- BC Games
Casino funds to be used to enhance local tourism
The tourism sector in British Columbia pulls in $13.4 billion per year and Coquitlam is looking to get a piece of the action with a three-year program it hopes will increase the city’s profile.
Council voted Monday in favour of taking $600,000 out of its casino fund over the next three years to pay for the initiative, half of which would go to pay a tourism manager.
The new staffer would be tasked with creating a “one-stop shop” for all tourism-related issues and would be a point person for local initiatives.
But while most councillors voted in favour of the plan, several had concerns about using casino money — usually used for one-time capital projects — to hire staff.
Coun. Lou Sekora was the lone councillor to vote against the plan, although Mayor Richard Stewart and councillors Terry O’Neill and Craig Hodge also expressed concerns.
“I’ve gone both ways on this one,” Hodge said. “I really don’t like funding staff time with casino money.”
O’Neill added that while he supports funding the program for the next three years, he would eventually like to see local business take over the initiative. He added that it would be nice if other municipalities in the Tri-Cities contributed.
But most councillors acknowledged that, for now, the only way to get the program off the ground was with the city’s support.
Coun. Neal Nicholson said council should see the proposal as an opportunity to get ahead of neighbouring communities in its effort to attract tourism dollars.
“It is up to us to get it going,” he said. “It is our opportunity to show some leadership.”