or the Canada Day celebrations.
The move was intentional, designed to build resiliency in the resort's offerings, but it may not be permanent, Andrea said.
"We're trying to get things started, attract them here, get them going and move to the next investment," he said.
"Original programs, they're not going to go anywhere potentially, whereas some events, they're owned by somebody from another country in some cases, and they may decide that it's better for their bottom line to hold that event in another city, so we're looking at making sure that our own product is solid.
"That will change year to year. It could be in three years from now we want to grow our investments in third party events again... it's quite busy right now, and we're filling shoulder seasons as well. Could that change? We should be ready."
A budget meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Maury Young Arts Centre. The RMOW has said the proposed budget will be posted online beforehand for people to review.