Back in February, the Whistler Chamber hosted Patrick Weiler, M.P. in our boardroom for a Business Roundtable. We had a full house, with representatives from accommodation, food services, real estate, transportation, education, activities and more.

And a mere three months later, we’ve pulled together our notes to catch you up on Patrick’s updates, as well as the key points of the ensuing discussion.

Here’s what we learned from Patrick Weiler, M.P., and some of the key issues raised.

Affordable housing & Labour

Naturally, affordable housing was a major point of focus. Patrick explained that he was talking with local housing partners and interested in learning more about creative solutions from the business community. He also talked about the Federal government partnering on projects in Whistler. The cost of living was also raised during the meeting and Patrick explained that they have introduced measures to promote more competitive pricing.

Another guest brought up the challenges of hiring in a market where many people have international certifications that aren’t recognized in Canada – or take a long time to be recognized. Patrick understood the situation and recognized the importance of people working in their specialist fields. Patrick also mentioned the Recognized Employer Pilot program, which has allowed some employers to access LMIAs with 36-month validity periods, and benefit from simplified LMIA applications.

Whistler Chamber Insight

In member surveys, lack of affordable housing continues to be a key challenge facing businesses. The Whistler Chamber continues to advocate for affordable housing to all levels of government, using survey data to highlight the impact of housing on labour challenges and business resiliency. A Whistler Chamber Housing Task Force is being created to facilitate actions for the Whistler Chamber in order to support and advocate for Whistler’s employee housing needs. An invitation to apply will be circulated later in May.

Read more about the Grocery Code of Conduct.

Regional Transit

The need for regional transit in the Sea to Sky was discussed, with little need to explain the difficulties to a room full of long-time locals. Patrick mentioned the idea of a fuel surcharge had been declined at the provincial level. He continued to say that while the Federal Government doesn’t get involved in operational funding, it does get involved in capital projects. Letters to the provincial minister and premier would be the most appropriate form of action.

Whistler Chamber Insight

Transit and Transportation has been identified as a key advocacy area. Earlier in May, the Whistler Chamber met with the other Sea to Sky Chambers, from North Vancouver to Pemberton, to review ways we can work together on advocacy efforts. Regional transit will continue to be a key discussion area.

Cost and Ease of Doing Business

Patrick highlighted an announcement from Immigration Minister Marc Miller that placed a temporary cap on new international student visas. This cap brought the annual limit down to 364,000 for the year – a drop of 35%. This move was made for several reasons, including in order to help curb the demand for housing but could have unintended consequences on bona fide private post-secondary schools.

Whistler Chamber Insight

The Whistler Chamber provided correspondence for an impacted member to confirm Whistler Chamber membership, highlight accreditation and alignment with Whistler’s tourism-based economy.

The challenges with building permit delays were also discussed, although recognized as a municipal issue.

Whistler Insight

The RMOW has committed to increase staffing in the Building Department (three new positions were hired by Jan 2024) and has set a goal of 8-12 weeks to process simpler applications, and under 24 weeks to process all applications.

Underused Housing Tax

Patrick mentioned the Underused Housing Tax in his opening remarks, and it also came up repeatedly during the discussion. For example, one discussion member mentioned that it had led to international owners taking units out of the rental pool, and that it would be beneficial to get an exemption for Whistler.

Patrick clarified that discussions with the CRA were ongoing. He is working with Whistler partners to address the challenges with the Underused Housing Tax, given our unique tourist accommodation zoning circumstances.

Whistler Chamber Insight

The Whistler Chamber has shared two letters of correspondence to encourage the Federal Government to exempt Whistler properties zoned for nightly rentals from the UHT legislation, and to support alternative strategies in resort communities to address affordable housing. Letters were sent to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Minister of Tourism, Minister of National Revenue, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Deputy Minister Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, and MP Weiler.

Mexican Visas

On December 1, 2016, the Government of Canada lifted the visa requirement for Mexican citizens travelling to Canada.  While the removal of the visa created benefits for the tourism industry, there was also an increase in asylum claims. As a result, the Government of Canada recently re-imposed the temporary resident visa requirement on Mexican citizens travelling to Canada. This unexpected announcement has raised concerns in the tourism industry as the Mexican market is of great value, supporting many businesses through visitor spending.

Other issues raised:

  • The question of the Greener Homes Grant. Patrick responded enthusiastically, saying that it has vastly exceeded expectations in terms of demand. Now they’re in talks about the next phase of the program, which could possibly look at programs that could also benefit renters.
  • The challenges faced by wineries and alcohol retailers. For example, BC businesses cannot rebottle larger wines into smaller sample sizes.
  • Honeybees, and their contribution to food security. One guest highlighted the need for bees to be environmentally sustainable and the need for summer students to be able to take part in local beekeeping efforts.
  • Tipping and how to manage tips accurately when reporting to the CRA.

Whistler Chamber Insight

The member in attendance generously prepared a follow up letter and shared with MP Weiler to explain the tipping recording requirement further and the impact on businesses.

The Whistler Chamber Advocacy in Action

The Whistler Chamber takes the input and key learnings from our business roundtables and uses the knowledge to inform our advocacy efforts, which includes communication with resort partners, elected officials, events and more.

The next Advocacy in Action session is a business roundtable with MLA Jordan Sturdy on June 13. This will include a short presentation by Sturdy, and discussions around the theme of the shift in focus that comes with the change of seasons. Reserve your space at the table here.