Letters: Toursim poorly served by council

Local business woman slams council for denying funding to SRTA

Reflections from one of the larger tourism company in Sooke: the Sooke Harbour House and from co-owner Frederique Philip  and Director of SRTA ( Sooke Tourism Association) and large commercial taxpayer after attending District of Sooke Council on April 22, 2013:

“In the name of accountability, transparency and for the good of the community and the tax payers, always think of the taxpayers!!  four councillors R.Kasper, B.Berger, H.Haldane and K.Reay decided to not give funding to the Sooke Region Tourism Association. This not only means that the association will not receive $20.000+ but will not as a consequence receive additional funds from Tourism Vancouver Island (matching funds) and Tourism BC.  The ripple effect is a large amount of money to promote economic development in Sooke has been withdrawn in one quick brush stroke. The reason was the association didn’t provide the proper financial information, the association’s treasurer thought it did. Who should we believe?

Earlier we heard Haldane commiserate on the sad economic situation in Sooke with nobody building anything (the number of building permits issued have decreased drastically even in Langford where they are 50 per  cent down from the year before, that was not a great year either), young people finding work elsewhere (Alberta) than Sooke, etc., in one word a real deep recession in our little town. We will see more stores (the few that we have) close. Sooke is a bedroom community and what the Sooke Tourism Association does supporting all tourism businesses that employ a large amount of Sooke residents  (Sooke Harbour House employs 60 people that live in Sooke) and help promote tourism, has been shut down. Congratulations on your decision councillors.

So in their great ‘economic wisdom,’ these councillors  cut funding to an association that has tried to make Sooke a better-known tourist destination. We have to compete with places like Tofino, Ucluelet, Cowichan (that by the way receive great support from their municipalities) and now Sooke  is left behind.

Talking about transparency and accountability is always easy, really doing it is another story. If we dig a little bit we will find that there is no such thing as transparency and maybe even less accountability among our District of Sooke.  Municipal accounting is very easily confusing. It doesn’t bother this municipality to have given $1.5-million to the Prestige Best Western – a private corporation- for the use over five years of 12 days per month of conference space to non-profit organizations! It means that from April 2011 when the hotel and conference opened to now that is 288 days that  were paid for with our tax dollars… were they used 288 times? Hardly, and most non-profit organizations or groups that are usually small have always met at the Sooke Harbour House at no cost. How many big conferences we have had in the last two years that benefited a free conference room? (Only the room as they have to pay for food and alcohol at not so low prices). When these conferences take place we, the taxpayers,  have to suffer cars parked on the side of Sooke Road making it very dangerous to bicycle or walk or for  fishermen to go fishing and find parking for their trailers and trucks.

It doesn’t bother the municipality to have lost the Subaru Triathlon!, Are they doing anything to continue the work that was done with Communities in Bloom? The big word beautification of downtown Sooke, when is this going to happen? The roundabout not before the winter of 2014.

This evening, (April  22) I left the council chamber very upset as it is not the first time that I witness the very bad decisions taken by our councillors. There seem to be a very private, personal agenda against our association SRTA. Maybe we need to add Prestige Best Western to the name of SRTA and we will receive a very positive reaction, I know I am being facetious but really? I have never felt great support from the municipality for our hotel restaurant… I still remember what we had to go through for our parking – I have 77 parking stalls by the way, the new hotel was required  only 101.

On a final note, I enjoy reading on page 98 under 2013-2014 Corporate Strategic Plan: Strategic Priority #3: Economic Revitalization

“The District will strive towards developing appropriate mechanisms to facilitate and promote long-term community economic prosperity and resiliency” …Really?

We are the ones, we business owners, that need to have resiliency when we have to deal with this type of actions.

Frederique Philip

Sooke