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Whistler to stress consequences of Class 1/6 at UBCM convention

RMOW’s tradeshow booth will also emphasis Winter Games and the 2010 convention



Two years after the province changed the way taxes on condo-hotel properties are assessed Whistler politicians are concerned about how the taxes are affecting guest service in the resort municipality.

In fact the mayor, chief administration officer and councillors have requested a meeting during next week's Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference to examine the unintended consequences of the Class 1/6 shift with the Minister of Community and Rural Development.

"We are not trying to open up the Class 1/6 issue," explained Mayor Ken Melamed. "We are talking to the ministers about the guest service and the impacts there. It is more about the unintended consequence of the decision that they made which has left this loophole, left this inequity, and our ability to address single front desk and guest experience."

In 2007 the provincial government decided most condo-hotel units should be taxed at the commercial (Class 6) rate when they are being rented, but at the lower residential (Class 1) rate when they are not being rented. Previously most units were taxed at the commercial rate 100 per cent of the time.

The change came into effect in 2008.

The Class 1/6 issue resulted in some overnight guest properties not having a front desk. As a result of this split front desk situation, said Melamed, service expectations are not met and public safety is compromised.

"It's going to be a multi-year conversation with the province," said Melamed. "It will be about moving on from here."

Whistler's meeting with Bill Bennett, Minister of Community and Rural Development, is just one of the activities municipal staff and council members will be participating in Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, during the UBCM convention in Vancouver.

Melamed said they will also meet with Colin Hansen, Minister of Finance and B.C.'s deputy premier, to voice their concerns over the Liberal government's proposed Harmonized Sales Tax, which combines the provincial sales tax and GST.

Childcare, or lack thereof, will also be on Whistler's agenda when representatives sit down to speak with the minister responsible for childcare, Mary Polak.

And Whistler's mayor and councillors will also get a chance to meet the new Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Kevin Krueger.

Beyond the meetings with ministers, Whistler will also have a tradeshow booth during the UBCM conference to promote the resort municipality, the Olympics, and the Whistler Centre for Sustainability. The tradeshow booth will also highlight the fact that Whistler will host the UBCM convention next year.

"We have done this in the past," said Melamed about the tradeshow booth.

"This year the difference is not only are we hosting UBCM next year, but this is the UBCM right in front of the Games.

"We just really want to continue to keep our presence strong in the eyes of the province, and we are looking for any kind of opportunity to communicate with other communities, to share our excitement, and to allow them to share theirs with us."

Melamed added it is important for Whistler to have a presence at the conference to show other communities there is more to the largest resort municipality in B.C. than simply wealth.

"There is no question that since I have been going to UBCM for 13 years, I have noticed a significant change in our perception," said the mayor.

"It used to be that I was the only councillor that would go, and if you are the only person that is there, it is hard to make a presence... Since I have been mayor, I have made it a point to go, and I have made it a point to contribute and participate. I have had feedback from other delegates thanking Whistler for its work and leadership"

All of Whistler's councillors, expect Eckhard Zeidler, will be journeying down to Vancouver for next week's UBCM conference and minister meetings.



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