RMOW clamps down on festival information 

Mayor to look into 'new policy'

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CLARE OGILVIE - Why redacted? Economic impact numbers for the 2013 Tough Mudder are blacked out.
  • Photo by Clare Ogilvie
  • Why redacted? Economic impact numbers for the 2013 Tough Mudder are blacked out.

The municipality is refusing to release numbers showing the economic impact of the Tough Mudder event, which received more than $100,000 in taxpayers' money last year.

Even the mayor is perplexed by a recent internal decision that every number in Tough Mudder's Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) be blacked out from the public.

It appears the economic impacts of all future events will be kept secret too, unless the event producer is willing to release the numbers. This, despite the fact that more than $900,000 in taxpayers' money was used to augment third-party events this year.

"Apparently what's happened is the Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) team has determined that all of these Economic Impact Assessments are potentially confidential because of a competitive advantage concern and they came to that conclusion with the influence of Tourism Whistler," explained Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who looked into the matter upon Pique's request.

"I need to have a conversation with (Mike Furey, chief municipal administrator) so that I can figure out if this is the new policy because this is not consistent with what's happened in the past."

Tough Mudder's EIA is the second to be completed in 2013 — one of a series of EIA's paid for by Whistler that provides in-depth information about event visitors and how they spend their money.

In a recent report to council Whistler's Manager of Strategic Alliances John Rae reviewed some highlights from the program this year including Tough Mudder stats. They show Whistler was at 90 to 93 per cent occupancy for the Friday and Saturday nights of Tough Mudder in 2013 and in 2012. Compare that to the same weekend in June in 2011 when there was no event and occupancy was at roughly 60 per cent.

It's clear the event had significant economic spin offs in Whistler.

In September Pique was told to contact Tough Mudder directly for the report.

After several emails and phone calls requesting the information from Tough Mudder, to no avail, Pique submitted a Freedom of Information request to the municipality for the document.

Pique requested the report from Tough Mudder again this week but did not receive a reply by deadline.

Weeks later the document was delivered in the mail with every number redacted, blacked out in bold blocks. It came with a letter of explanation from Shannon Story, Whistler's head of the Freedom and Information and Protection of Privacy, stating that the information could not be released under two specific sections of the act — one dealing with third-party trade secrets, the other with the financial interests of a public body.

The redacted numbers include the economic spinoff to the province and to Whistler as well as the tax revenues generated by the event.

Other event producers, who have released their reports or, at the very least, the high-level numbers from their reports, weighed in on that decision this week.

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