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Whistler gears up for UBCM

Local officials meet with tourism, transportation ministers ahead of annual conference

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This year's Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference doesn't start until Monday, Sept. 25, but officials from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) got a head start on their advocacy work with some high-profile meetings in Victoria on Sept. 17 and 18.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the RMOW met with Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena and Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare to talk about some issues relevant to Whistler.

With Trevena, the RMOW broached the topic of regional transit — the goal being to see some solid movement on that front in the latter half of 2018.

"We talked about some funding models, some governance models, we're forming a group with senior staff from the local governments in the corridor and senior staff from her office, and we want to get some senior staff from the Ministry of Finance as well, to put forward a range of options to send back to the minister in November, with a view hopefully of getting some success in being included in 2018-19's provincial budget," the mayor said.

As for the tourism front, Whistler again made its case for Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding, highlighting Whistler's $1.53 billion in GDP and 25-per-cent tourism export revenue, "and then talked about the return on investment that the province is getting from their $6.6 million-investment in RMI, and (Minister Beare) appreciated that linkage," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"We also talked about some issues that we're having with the MRDT (also known as the hotel tax); just definition issues and interpretation issues, and she was very helpful in saying that she would attempt to sort that out."

There's no solid commitment to continuing RMI at this point, but the mayor is hopeful.

"I got a very positive reaction from her, so I'm more hopeful than I was," she said.

At UBCM itself, the RMOW has six, 15-minute meetings lined up with various ministers and two more yet to be confirmed, as well as a host of resolutions it plans to support and oppose.

"There's resolutions concerning wildfire management that are critical for us, there is resolutions once again trying to move Family Day in February, which is important to us," Wilhelm-Morden said, giving examples of resolutions that will have local support.

"There's also a resolution asking the UBCM executive not to have any more UBCM conferences in Whistler because we're too expensive, which we've done research on and that's absolutely not true, so we'll obviously want to speak to that resolution."

The next UBCM in Whistler is scheduled for 2022.

A full program schedule and list of resolutions can be found online at www.ubcm.ca.

This year's conference will give local governments their first real chance at meeting face to face with B.C.'s new NDP/Green government.

As it stands, it's still too early to say exactly what the new legislative mandate means for Whistler, Wilhelm-Morden said.

"I'll have a much better idea at the end of (UBCM) about just the kind of reception we're getting from the NDP," she said.

"I sat in on Question Period yesterday just to kind of get a sense of how the three parties are working, and there was an interesting dynamic there. The Liberal side of the house didn't look very happy, as you can probably appreciate."

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