Tansparency and accountability are values that almost every single government or non-government organization claims to live by.
They are nice buzzwords, and convey desire to open and honest with the public. But if they are not accompanied by actions to actually be transparent, they are hollow and meaningless.
Tourism Canmore Kananaskis, for example, is hard at work on delivering on its strategic plan, which upholds those values as being core to that organization's efforts to market the community of Canmore as a tourism destination.
But when the Outlook has asked multiple times for TCK's audited financial statements over the past year, we have been told no, they are confidential as the desintation marketing organization is privately funded.
That is simply not true.
Earlier this year, Canmore council voted to provide TCK with $54,000 in funding and begin the conversations on establishing a partnership agreement between the two organizations.
We hope those in charge of putting ink to papere on that agreement are paying close attention to this space right here. Because it is the position of the RMO that if TCK is to enter into an agreement with the municpal government and receive public funding (like it already has) it must be held to a higher standard.
All third-party organizations funded by the Town of Canmore's operating budget are required to provide full financial accounting each year. This ensures both elected officials and citizens can review how those funds are beign used.
Before this iteration of TCK, Canmore Business and Tourism and the destination marketing organization that existed before it, provided those audited financial statements without issue. Banff & Lake Louise Tourism publicly provides its audited financial every year at its annual general meeting.
If TCK chooses not to meet this standard of transparency already established, it should not receive any public funding whatsoever.
The funding TCK does receive comes from two main sources. Travel Alberta provides funding to operate the visitor information centre along the Trans Canada Highway. As well, local hotels provide TCK with funding from a desination marketing fund.
That fund represents a three per cent fee charged by hotels on every single room night on top of the provincial pillow tax already established.
Hotels are empowered through the provincial government to collect this fee. It was created to support collective marketing efforts, however the province has no mechanism to provide accountability for how those funds are spent.
It is a great thing that hotels in Canmore have voluntarily agreed to use that fee to fund TCK. But is it really the hotel's money – private funds – if in fact it was paid for by visitors, enabled through provincial legislation and is a mandatory fee?
We would like to suggest that visitors to our community also deserve transparency and accountability for how the money they are charged to stay at a hotel is used when it is a mandatory fee tacked onto the bottom of the bill like any other tax or levy.
TCK can and should do better.