B.C. industry leaders and ministers are headed to Ottawa — and Whistler will be right there with them.
Whistler Chamber CEO Val Litwin and Whistler Blackcomb's VP of employee experience Joel Chevalier will join a delegation of about 35 British Columbians going to Ottawa on Feb. 3 and 4.
It will be the first chance for B.C.'s industry and government leaders to meet with the new federal ministers and officials responsible for immigration, labour, skills training, workforce development and innovation.
"For Whistler to be included in that delegation with two representatives... is really phenomenal," Litwin said. "We've always said that, as a community, Whistler punches above its weight class. For such a small town of people to drive almost a quarter of that tourism export dollar, it's an impressive data point, and I think one of the reasons why we're going to be at the table."
In preparation for the trip, some of the big players in B.C.'s tourism industry have spent the last month working to coordinate their position, Litwin said, including the BC Hotel Association and Go2HR.
"We've all aligned on what's really kind of a distilled series of positions on labour and immigration," he said.
The Chamber also put together its own policy paper for the trip, which includes suggestions for improving access to workers in tight labour markets and highlights efforts taken on a local level to attract workers, Litwin said.
"(It) really clearly reinforces the narrative around all the things Whistler is already doing to attract Canadians and reduce dependency on foreign labour," he said, listing the Whistler Experience program, better benefits packages and wage increases as examples.
"We want to make sure that story resonates and comes through."
The policy paper will touch on four asks that the Chamber believes would improve access to labour, Litwin said: The creation of a stream for seasonal workers similar to the agricultural program that would be accessible to all tourism sectors with seasonal labour shortages; maintaining or increasing the working holiday visa program; enhancing the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process by extending LMIAs from one year to three or prorating them based on the number of months that they're valid; and increasing the quota for the provincial nominee program pipeline.
"The thinking here is really comprehensive and about opening up the entire process such that when we find a great person that wants to contribute to our economy and they want to become a Canadian, let's figure out how to keep them and bring them into our country," Litwin said.
"So we think there's good logic there. All of these positions are backed up by good data."
Chevalier — who said he'll be representing the Canada West Ski Areas Association as well as Whistler Blackcomb — said there's no specific ask on his part.
"I think we're just going in to tell the story in terms of what the business is, how busy it is and how busy hospitality and tourism is in British Columbia, and to not paint us with the same brush that they may be trying to do at a general level for all hospitality and tourism," Chevalier said.
"There are lots of jobs out here, and we're struggling to fill them with Canadians who are either not willing or just not available to come out and do that."
Check back with Pique in the coming weeks for a follow-up from the meeting.