Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden provided a glimpse into the issues the muni plans to bring to this year’s Union of British Columbian Municipalities (UBCM) Convention, held in Victoria at the end of the month.
“This is an opportunity to network with other elected officials as well as bureaucrats and ministers in Victoria,” she said.
Wilhelm-Morden, along with 13 other eligible municipalities, plan to meet with Pat Bell, B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, to discuss the provincial allocation of Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding.
B.C. announced in April that Whistler would receive $6.35 million in funding aimed at developing tourism programs and services in the community.
Municipal representatives will also discuss Whistler’s Official Community Plan (OCP), which the previous council adopted in November last year. The OCP contains policies regarding development, land usage and environmental conservation efforts that fall in line with Whistler2020, the municipality’s long-term sustainability vision.
Transit, a hot topic in Whistler, will also be on the agenda in Victoria. The province is expected to address 18 recommendations an independent panel made to B.C. Transit in August to improve provincial and municipal transit operations.
The province currently foots 47 per cent of municipal transit spending, with local governments covering the rest.
“We will be talking about some of the funding challenges we have, some of the scheduling issues that we have and some topics that have to do with the actual equipment,” said Wilhelm-Morden.
Service hours in Whistler dropped 15 per cent from 2010-11 levels after the previous council directed staff to work with the province to review the municipality’s transit operations.
Coun. Jack Crompton and the Transit Management Advisory Committee recently asked the province to forgive a $540,000 debt the municipality incurred for the Dennis Dart buses, which were retired from service before being retrofitted and given to another community, so the money could be used to improve local transit.
Another issue that’s sure to be contentious at the conference surrounds liquor licensing for special occasions. Whistler has been pushing for the province to upgrade its liquor laws so that specially-licensed events would allow for people to walk around freely with an alcoholic drink where minors are present.
The mayor sent a letter to the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) earlier this year outlining the municipality’s concerns. Despite the province announcing in May that catering companies could now obtain and carry their own liquor licences, instead of applying for a new one at each venue they cater, Wilhelm-Morden remains unsure of how the province will act on licensing for special events.
“(LCLB officials) indicated to us that they take their marching orders from the politicians. So I don’t have a sense myself as to what the appetite is for change in the province and that’s really one of the things I’m looking forward to testing at UBCM,” she said.
Wilhelm-Morden is also set to meet with provincial officials regarding the resort’s application for gas tax funding for an estimated $2 million infrastructure project that would connect Alta Lake Road residents still served by septic tanks to the municipal sewer line.
Concerns were raised in a letter from a local resident at last week’s council meeting regarding the water quality in Alta Lake.
Whistler’s previous council ruled that work on the sewage line would be contingent on provincial funding.
“We’ve asked the staff to report back to us on what other options, if any, are available in the event that the gas tax application isn’t successful,” the mayor said.
The UBCM Conference will be held Sept. 24 to 28 at the Victoria Conference Centre.