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P3 activities to be monitored more closely

Reporting strategy, guiding principles established for RMOW’s entrepreneurial endeavours

Though the municipality is already involved in several public/private partnerships (or P3s), council adopted a formal policy on Monday night, which will guide Whistler in future entrepreneurial endeavours.

Among other things the policy is intended to pave the way for opportunities to create more revenue for the municipality and the resort.

There are already number of opportunities, which could make the resort more competitive and financially sustainable, according to John Rae, manager of strategic alliances and marketing with the municipality who presented the policy report to council on Monday night.

These include corporate partnerships with companies in various fields such as clothing, automotive, beverage, financial and telecommunications.

Likewise, sponsorship opportunities exist for events such as Whistler’s First Night.

The municipality is also exploring licensing agreements, which not only look at branding the Whistler name but also look at the legal ramifications of using "Whistler" as a trademark.

Rae also said there are revenue opportunities with municipal facilities, where the municipality would not just wait for the venues to be rented but actively seek out rentals.

Before approving the entrepreneurial policy however, council raised a few red flags.

Specifically, Councillor Gordon McKeever was adamant that staff prepare a reporting strategy as part of the policy so that council could be kept abreast of the various entrepreneurial activities.

One of the problems with the municipality’s P3 investments in the past is the dearth of information about the projects, he added.

His proposal had support from fellow councillors.

"It is a missing element in the public/private partnerships we have now," said Councillor Kristi Wells.

"I think it’s absolutely crucial to be put in here."

The municipality is a partner in several P3s ventures, including: Cross Country Connection, the Whistler Comedy Festival, the Lakeside Park concession and more recently Yodel Enterprises and

Some of those business ventures prompted criticism from the community, including the claim that the municipality was unfairly competing with local businesses for a share in the marketplace.

Inherent in the new policy is the idea that the municipality "is not actively seeking new business opportunities in categories that are traditionally in the realm of the private sector."

In fact, one of the five conditions for a future P3 is that the municipality does a comprehensive assessment of potential conflicts with local business.

Wells pointed to the current municipal business partnerships, such as the Cross Country Connection, which rents cross-country skiing equipment and snowshoes, as a contradiction to that policy statement.

"Clearly those are in direct conflict to that overarching statement," she said.

Wells said she had trouble with what the municipality is currently doing in business and what they’re proposing to do in the new policy.

Councillor Ken Melamed didn’t see it in quite the same way.

"We have been reacting… to (business) opportunities that arise in a timely manner," he said.

"I see that as a distinction.

"I think we understand what the intent is. We’re not trying to move in on the market."

Councillor Nick Davies also expressed concerns that staff would be able to enter into smaller P3s without consulting council first.

But Administrator Jim Godfrey reassured him that staff would not act without giving the P3 serious consideration.

"We’re very sensitive to what would be a political issue and what would not be a political issue," he said.

The six guiding principles, which the RMOW will review when considering a P3, are:

• it adds value to the resort community by enhancing the experience for residents and guests or provides new, enhanced or more efficient service or it generates incremental revenue for the community/RMOW or it produces savings for the community/RMOW;

• it respects the character and values of the community;

• it operates in an ethical and transparent manner;

• it operates within the legal, legislative and policy framework of the RMOW;

• it will not tax the RMOW’s ability to be responsibly involved in the P3; and

• it will not compromise the RMOW’s responsibilities unrelated to the P3.