The mayors of Jasper, Banff and Canmore believe expulsion of tourists is on the cards after years of lobbying

To accommodate visitors, Canmore, Banff, and Jasper must establish a population double or triple their tax base.  (Helen Pike/CBC - photo credit)

To accommodate visitors, Canmore, Banff, and Jasper must establish a population double or triple their tax base. (Helen Pike/CBC – photo credit)

Three mountain towns in Alberta have been campaigning for more than a decade to get the province recognized as tourism-based communities in hopes of gaining support from the province to welcome visitors from around the world.

The Mayor of Jasper, Richard Ireland, was present when these talks first began, back when Ray Danyluk was at the table as Minister for Local Affairs (2006-10).

This time, Ireland says, talks with the current government appear to be different.

“We feel our case is heard and relatively well received,” Ireland said. “We’re optimistic that the conversation will turn out differently this time, and I think we have reason to be.”

Ireland says he is encouraged by how the UCP government is working with Banff, Canmore and Jasper to grant resort township status.

“The biggest change I see is that the needs of tourism-based communities are now more fully aligned with provincial objectives,” Ireland said.

The Department of Municipal Affairs told CBC News it is aware of the mountain towns’ request and is consulting with communities and other groups.

Province wants to diversify with tourism

The province has embraced tourism as one of many ways to diversify its economy, with ambitious goals of doubling the province’s tourism revenue by 2030.

With pandemic restrictions on travel and gatherings, tourism has been hit hard in recent years.

Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno said the province has recognized her city’s unique situation and role in tourism with funds from the Municipal Operating Support Transfer.

“When they invest in us, it’s really about investing in the province as a whole,” DiManno said.

That same recognition and funding, she says, has been extended to Jasper and Canmore. She sees this as a signal that the province’s tourism cities could help it recover from the economic lows of the pandemic.

Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert says the timing is right.

“I think it’s the right timing because … the financial burden our residents are carrying isn’t getting any less,” he said.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

In December, the mining towns commissioned an assessment of their unique situation.

It found that because of the gap between population and visitor numbers, Banff, Jasper and Canmore spend more per capita than the provincial average — while adding $112 million annually in provincial taxes and $2.2 billion to the province’s GDP contribute.

On a summer weekend, any city can double or even triple its population as visitors flood the streets.

A large chunk of every city’s budget goes into providing the right facilities, infrastructure, and staffing to handle this influx of visitors. Banff spends 43 percent, Jasper 32 percent, and Canmore 26 percent of budget dollars on tourists.

“Banff sees four million visitors a year, and the cost of accommodating those visitors is currently being met by our 8,300 residents and our local businesses,” Dimanno said. “That boils down to flushing toilets and treating our water… maintaining the streets and sidewalks for up to 40,000 people every day. And so on and so on.”

Helen Pike/CBC

Helen Pike/CBC

There are 14 resort communities in British Columbia that are eligible to participate in what is known as the Local and Regional Tax Program. Money from the province’s hotel tax is redistributed to municipalities for tourism-related costs such as infrastructure and visitor experience initiatives.

Krausert says other communities in the province may strive to be recognized, and the mountain villages could serve as a blueprint.

“It sets standards, it allows other communities that also have tourism to understand what they would have to achieve to get the same designation,” Krausert said. “After that, we can determine what that status actually means, whether it means dollars and cents, whether it means being looked at differently.”

tourism jasper

tourism jasper

The three municipalities have submitted a proposal to the province ahead of the looming budget.

In a statement, a spokesman for the local government wrote that the ministry was aware of the request to create a designation for spa towns.

“As this would require an amendment to the Local Government Act, we are consulting with local communities and other groups before making a decision,” the statement said.


Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button