June 12, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

The Third Way 

Municipalities search for alternative ways to fund programs and save money


Whistler faces an end to development growth that has fuelled our economy for 20-plus years and now confronts the stark choice of continuous, unsustainable tax increases or an expansion beyond our current 61,750 bed unit cap which would undermine our journey toward sustainability. This would also significantly compromise the resort experience that makes Whistler unique.

Navigating between Scylla and Charybdis isn't so difficult if there are other revenue streams that can truly make Whistler economically sustainable. While not a panacea, the prospect of this "Third Way" certainly presents an opening in the straits; and the ability to choose the Argonauts' route through the safer but potentially more turbulent waters of Whistler's Third Way.

To give it its proper acknowledgement, "third way" is a term coined by Anthony Giddens, author of the recently published The Politics of Climate Change, and a professor at the London School of Economics - and espoused by Tony Blair and Bill Clinton as a centre-leftish political philosophy. Giddens' book suggests the difficulty of reconciling environmentalism with development demands a new political approach. New political approaches need not be the confusing, vexing odyssey one might expect if we understand the context of policy currently in place, and research and understand policy alternatives that are worth pursuing. Here's the context:

Death and Taxes

The good news is that if the trends of the last few years continue "Tax Freedom Day" will fall sometime in the middle of June. The bad news is your municipal taxes are due July second.

According to the Fraser Institute Tax Freedom Day is when the average Canadian family has earned enough money to pay the taxes imposed on it by the federal, provincial, and local Government. As Benjamin Franklin noted; "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." Here's how the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) tax system works:

Whistler receives around $6 million per year via the Resort Municipality Tax Transfer Program. Also known as our "financial tools," this program transfers four per cent of the eight per cent Provincial Hotel Room Tax (HRT) generated within the Resort, to the RMOW. The goal is to finance new or improved resort infrastructure and services that support the tourist economy. This tax pays for things like The Village Shuttle, Village i-Host program and events support. A little known fact is that former RMOW Chief Administrative Officer, and current Executive Director for the 2010 Winter Games office in Whistler, Jim Godfrey was instrumental in bringing about this legislation, and all municipalities that receive this tax were required to attend a session on Whistler 2020 hosted by the RMOW.

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