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Whistler secures $34 million, 'lion's share' of RMI contract

Mayor talks about meetings, money and infrastructure from the UBCM conference in Victoria

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Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden has confirmed that B.C.'s minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, Pat Bell, has inked a new five-year Resort Municipality Initiative contract worth $34 million.

The signed Memorandum of Understanding was received by the Resort Municipality of Whistler last Friday, the mayor confirmed from the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) conference in Victoria on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Wilhelm-Morden had a 90-minute meeting with Bell on Monday, where she made a presentation with three other resort mayors on the RMI.

"He understands what a great program the RMI program is, how innovative it allows resort municipalities across the province to be. He is a big supporter," Wilhelm-Morden said.

She was delighted to announce the agreement. "It has been in the works for quite some time. It secures about $34 million in funding, from 2012 to 2016, subject to, of course, money being in the bank in the province," said Wilhelm-Morden.

The RMI is a special fund created by the province to pay for infrastructure and programming in order to attract more visitors. Examples include the Whistler Presents concert series, street performers and support for festivals.

She said while other resort municipalities like Golden, Tofino and Harrison Hot Springs also received renewed funding, Whistler gets "the lion's share" because of higher accommodation unit numbers.

"It's tremendous news. The RMI funds are used by us to do programming for our guests and to do projects that stimulate visits to Whistler that we just wouldn't otherwise be able to do. All you have to do is look at this summer with the FE&A programming and how successful that has been, and how we've had the second busiest summer ever, and the busiest August on record to know that funds are being spent wisely and are having the desired results."

Wilhelm-Morden spent most of Monday at the BC Mayor's Caucus, along with Mayors Rob Kirkham of Squamish and Jordan Sturdy of Pemberton; 140 mayors endorsed a statement in support of seeking long-term infrastructure investment from the federal and provincial governments.

The statement reads:

"We agree that our communities require immediate action to provide stable, predictable, long term infrastructure funding from federal and provincial governments, to meet municipal needs as defined by each community's priorities. This statement affirms and complements the efforts of UBCM and FCM to address the infrastructure needs of communities to ensure social, economic and environmental well-being."

The session was the second such gathering of the caucus. Wilhelm-Morden said there was tremendous pressure on some communities when it came to infrastructure, which became the main subject of discussion.

"Fortunately, Whistler, because we are young and most of our infrastructure is relatively new, we're not facing the same crunch that other municipalities are. The federal government has an infrastructure-funding program, but it expires in 2014. By all accounts it is going to be replaced with something, but we really need to pin that down and achieve some certainty," she said.

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