The following letter was sent to Premier Jason Kenney regarding tourism status for Canmore and Banff.
Your government recently announced a new tourism levy on short term rentals, expected to add $5 million annually to the existing tourist levy of four per cent.
One would assume that like any astute business person, your government would be reinvesting a significant portion of this levy back into the centres of high tourist activity, like Canmore and Banff, for the services, amenities and programs required to support a tourism based economy.
Sadly and inexplicably, this is not the case.
Not only are you not reinvesting in these tourism communities, you are actually cutting funding to much needed social programs in Canmore and Banff, communities already under serious stress from insufficient affordable housing and a low wage economy.
Instead, according to MLA Miranda Rosin, the new levy “will help us to grow the tourism industry as a whole.”
One could maybe understand this if you had a strategy and plan to also support the communities providing the services to these visitors, but that critical part of the equation appears to be missing.
This is not only blatantly short sighted, it is harsh and dismissive policy.
You give special status to the petroleum sector, agriculture and forestry, the latter being basically matched by tourism in revenue generated. So why not tourism?
If you need an example of how to do this, look no further than the province of British Columbia where for years they have been reinvesting a significant portion of their tourism levy back into communities, like Whistler, that are vital to this part of the provincial economy.
I quote from a recent Whistler resort municipality government publication: “The province of B.C. has approved Whistler’s application to increase its Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) to three per cent. These revenues are critical to communities like Whistler whose property tax revenue ... is not adequate to maintain the amenities and services needed to serve residents and visitors.”
What is needed for communities like Canmore and Banff is action on this matter now, not more talking points about what a wonderful job your government is doing for all Albertans,