District council questions the future of Hope’s tourism industry

At their Jan. 14 meeting, Council discussed the future of AdvantageHope and the MRDT in the District

The future of Hope’s tourism industry came into question at the District’s last meeting when Councillor Scott Medlock put forward a motion to “front-load” AdvantageHOPE $40,000.

“This would be a special, one-time” motion, explained Medlock, who sat in on AdvantageHOPE’s strategic planning session earlier in the month.

The purpose of the funds would be to finance the agency—which works on contract basis as Hope’s economic development and tourism facilitator—to hire a tourism coordinator ahead of the anticipated approval of the District’s Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) program application.

Introduced province-wide in 1987, the MRDT program creates revenue by taxing hotel and motel stays in specific specific regions: after making its way through government, the money is returned back to its originating area for use in promoting local tourism. If the District’s recent application for a two per cent MRDT is approved, it would mean an additional $80,000 annually for Hope’s destination marketing.

READ MORE: PHOTOS – Hope’s new Mayor and council sworn in

Which is why Medlock says providing funding for this position is necessary now: it’s important to keep existing relationships and build new ones to achieve positive momentum in Hope-based tourism once the MRDT—if approved—revenue starts rolling in.

“We’ve (already) missed a lot of years of this money,” continued the councillor. In 2002, the local Chamber of Commerce tried and failed to secure the tax for the district.

But while the motion was seconded by Councillor Dusty Scott, the other councillors had a hard time getting behind it.

“There’s just too many questions,” said Councillor Bob Erickson. “They’re already getting $200,000, why $40,000 more?”

And with the recently announced resignation of AdvantageHOPE’s executive director, Patrick Earl, and the agency’s inability to reach quorum for every meeting, Erickson also said he wondered about its longevity and suggested an in-camera meeting to reexamine their contract with the District. “I’ll oppose this motion.”

“I believe the Strategic Plan is our priority,” said Councillor Heather Stewin. “I can’t support this today because I think the Strategic Plan is more important.”

After much discussion amongst the councillors, Medlock agreed to withdraw his motion so Council could meet and gather more information.

“Not everyone has the information and that’s all we’re after,” said Mayor Peter Robb.

“It’s taken 14 years to get here,” Medlock said at the end of the discussion, “and (we’ve done) far too much work to ever pull back from (the MRDT program).”

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