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RMOW goes about committee restructure

The municipality is amalgamating several committees in a bid to improve public input to council
The RMOW's new committee structure for 2024.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is set to establish three new select committees of council focused on Climate Action and the Environment, Housing and Strategy, and Smart Tourism.

Council gave the thumbs up to the new committees at the April 9 council meeting, the culmination of a review last year that found the RMOW had too many committees, without clear mandates for each. 

Senior communications officer Erin Marriner said the changes would allow the committee structure to better align with municipal priorities, while streamlining the process, establishing more robust terms of reference, and securing more community input.

The three standing committees—Audit and Finance, Human Resources, and Governance and Ethics—remain unchanged, while, of the select committees, four remain the same, with the three new select committees joining their ranks.

The three additions are amalgamations of existing committees, resulting in a net decline in committee members: The climate committee was amalgamated from the former Transportation Advisory Group and Forest and Wildland Advisory Committee; while the Smart Tourism Committee is a successor to the Recreation and Leisure Advisory Committee, the Economic Partnership Initiative and the Festivals, Events, and Animation Oversight Committee.

Under the review, Marriner explained the RMOW will be implementing a new terms-of-reference template across its committee structure, with built-in flexibility to allow each committee to carry out its mandate.

“We previously had 20 committees and all the terms of reference were different, which was difficult for everyone to track and train people,” she said. “[Developing new terms of reference is] really trying to bring consistency to how they operate.”

The new Climate Action and Environment Committee will be tasked with advising RMOW staff and council on matters related to the environment, climate change and transportation, with items such as Big Moves, the Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan, transportation and ecological concerns falling under its mandate. The committee was proposed to be made up of 16 members, of which four will be at-large and drawn from the wider community.

The Housing and Strategy Committee will be tasked with housing and long-term strategic planning matters. This committee will have 13 members, including six at-large from the community—though five of those will be shifted over from the Strategic Planning Committee, with only one position to recruit for.

The Smart Tourism Committee is intended to advise on tourism through the lens of a “unified and collaborative approach to destination management.” It was proposed to have 16 members, including three at-large, though this was amended by councillors in discussion.

During discussion, Councillor Ralph Forysth moved a number of amendments, which were ultimately supported, to increase the size of two committees by adding a fifth RMOW staff member to the Climate Action and Environment Committee (increasing to 17 members), and adding a representative from Arts Whistler as a voting permanent member to the Smart Tourism Committee along with another member at-large, increasing its membership to 18.

On the Smart Tourism Committee, Forsyth argued input from Arts Whistler is essential, while the need for community input is paramount given what all councillors have heard from the community on that file.

“How many times have we heard, ‘It’s all about the tourists, it’s not about us, about the community?” he said.

“I get that it’s a big group and a lot of voices, but I think adding one more community member hopefully assuages those fears in the community that we’re doing this for smart ‘tourism,’ and the community gets neglected.”

Only Coun. Jeff Murl opposed adding additional committee members, saying Arts Whistler’s and the community’s input could be included by inviting guests to meetings on items relevant to them, but he was unsuccessful in swaying other councillors to vote with him.

Forsyth also moved to add another RMOW staff member to the Climate Action and Environment Committee, which, as proposed, would have included the CAO, the general manager of infrastructure services, and two non-voting staff members. Again, only Murl was opposed.

Another amendment was to expand the scope of the Climate Action and Environment Committee to have input on parks and recreation infrastructure.

Mayor Jack Crompton and the RMOW CAO are members of all three committees, with the remainder of membership a mix of RMOW staff, representatives from stakeholder organizations relevant to each particular committee, First Nations and youth.

Recruitment of members-at-large will take place over the coming weeks, with staff explaining the RMOW will look for members with expertise specific to each area.