Feds commit $180B to infrastructure spending over 12 years 

Council briefs: Tax deferment Memorandum of Understanding; Should Whistler allow green burials?

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - HOPEFUL DAYS The RMOW thinks its Cheakamus Crossing expansion plans might be a good fit for federal infrastructure funding. The Canadian government recently announced $180 billion in infrastructure spending over the next 12 years.
  • File photo
  • HOPEFUL DAYS The RMOW thinks its Cheakamus Crossing expansion plans might be a good fit for federal infrastructure funding. The Canadian government recently announced $180 billion in infrastructure spending over the next 12 years.

With the federal government's Investing in Canada plan poised to dole out $180 billion in infrastructure funding over the next 12 years, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is hoping to take advantage.

The funding will go to projects in four key areas: public transit; green infrastructure; community, culture and recreation infrastructure; and rural and northern communities infrastructure.

"We are considering the Phase 2 design of Cheakamus Crossing and there is a significant infrastructure requirement for Phase 2 ... we're thinking right now about where those funds might come from," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

The money could also come in handy for regional transit, which the RMOW is currently exploring with other stakeholders in the corridor.

"Staff will be busy looking at our workload and seeing what capital projects might fit," the mayor said.

TAX DEFERMENT MOU

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the RMOW and Property Taxation Branch of the provincial ministry of finance will allow some Whistler homeowners to defer their taxes.

"Really why we're doing this is to help address some of the housing affordability issues that exist here," said director of finance Ken Roggeman in a presentation to council on April 24. "For those that are not familiar with this, it is possible to defer your property taxes in certain situations ... the province essentially pays the property taxes to the local government or the municipality, and they treat that as a loan to the property owner."

The MOU will enable qualifying owners of price-restricted properties to participate in the tax deferment program (though there are about 175 Whistler Housing Authority units that are subject to a land lease agreement, which makes them ineligible).

"Really the key points or benefits of this is it adds to affordability, because people who own resident-restricted homes will be able to defer their property taxes while they're raising their children or they age in place," Roggeman said.

The agreement is good to see, Wilhelm-Morden said.

"We had heard from some people who thought we were kind of standing in their way of being able to defer taxes, and of course it had nothing to do with us," Wilhelm-Morden said to Roggeman. "And you were in the meantime working diligently on entering into this MOU with the province so that they could defer their taxes, so this is excellent work."

SHOULD WHISTLER ALLOW GREEN BURIALS?

A recent request from a Vancouver resident to council was a first for Whistler.

Margaret Berthelsen—a longtime skier of Whistler—wrote to council to request that a local bylaw be changed to allow for her "green" burial.

"Demand is growing for green burials—choosing a biodegradable casket or shroud, saying no to potentially-toxic embalming fluids, and no to concrete or fibreglass grave liners—so that everything in the ground decomposes," Berthelsen wrote.

"Even in death, my body could contribute by enriching the soil if I were to be allowed to be buried naturally."

As it stands now, Whistler's bylaw requires coffins or caskets to be placed in a concrete or fibreglass grave liner.

The letter was referred to staff for consideration.

"It's got a lot of appeal to me, but we don't provide for that yet," Wilhelm-Morden said. "Whether we will in the future is something that we've asked staff to take into consideration."

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