Whistler's new mayor and council were officially sworn into office in front of a packed house of family, friends and well wishers at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Nov. 6.
After a traditional welcome from the Lil'wat Nation, new Mayor Jack Crompton was the first to take the oath of office from Judge Patrick Doherty, followed by councillors Arthur De Jong, Jen Ford, Ralph Forsyth, John Grills, Duane Jackson and Cathy Jewett.
In his inaugural address as mayor, Crompton thanked everyone from outgoing Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and outgoing councillors Sue Maxwell and Steve Anderson to Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) staff and his campaign team (who admittedly didn't have to do much work with Crompton being acclaimed, he joked).
"What animates me, and what I hope will animate our community going forward, is a pursuit of depth; of roots; of permanence," Crompton said.
"I believe in the next election someone will stand in front of this community and say, 'My name is, and I was born here, and I want you to vote for me,' ... I think that will be an exciting day.
"I am going to work very hard for that person to be able to call this home and raise a family here."
Throughout his address, Crompton invoked the stories of local pioneers past and their ties to Whistler, like Garry Watson's first survey of the valley in '61, chief Leonard Andrew growing up on the shores of Green Lake, or even Wilhelm-Morden, who would go on to become Whistler's first female mayor, living in a squat when she first arrived in the '70s.
"We are Whistlerites. We choose this valley and these mountains over any other because they hold such rich history, opportunity and beauty," Crompton said.
"We are pioneers, we are innovators, we are lovers of this place. This group of people, we are committed to fighting hard to ensure the next generation of Whistlerites can continue to choose Whistler."
Praising the wealth of experience at the council table to his left, Crompton promised an "extremely aggressive" agenda for council's first 100 days, including council-to-council meetings with the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations as well as meetings with the provincial government and Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz.
"I want to work with the region and the province to deliver regional transit, expedite the permitting of the new village-based Vail (Resorts) dormitory ... and I will be asking each member of council to take on a portfolio," Crompton said.
The new portfolio approach will see each councillor take on a specific area of focus over the next four years: Environment (De Jong), social services and regional cooperation (Ford), infrastructure and community investment (Forsyth), tourism economy (Grills), housing (Jackson), and arts, culture and heritage (Jewett).
The new council will also hold a special meeting in the very near future to do three things, Crompton said: strike a governance committee with a mandate to do a public engagement review; form a new development corporation using the same mandate and private sector experience as the Whistler 2020 Development Corp, and; strike a strategic planning commission to "think about our municipal strategy at its highest levels."
Said Crompton: "I want to move fast, I want to move now, and I think I have a group of people who share that desire."
The new councillors also received their first committee appointments at the Nov. 6 meeting.
Audit and Finance Committee: Grills, Jackson and De Jong.
Human Resources: Crompton, De Jong and Grills
Advisory Design Panel: Jackson
Economic Partnership Initiative: Grills and Jackson
Emergency Planning Committee: Ford and Crompton
Festivals, Events and Animation Oversight: Jewett
Forest and Wildland Advisory: De Jong
Liquor License Advisory: Grills
May Long Weekend: Forsyth
Measuring Up: Ford
Public Art: Jewett
Recreation and Leisure Advisory: Forsyth
Technology Advisory: Forsyth
Transit Management Advisory: Ford
Transportation Advisory Group: De Jong and Forsyth
Whistler Bear Advisory: De Jong
Contact info for Whistler's new mayor and council will be posted to www.whistler.ca/stay-connected/contact.
MRDT INCREASE APPROVED BY PROVINCE
Meanwhile, an application from the RMOW to increase its Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) from two per cent to three per cent has finally been approved by the province.
The announcement comes three years after the provincial government increased the MRDT rate in its 2015 budget, and a full year and a half after Whistler's council approved the application.
"This is a significant milestone for Whistler that further boosts the ability of the municipality and Tourism Whistler (TW) to provide effective tourism programs," said outgoing mayor Wilhelm-Morden in a press release.
"These revenues are critical to communities like Whistler whose property tax revenue from our relatively small population is not adequate to invest in and maintain the amenities and programs needed to serve residents and visitors."
MRDT is a tax on short-term tourist accommodation, including hotel rooms, on top of the eight per cent Provincial Sales Tax. It was established in 1987 to fund tourism marketing and programs.
In Whistler, MRDT funds are received by the RMOW and shared with Tourism Whistler. The funds are reinvested in the community, with expenditures approved by (and reported to) the provincial government.
In Whistler's 2018 budget, the bulk of MRDT funds were directed to general resort upkeep: reinvestment in the Whistler Conference Centre ($650,000 in 2018, $150,000 from 2019 to 2022), reconstructing the Valley Trail ($50,000 in 2018, $110,000 from 2019 to 2022) and general improvement in local parks ($200,000, 2018 to 2022).
"We are very pleased to have been successful in our joint application with the RMOW to increase the MRDT collected on accommodation sold in Whistler," said TW president and CEO Barrett Fisher in the release.
"This is good news for our community as it provides us with important resources for product reinvestment, experience enhancement and market diversification, to ensure Whistler enjoys a healthy, balanced tourism economy for many years to come."
Through the MRDT increase, the RMOW expects to collect an extra $2 million annually.
The announcement comes on the heels of an Oct. 1 change to provincial tax laws requiring Airbnb and other short-term accommodation providers to pay PST and MRDT for rentals under 27 days.
While the money collected through those channels will be eligible for affordable housing projects, the RMOW won't know how much they're working with until the first quarter of next year.
Nevertheless, the RMOW intends to submit an affordable housing plan consistent with the new program's requirements.