Pemberton council’s decision to make community groups their first priority could be the end of the newly formed Tourism Pemberton committee.
David MacKenzie, Village of Pemberton councillor and chairperson of Tourism Pemberton, said council’s mid-June vote to reallocate $30,000 in funds from their organization to a community discretionary fund has jeopardized matching funds they expected to receive from other levels of government.
“It’s a bigger picture: it’s not just the $30,000 loss from the municipality, it’s that $50,000 will disappear from the province.”
MacKenzie said volunteers have invested a lot of time and energy into developing a marketing plan for Pemberton, and after news of the funding cuts, they’re just about ready to give up.
“It’s exhausting to go through three years of trying to get this out of the gate, and then there’s no support for it in the end.”
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said although council’s decision was difficult, their choice was ultimately in the community’s best interests.
He pointed out that the $30,000 came from village taxpayers only, but would have been used by Tourism Pemberton to market tourism throughout the entire region.
Sturdy said the money will now go towards supporting local arts, sports and seniors’ activities.
“It was important… for council that we were able to continue to provide community enhancement funds to all the groups out there that really are the ones that make the difference in this community,” Sturdy said.
As a councillor, MacKenzie said he understands local groups’ need for funding, but sees the mayor’s explanation as an “easy out” and believes council is failing to see their contribution as an investment.
He said that within the next few years, especially with the 2010 Olympics bringing tourists to their doorstep, they would see a return on their money.
“That $30,000 is going to generate more revenue for this community by attracting people to the area to come and spend time and spend their money,” MacKenzie said.
Despite withdrawing financial support, Sturdy said council is not abandoning plans to help Tourism Pemberton. He said they are establishing a joint grant in aid function with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District which would see electoral area C — which includes Pemberton Meadows, Mount Currie, the D’Arcy corridor and rural areas of the Whistler-Pemberton Corridor — also making contributions.
They are also pushing to have a two per cent hotel tax instituted so visitors and the accommodation sector will shoulder more of the cost of tourism.
“We want to be supportive,” said Sturdy, “but we also don’t feel that the Village of Pemberton taxpayers should be footing the bill for all of the regional tourism promotion.”
Sturdy also said council plans to pass on a $22,000 grant provided to Pemberton through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, but MacKenzie is skeptical that Tourism Pemberton will see any of that money.
MacKenzie explained that the Village of Pemberton has to apply for the UBCM grant money, and if they receive the funds, the money could only be used for capital projects, not marketing purposes.
Sue Clark, program officer for UBCM, explained that their grant program has recently changed to allow for marketing funding, as long as the municipality outlines their intentions in their application.
“When they make application, it’s up to them to tell us what it is they want to do within the scope of the program,” Clark said.
MacKenzie said they are still looking for alternate funding sources, but the withdrawal of funds could “quite possibly” put an end to Tourism Pemberton’s vision to market their area as an independent tourist destination.