EDITORIAL: Penticton legal battle makes no sense

Only one group is going to be a clear winner in the legal wrangling ... the lawyers.

Only one group is going to be a clear winner in the legal wrangling between the City of Penticton, the Tourism Penticton Society and the Penticton Hospitality Association.

The lawyers. Everyone else is on the losing end: the city, the PHA, Tourism Penticton, businesses that rely on tourists, and especially the people of Penticton.

At the core of the matter is the money collected through the two per cent additional hotel room tax (now known as the municipal and regional district tax, or MRDT). Thanks to wrangling in 2011-12 over who would control the approximately $400,000 generated, almost none of it was used for its intended purpose, external tourism marketing of the community.

Now the stage is set for a legal battle after the City stripped the MRDT funding from the PHA last week, claiming the group was in breach of the five-year contract they signed last July.

Who is right or who is wrong isn’t really the issue, both sides are going to be paying: the city with their tax money and the PHA with funds they have in the bank. In short, with funds collected to market the region’s tourism potential.

Then too, hotel room tax funds are likely to end up in limbo while this battle stretches on, with both the PHA and Tourism Penticton unable to spend any on marketing plans for the 2014 tourism season.

In a city where the livelihood of many is based on tourism or on businesses that profit from tourism, that means everyone loses. Penticton can’t afford minimal tourism marketing.

Penticton’s move to void the contract with the PHA is ill timed. By all accounts, the PHA and Tourism Penticton were close to bringing management of the hotel room tax and the city’s contribution under a single society.

The track to a single tourism society is one that could only lead to benefits for Penticton’s marketing efforts, but the track the city is on now only leads to losses, no matter how it turns out.