Locals react to federal budget 

Budget presents mixed bag, says Whistler chamber of Commerce

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF MIXED BAG - Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin said the Feds recent budget presents a mixed economic bag for Whistler.
  • Photo courtesy of Mixed Bag
  • Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin said the Feds recent budget presents a mixed economic bag for Whistler.

While West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston was proud to see his work and that of his constituents reflected in the April 21 federal budget, the reviews weren't positive across the board.

For the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, the budget represents a mixed economic bag.

"We're pleased to see a balanced budget. It's a healthy place to start," said Chamber CEO Val Litwin.

"But to be clear, it was done on the back of the contingency fund, selling some key investments and then perhaps being a bit bullish on the price of oil in the medium term."

What does bode well for Whistler are the measures taken to reduce taxes for small businesses, Litwin said.

"Ninety-three per cent of our members are small businesses... they're definitely making life easier for that group by reducing the small business tax from 11 to nine per cent by 2019," he said. "That equates to about $2.7 billion in tax savings for small businesses in Canada, so that feels pretty good."

Litwin was also happy to see an investment in better labour market data.

"This budget shows that the feds are willing to invest $4 million over the next two years on what they're calling a national labour market information portal," Litwin said. "(We're) certainly welcoming that as hopefully a first step towards more investments in actual surveys which will give us better data."

Investments in public infrastructure and better transit hubs like Vancouver — as well as $14 million in support of young entrepreneurs — were highlights for the chamber as well, Litwin said.

But there were also some disappointments.

"Definitely disappointed that we didn't see concrete investment in tourism promotion," Litwin said.

The budget introduced plans to invest in U.S. tourism marketing, but the lack of specifics is concerning, Litwin said.

"No dollar amount was revealed, no details were provided, so that was a bit disappointing," he said.

A Tourism Whistler spokesperson was not available for comment.

Also found in the budget and lauded by Weston was an additional $10 million per year over three years to extend the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, as well as $2 million for the Pacific Salmon Foundation in support of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project.

But according to Dave Brown — Whistler local and member of the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable for the last several years — the funding is far from enough.

"The thing that's missing, and that the Conservatives are missing the point on, is that they've just gutted (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). Decimated it," Brown said.

"We don't have enough fisheries officers in our area to adequately do enforcement. We don't have a habitat person to look at habitat files."

Brown said he would like to see proper funding for fisheries officers, habitat projects, increased protection and up-to-date scientific information — none of which the budget addresses.

"It seems that the priorities don't lie in fisheries," he said, adding that the combined worth of the commercial and sport fishing industries is close to $1 billion in B.C.

"If it's all about the economy, well why don't they recognize that that's an important part of the economy here?" he said.

"If you protect fish and fish habitat you have benefits for tourism. Whale watching and eagle viewing and all those are all spin offs, and that's a big a part of our economy.

"It goes beyond just wanting to have more fish in our waters or more protection for our fish."

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