Councillors spoke out strongly against claims from the Whistler
Chamber of Commerce that taxpayers face “taxation without representation”
through the 6 per cent property tax increase.
“To suggest that council is not listing to the community, to
suggest that we have denied input, to suggest that all this happened in matter
of weeks with nobody having a chance to comment... It misses the mark,”
Councillor Tim Wake said at Monday’s meeting.
Councillor Eckhard Zeilder agreed.
“Last time I checked, everyone here was elected
democratically,” said Zeilder.
“I believe this council represents not just the business community,
but the community as a whole,” he said.
These comments came in response to a letter from the chamber
dated Dec. 11 that alleged council’s decision to end the consultation process
with the public was premature last November when “there is ample time to gain
further input from the community.”
The letter, signed by chamber chair Dave Davenport, also
strongly suggests that a better option would be for council to direct municipal
staff to develop a budget with a tax increase on par with the rate of inflation,
roughly 2.1 per cent.
“Initially when I saw the letter, I found the wording
aggressive coming from a major partner in the community,” said Councillor Bob
“But I started to think through it. What is the root of this
expression? And a few comments that were made in the letter contradicted what I
thought we were doing,” he said.
Lorriman said council has been open to discussions with the
community, inviting different groups to do workshops, including the chamber.
“They said they were not ready to come to us at that time, and
I thought we would meet sometime in the spring,” he said.
Lorriman added: “I don’t think we’ve ever been approached by
the chamber and said ‘no we don’t want to talk.’”
Mayor Ken Melamed agreed that council wants to continue the
dialogue with the chamber.
“I don’t feel we betrayed that,” he said, adding that an open
house on Jan. 29 will also allow for more public consolation on the 2008
Only Councillor Ralph Forsyth took a more empathetic approach
to the letter’s content.
“I know there are a lot of hurt feelings around the table and
around town over this,” Forsyth said. “We clearly left that expectation in the
room that we were going to get back to them (the community). I can understand
why there is a lot of misunderstanding on this,” he said.
The preliminary 6 per cent property tax increase has taken heat
from the public since being approved by council in late November of this
It was drafted by staff to
mitigate $3.8 million budget shortfall and is a significant departure from
Whistler’s status quo of increasing property taxes based on the rate of
Many members of the chamber have been adamant in their
opposition to the tax increase, which prompted the chamber board to draft their
letter to the mayor and council.
The chamber’s board unanimously supported the letter, and
copies were forwarded to local papers.
Chamber chair Dave Davenport, who attended Monday’s council
meeting, said the chamber left the meeting disappointed.
“We wanted to accomplish two things. One was to revisit the
possibility of something lower than 6 per cent, and two was to get increased
dialogue between the community and council before this budget was put to bed,”
“I think we as a chamber failed on achieving either of those
Davenport added that the chamber is looking into what they can
do next and their goals on the issue remain the same.
“And we will do anything we possibly can to have whatever dialogue we can to further this,” he said.