Letters to the editor: City right in withdrawing hotel room tax funds

City had no choice but to regain control of tourism marketing funds or face wrath of provincial government

City right in withdrawing hotel room tax funds

The public seems generally confused as to what the Hotel Room Tax is, who collects it, who is responsible for spending it, and what it is to be spent on.  Two of our biggest media outlets seem to allow the confusion to continue on a daily basis.  I wanted to make sure I got this right so I did get some information from our MLA’s office to be sure.

— The HRT is collected by accommodators not the PHA

— The visitors to our city give that money to the accommodators via the HRT

— The provincial government requires the accommodators vote every five years on whether or not to collect the HRT.

— 51 per cent of hotel rooms – not hotels – are required to agree to collect the tax.

— This tax is collected and given to the provincial government which gives it to the city and requires them or someone they chose to spend that money on external marketing of the city.

— The city chose to put out an RFP to administer these funds. The RFP was awarded to the newly formed Penticton Business Development Group. The group was made up of retired CEOs and executives of some major corporations willing to volunteer their time to spend this money to market our city as a tourism destination. Requirements of the B.C. government is that a marketing plan be submitted, funds must be accounted for and the money must be spent. And it must be spent on externally marketing our city.

Shortly after this RFP was awarded it was time for the accommodators to vote on whether or not to collect the tax. Some members of the PHA felt they should be in control of the money, and one of the big hoteliers that was pro-PBDG changed alliances in support of this noisy group of members. They basically blackmailed the city and said ‘with this big hotel now on board we have 51 per cent of the room vote and we are going to vote no to collect the tax if you don’t give us that money instead of the PBDG.’ It was only some members of the PHA, and certainly not all of the accommodators.  The assumption that all accommodators were/are a part of the PHA is wrong, and there are several accommodators in the city that had no knowledge of this so-called coup, were blindsided by the alliance switch and did not support the events that took place within the PHA without their knowledge. In the end, the city knows that if they don’t get the HRT the only money they will have to market the city is from local tax payers so they took away the awarded RFP from the PBDG and gave it to the PHA.

If that money is not being spent on what it is supposed to be spent on, if it is not being accounted for correctly and in a timely manner, and if there is not a marketing plan submitted to the government they can take away our ability to collect the HRT. That’s $400,000 a year that we may not be able to get in marketing money.

However misguided I believe the city was on the RFP process mentioned above, they are being held accountable by the provincial government and the PHA has not followed through with their obligations and need to be held accountable by the city.

Gina Handley

Penticton

*****

ALR needs protection

Premier Christy Clark, MLA Bill Bennett and the B.C. Liberals have indicated to all British Columbians they are running a dictatorial style of government. To abolish or tamper, negatively, with the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR) is like telling us we cannot grow food on this land of ours.

Because there are far more profitable uses that can be made of it? This is ludicrous and unthinkable since we are losing agricultural land by leaps and bounds each day.

Food production is the No. 1 priority of every nation otherwise we are heading for extinction. Year after year we lose cultivatable land to urban sprawl, mining operations, oil and gas exploration/extraction, transportation routes, golf courses, etc.

Is this why we are not hearing about a national park to preserve precious land areas in the Okanagan Valley?  A response is expected from our MLA, Linda Larson.

Many agree with Donald Thorsteinson that natural resources belong to the people and should not be exploited by private corporations/enterprises. Free enterprise has become an uncontrollable monster, especially with a B.C. Liberal government who look the other way when controversial issues arise. We have much to gain and much to lose.

James Demetrick

Oliver

*****

Justice Ministry hiding real impacts of prison

The Justice Ministry has issued releases claiming major benefits.  B.C. Corrections Brent Merchant asked how could prison-related spending not benefit this area?

The answers are basic.  First, there are leakages based on contracts and materials being sourced elsewhere for cost savings.

Second, there are costs and risks.  Such costs can be direct and indirect.

Direct costs include increased requirements for local policing which BCC said are not the government’s responsibility. BCC claims to look after their clients’ health, yet statistics on the 300-cell North Fraser Pretrial Centre report 510 inmate visits to regional health services in 2012.

