2,000 mayors, councillors to roll into Whistler next June 

FCM conference an opportunity to engage other communities before Olympics, says local councillor

The first week of June next year will be far from quiet in Whistler Village.

From June 5 to June 9, 2009, over 2,000 municipal mayors and councillors from across Canada will descend upon Whistler for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference.

“It’s the biggest gathering of Canadian political leaders,” said Councillor Bob Lorriman, who is the local representative working with the FCM for next year’s conference.

“It is a pretty exciting thing, but it is pretty daunting.”

The conference will take place approximately eight months before the 2010 Winter Olympics and marks an important opportunity for Whistler to showcase the Games to political leaders across the country.

“It is an opportunity to engage other communities, so when the Games happen, they’ll have a knowledge of Whistler,” said Lorriman, who is pushing to make the Olympics the theme of the conference.

Lorriman added often political bigwigs like Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Gordon Campbell come out to FCM conferences, heightening national media attention on both the host city and the event.

The idea to host the FCM conference in Whistler first came about in 2002, when former-councillor Nick Davies and current Mayor Ken Melamed returned from an FCM conference in Banff.

“We came back with the idea of hosting this,” said Melamed from his office in municipal hall.

“Back then, we knew it was something we could achieve, and we had the knowledge for some time that we needed to reach out to the rest of Canada and tell our story and show our pride at being part of Canada.”

To finance the conference, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has budgeted $500,000, with most of that money coming from the hotel tax. This year’s conference in Quebec City cost $700,000.

Lorriman said more revenue will also be generated via the hotel tax, since all delegates will require hotel accommodation during their stay in Whistler.

“It is not enough to cover the conference, but for this time of year, it will generate a lot more revenue than usual,” he said, adding the large number of delegates also equals more revenue for restaurants and retail stores than typically expected during June.

The largest problem with hosting the FCM in Whistler will be space, said Lorriman. This year’s Quebec conference had a total of 2,200 delegates, but the Telus Conference Centre only holds 1,500 people. To deal with this, Lorriman said a tent will likely be erected in the adjacent parking lot.

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