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Premier Glen Clark’s announcement of the government’s new partnership with the tourism industry is "a bit of a snow job," according to Liberal candidate Ted Nebbeling. However, Whistler Resort Association President David Thomson said the announcement "potentially can be extremely good for the province and for Whistler." Clark and Tourism Minister Bill Barlee announced Monday a new joint agency that will focus on tourism development and marketing efforts through a private sector board. "It’s similar to the Canada Tourism Council," Thomson said. "Theoretically it removes bureaucracy and allows more money for marketing. "Time will tell, but we support it 100 per cent." Thomson said Alberta and Saskatchewan have similar partnerships. The key factor, he said, is what level of funding will remain for tourism. The indications he has received are that tourism funding in the forthcoming provincial budget will remain at last year’s level. Fifteen industry representatives sit on the board of the new Tourism British Columbia Special Operating Agency. Clark’s press release suggests the creation of the special operating agency will help tourism create 23,000 new jobs by the year 2001 and is expected to save $4 million in tax money over the next three years by utilizing private sector resources. However, Nebbeling pointed out that the tourism industry had predicted 23,000 new jobs in the next five years long before Clark’s announcement. He also said Clark has taken back the $4 million saved, rather than allowing the new board to use the money. "We want to use more money for marketing, rather than bureaucracy. That money is now taken away from the industry," Nebbeling said. Nebbeling, who is an unofficial Tourism critic for the Liberals, said his party’s plan was to take tourism marketing out of the hands of bureaucrats and give it to the industry to do themselves. He conceded Clark has "recognized the voice of the industry is important but... the board is only advising the bureaucracy, not designing marketing strategies." Nebbeling said the Tourism Ministry’s budget is about $20 million and about $7 million of that goes to salaries and administration. The Liberals, under their plan to reduce the number of cabinet ministers, would make tourism the responsibility of a senior cabinet minister and enact legislation to create a private-sector tourism authority for marketing. Tourism would still have a voice in land-use decisions through the cabinet minister responsible for Tourism. "Mr. Clark has taken part of our idea and presented it as a new way of thinking, but ultimately it is nothing," Nebbeling said.

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