Municipal support and growing tourism seen as wins in federal budget say Whistler officials 

Federal election set for Oct. 21

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - ELECTION YEAR Finance Minister Bill Morneau, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau enter the House of Commons to present the Liberal government's 2017 budget.
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  • ELECTION YEAR Finance Minister Bill Morneau, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau enter the House of Commons to present the Liberal government's 2017 budget.

With a federal election just seven months away (election day is set for Monday, Oct. 21), the campaign trail is about to heat up-all starting with the federal budget tabled March 19.

"Overall it provided a variety of potential funding opportunities for municipalities, and it's always good to see that in a federal budget," said Mayor Jack Crompton, pointing to things like a $2.2-billion top-up of the federal Gas Tax Fund.

"Local governments in British Columbia will see an immediate benefit from (that) ... and this one-time transfer will provide an estimated $280 million in additional funding to local governments in B.C. for roads and other infrastructure."

While it's too early to say how much Whistler will receive this year, Crompton said the resort applies for the funds for projects related to roads and core infrastructure services.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) will also be looking at funding programs related to housing, energy efficiency, disaster management and vehicle charging, the mayor said.

"They are opportunities the RMOW will be looking at closely," he said.

"(But) we're not always guaranteed to see the funding, as it requires significant research and work on our staff's part to access that funding."

From the BC Chamber of Commerce's perspective, there are some positives in the budget-like almost $630 million to expand work integrated learning programs-but not enough help for business, said president and CEO Val Litwin.

"I think overall we thought this federal budget left a lot to be desired. It doesn't do anything substantial to address the rising costs of doing business in Canada, and competitiveness," Litwin said, pointing to recent BC Chamber survey results that show 80 per cent of members feel the year-over-year costs of doing business in B.C. have grown worse.

The budget is "definitely an election budget," Litwin said.

"No surprises, the electorate is going to get a crack at some more money to put a down payment on that first home, but really, what we need is more product, not more cash causing people to buy more product," he said.

"Even though they're focusing on the right area with housing, I don't know that it will be sufficient enough to solve the housing issue for young Canadians, especially in here in B.C."

From the tourism perspective, a seemingly enhanced focus on the industry is encouraging to local stakeholders.

"We're seeing the federal government recognize the importance of tourism as an economic driver for Canada," said Karen Goodwin, Tourism Whistler's VP of destination and market development.

"They're maintaining Destination Canada's (budget of) $95 million, which is super important to us-we work very closely with Destination Canada to leverage their efforts in marketing the country, and then we piggyback on that to promote Whistler."

Further to that is an extra $58.2 million for Destination Canada over two years for regional development agencies to develop new tourism experiences, as well as a proposition to create a seventh Economic Strategy Table dedicated to tourism.

Specifics are light at this point, but the concept is encouraging.

"It seems that they're seeing the impact of (tourism)," Goodwin said.

"And seeing it as one of those economic pillars, so I think that's important that that's being vocalized."

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