With B.C.'s labour shortage expected to worsen, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce has formed a task force to address the issue locally.
"The intent is to roll out recruitment, training and retention tools for the community at large," said Chamber CEO Melissa Pace of the task force, which met for the first time on Feb. 28.
The task force is made up of a wide range of interests, including seats for both the federal and provincial governments, GO2HR, Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler, Whistler Personnel Solutions, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Lil'wat Nation, Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, Whistler Community Services Society and the Whistler Learning Centre.
Both large and small businesses are also represented, Pace said, along with human resources and immigration professionals.
"It's a big group, and the reason I didn't want it to be a small task force was I felt so many people were so passionate about the labour task force, they had something to say, and I wanted people to have that voice at the table," she said.
The task force was born out of a need for communication — where some Whistler businesses are doing fine with recruiting, housing and training, others are seeing higher turnover than ever before, Pace said.
"I sort of looked at both ends of the scale thinking 'well, can we not get everybody together, talk about what some of those solutions are with people in the room that are being challenged by it, and come together with some creative solutions for the community?'" she said.
"The intent is to come out with something that will really help the community."
At its first meeting on Feb. 28, the task force discussed the current state of labour in Whistler before diving in to a two-hour workshop on current opportunities and challenges.
The Chamber will also be putting out a survey in the coming months as part of the task force, with a second meeting planned for April 11.
One area concerning labour that the Chamber is still focusing on is access to Temporary Foreign Workers.
"It's an open file, and (local MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones) and I are going to be visiting that again shortly," Pace said.
Goldsmith-Jones was in Whistler on Feb. 21 for a Chamber-hosted "Advocacy in Action" event covering everything from international trade and Canada's new food guide to tax reform and the National Housing Strategy.
On the housing strategy, Goldsmith-Jones said it will be targeting those in greatest need (the plan is to reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent, and bring more than half a million households out of core housing needs) but Whistler may still benefit.
"I can't imagine a community that's better positioned, just because of its experience with innovation, and its ability to house a broad range of incomes," Goldsmith-Jones said.
"There will be matching funding under the Canada Community Housing Initiative, between provinces and the feds, to create over 300,000 (units) of social housing, so I think that Whistler will absolutely be applying for some of those partnership opportunities."
There's also the new $4-billion Canada Housing Benefit, which will provide an average rent subsidy of up to $2,500 annually beginning in April 2020.
"That money goes with you if your housing changes or you find you can't rent your apartment anymore, which we think is pretty innovative," Goldsmith-Jones said.
"There's an awful lot to (the National Housing Strategy) though, and most of the details will start coming out in April."