Indirect costs come in the form of detrimental effects on real estate numbers and post-construction economic growth, as shown in a detailed, non-partisan U.S. study. BCC dismissed that study as American, but admitted no similar Canadian research exists.

BCC claimed to be an evidence based organization, yet failed to produce any on impacts.  They appear to simply pursue getting jail capacity built.

That’s easiest in communities with fragile economies, yet these are the ones where job opportunities, available housing and support services for released and inmates on probation are least available.

BCC indicated that 2,500 inmates are in BC provincial facilities.  With 756 inmates coming to the Oliver prison, the RDOS (with population less than 2 per cent of B.C.’s) will be picking up policing and other costs to deal with the effects of hosting 30 per cent of BCC clients.

BCC advises that for every incarcerated inmate, 11 more are in community supervision, yet there are no plans to hire more probation officers.

This suggests that cell and supervision capacity should be located where community support capacities are greater.  Moreover, prison locations are more efficient closer to actual centres of demand and in communities with greater capacities.

The Oliver prison location needs re-assessing given a) considerable evidence against location in a low-population rural area, b) secrecy, and c) apparent reliance by B.C. Corrections on expedience rather than analysis.

Failure to do so puts future economic and social prospects of the South Okanagan at risk.

Denis O’Gorman

Penticton

*****

New business, same market

(re: Walmart holds super opening, Western News, Nov. 6)

Sixty new jobs at the new Walmart will mean 60 lost jobs elsewhere.

Who are we kidding? The market has not grown to accommodate a new 30,000 square foot grocery store, it is more of what we saw last year when Superstore opened.

Same market with more stores and less, much less going to local businesses and staff members.

Richard Hunt

Penticton

*****

Tired council should take a break

(re: Council defends procedure, Letters, Western News, Nov. 6)

Thank you for this letter to the editor.  While council can decide any way it wants on the issue the facts in this are very simple.

On Oct. 21,the city manager made a motion and there was nothing from you or any member of council to correct that at the time.

I then sent an email note to you, all of council and Ms. Antoniak.

Ms. Antoniak responded and told me it was not her intent to make the motion and it will be corrected at the next council meeting.

You responded after she did and added  it was a long day and sometimes we make mistakes when we are tired and the error would corrected.

I can certainly appreciate mistakes happen but if you get tired during meetings and cannot run one properly because you are tired then I suggest you ask council for a break.

I sincerely appreciate the work you do on behalf of the citizens of Penticton and only ask that you continue to be responsive and more careful in the future.

Wayne Llewellyn

Penticton

*****

Salvation Army worthy of

exemptions

My father is now in his 90th year.  He is one of the few remaining survivors of the North Atlantic convoys of the Second World War.

Recently he coolly and calmly described one incident, of the total number of eight times he was torpedoed and the ships sank between 1939 and 1944.

On this occasion the cargo was haematite, iron, ore.

It is a particularly lethal load because the density of haematite leaves a lot of airspace.  Following a torpedo strike there is a very fast intake of sea water and rapid sinking of the ship.

Consequently he and some of his shipmates spent 12 days rowing eastward in their lifeboat before landing on the west coast of the U.K.

They were all sore-skinned from the chafing of saltwater, soaked clothing, cold, dehydrated from lack of potable water, lean from lack of edible rations and exhausted from constant rowing. Merchant marine ships belonged to private commercial lines.  Sailor’s wages stopped when the ship sank.  There was no assistance from the British government.

However, according to my eternally grateful parent, there were always representatives of the Salvation Army who provided he and his mates with dry clothing, hot drinks, meals, shelter and cots to rest and recuperate sufficiently enough to re-up and re-sail.

He was 17 years of age on that occasion.  Obviously this account shocked and stunned me. Eventually I asked, “Why did you  keep re-upping again and again?”

He explained that in 1940 and 1941, Britain was on the brink of famine, depleted of war materials, close to bankruptcy and exhausted from three years of war.  Until late 1944 cargoes of good and war material were going to the depths of the Atlantic at a rate of 250,000 tons a month thanks to the U-Boats.

My father’s explanation was, “It had to be done.”  Not surprisingly he still holds an absolute abhorrence against any totalitarian regimes,  and a very fond regard for the Salvation Army.

Keith Boden

Penticton