Discussions continue about tolls on the Sea to Sky Highway 

Chamber of Commerce survey finds impacts on employees not as severe as feared

The province has once again raised the spectre of tolls on the Sea to Sky Highway.

The announcement was part of the spending outlined in the Liberal budget, which included a $2.4 billion plan for transportation infrastructure over the next three years.

It was not welcome news in the resort.

The municipality, Tourism Whistler, and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce immediately began to circulate a letter to encourage businesses and others to voice their opposition to tolls on the highway by writing to the minister of transportation, Judith Reid, and local MLA Ted Nebbeling.

Tourism Whistler, council, and the chamber would only support tolls if they were part of a province-wide strategy.

"We believe that tolls need to be viewed province wide and be part of a province-wide strategy," said Suzanne Denbak, president of Tourism Whistler.

"And certainly, with respect to tolls on the Sea to Sky Highway, we would envision that occurring only if there was an alternate route."

Denbak said tolls would definitely affect business in the resort though more work needs to be done to quantify the impacts.

"We would want to study it further," she said.

"But certainly there would be implications for businesses in town around staffing and with respect to guests and their ability to come to Whistler.

"There would be an improved highway but the cost of the tolls would be a factor in the value of their vacation purchase. We always need to be cognizant of the value that we offer relative to our competition to make sure that we are not becoming too expensive relative to what our markets are willing to pay."

During the budget a 3.5 cent-a-litre gas tax was also announced, but it was clear the revenue from that could not fund all the infrastructure plans on the table.

Premier Gordon Campbell also confirmed tolls might be placed on the Sea to Sky highway.

"Tolls are still something that are being considered in the right circumstances, yes," he told Vancouver media during a scrum.

"We are making no commitments on any of that at this moment.

"With Sea to Sky, we’re right now in the midst of determining what the final costs will be."

More government announcements surrounding how the infrastructure upgrades will be financed are expected in the next month.

Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said the resort’s position is well known to the government and discussions will continue as plans develop.

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