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Muni ‘extremely disappointed’ with tax solution

Province says resolution provides certainty, Whistler says it loses $3 million



By Alison Taylor

A just-introduced change to the provincial property tax system could cost Whistler up to $3 million annually.

Ironically, the new legislation comes just weeks after the province handed Whistler its long-sought after financial tools, which boost the municipal budget by roughly $6 million every year.

Whistler’s administrator slammed the proposed changes to the tax system.

But thousands of condo owners in Whistler and elsewhere welcomed the certainty that comes with the legislation — certainty that has been missing in the provincial tax system the past 15 years.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Whistler administrator Bill Barratt.

“Aside from the significant financial impact, this is not going to help the tourism industry. It’s detrimental.”

In the new legislation all Class 1 hotel units will continue to pay residential taxes, despite operating commercially, and all hotel units assessed as Class 6 will pay a blend of commercial and residential tax rates based on the amount of commercial use of the property. This will take effect in 2008.

Barratt could not mask his disappointment at the news and did not mince his words on the government’s solution to a long-standing problem.

“This is not fair, nor is it equitable.”

Rick Thorpe, minister of Small Business and Revenue, speaking from the legislature Wednesday, said the solution was designed to help the province move forward with its goal to double tourism.

Certainty in the tax system, which for so long has been in doubt and before the courts as condo-hotel units jumped from one class assessment to another, will entice investors to build and buy strata hotels.

“We think that’s going to assist in resort development,” said Thorpe. “We think it’s going to help in the doubling of tourism.”

The province estimates that this legislation and the certainty it brings will potentially result in the construction of 148,000 new units.

Whistler condo owner Jim Allard, who was part of an advisory group on the issue to Thorpe, admits it’s not a perfect solution.

However, the change means Allard’s property tax bill on his two-bedroom Tantalus Lodge unit, taxed at the Class 6 commercial rate, could be halved, down from $7,000 to roughly $3,500.

And while that’s still more than what his brother with a similar unit with a   Class 1 assessment pays, his reaction to the solution was positive.

“We’ve got a solution and it may not be perfect but I’ll tell you what, considering what we’ve got, it’s very, very good,” he said.

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