As noted by Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok, who is tourism critic, there wasn’t a lot about tourism in the Throne Speech or budget. He noted there was of mention of the Resort Municipality Initiative, a program which allows the 14 B.C. Resort Municipalities, of which Kimberley is one, to receive funding for tourism infrastructure. Kimberley has been receiving funds through this program since its inception. Funding is usually $80,000 to $100,000 per year.
Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick says that the fact that RMI was not in the budget is not unusual and right now the program is running as it usually does.
“Under the previous government, when the RMI program was switched to a grant when the HST came in, it has never been a line item in the budget,” he said. “The Minister goes to the Treasury Board for an allocation under the budget.
“Nothing has really changed and there has been a commitment of funds for this year.”
McCormick received a phone classroom the Minister, Lisa Beare, assuring him of that right after the budget came down this week.
However, that’s this year and the program’s future, or what it will look like in the future, remains up in the air.
“A discussion on how the RMI funds are allocated needs to take place,” McCormick said. “The good news is that there is a commitment for this year, but the government hasn’t decided how it will look going forward.”
How much each community gets is decided by a complicated formula that includes an accelerator based on room numbers. Therefore, the more rooms a community has available, the more money it gets.
McCormick has long argued against this way of deciding funding.
Because there is a fixed cap on the amount of funding in the pot, he says, and because tourism is going up every year, the amount of money Kimberley gets is going down each year.
“So who’s is going up?” he asks. “The rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The accelerator has to go.”
A case in point he says, is the funding that was announced in the budget, that allows 3 per cent of short term rental from Air BnB to be given to communities for affordable housing initiatives.
“Resort municipalities can use that extra funding for affordable, housing,” McCormick said. “But based on our estimates of Air BnBs in Kimberley, that would be $8700. If all the other short term rentals were added in, you could maybe double that.”
But the larger resort communities like Tofino and Whistler would get much more.McCormick believes there is a heightened sense of understanding that the RMI needs to be adjusted, and he hopes there will be many conversations on it in the coming year.