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Whistler soon to reap benefits of past work

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Mayor Hugh O’Reilly talks about the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

Whistler is at a pivotal point right now, according to Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

In the next six months, opportunities that have been in the works for years will eventually unravel and reveal themselves.

Whistler will know if the 2010 Winter Olympics are coming to town. The new sustainability plan will be fleshed out revealing the community’s preferred scenario for Whistler’s future. Promises from the provincial government of financial tools and a community land bank may be finalized. And, among all those opportunities, the much sought after answers to Whistler’s housing and affordability problems may finally have some solid solutions.

"Much of the success and the opportunities that are being provided to this next council were really work done in the last three and six years," said O’Reilly.

Now starting his third term in office the mayor sat down with Pique Newsmagazine last week to talk about "seeing the light at the end of the tunnel" with the 2002-2005 council.

PIQUE: We keep hearing about this term "financial tools." Can you give me a definition that would sum it all up?

HUGH O’REILLY: I think that it’s fair to say that we’re trying to find a way that will bring more funding to support the community initiatives that are outside the traditional sources that we have today.

There are roughly three options in discussion. The first option involves Whistler’s hotel tax. Right now there’s a 10 per cent hotel tax. We retain two per cent and they (the province) retain eight. Maybe we don’t increase that at all. Maybe we get 50 per cent and they get 50 per cent so we can get an increased portion of the hotel tax.

The second option is that the province creates the legislation to allow us to have a resort tax in the community. This kind of tax, a consumptive tax, is common in most of our competitive resorts. It can go across the whole gamut of products and services so it could be on alcohol, food, or just a general sales tax. If we went to a resort tax we might add a one per cent resort fee on certain goods so you would see the 14.5 per cent tax go to 15.5 or maybe go up one and a half points. The province hasn’t shared the PST with us so if we knew what the PST generates, then we would know that a one per cent increase would generate X amount of dollars out of Whistler.

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