Twelve years ago, provincial Liberal legislators supported New Democrat legislation creating Tourism British Columbia - the Crown corporation that was scrapped yesterday by the Campbell administration. In an interview following that announcement, Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Kevin Krueger told The Vancouver Sun's Bruce Constantineau. "We all like our independence. But even more than that, we also like to deliver the result we're all working for and most people realize this is the best way to achieve that result." Yet, it was that very independence which the Liberals stressed in 1997, questioning the New Democrats' commitment to the value and the corporation's legislated funding mechanism. Under that mechanism, Tourism British Columbia has received a portion of the province's hotel room tax revenues. Here's the record speaking for itself.
"We are looking for stability, we are looking for certainty, and we are hopeful that this legislation will provide that."
"We are hoping and looking forward to the fact that this agency will allow for the growth in that marketing funding and that the $18 million will establish itself in the years to follow to the $23 million and then some. We would have to look for this legislation to provide the permanence and the security that it says it will so that when the hotel tax revenues increase, there will be no capping in that area. That is the only way that this agency will be assured that they have a free hand and an arm's-length approach in dealing with tourism marketing."
"I am looking to see that this particular legislative agency has the independence that she has stressed that it has. We've heard time and time again in these chambers that we are concerned about broken promises and things which are signed and committed to that have not in fact been committed to. This is the one piece of legislation which the industry has wanted for some time, and we will attempt in every way to ensure - and I believe the minister agrees - that it will provide that kind of security, that kind of predictability and that kind of stability."
"I'm pleased to see - and we will be debating this - that the legislated funding will become the cornerstone in terms of the stability and the certainty that we are looking forward to in our industry for the next couple of years. I applaud that. That's what we wanted, so it's very hard for us not to agree with that. In fact, we do agree with it."
"It is very important that this board be at arm's length, that it be independent, so they can make up the schedules, the marketing tools, because marketing has to be done."
"First of all, I would like to thank the minister for introducing this bill; it is much needed. It's a promise that the industry has had many, many times, but I'm glad to see that a minister has had the courage to bring it forward for tourism in British Columbia."
"I was particularly encouraged with your opening comments about independence. We on this side think that is very, very important. I'm glad to hear that you feel that it's very important, because we know that the industry - the people that work every day, that invest their money every day, that put their lives on the line every day - also believes that operating independent of the government is critical to their success. So we hope that this government is very, very serious about its comments on independence, and we will work with you and encourage you in that direction."
"I want to talk a little bit, too, about autonomy for the board. We know that if the board doesn't have autonomy, if politicians - this government's politicians in particular - are allowed to have a say in the decisions that are made by the board, those decisions won't necessarily be the right ones. If you don't consult, then you try and influence the board, and the board doesn't have the autonomy it requires, it won't come out with good decisions at the end of the day. And that's a serious issue that the industry has expressed with this legislation."
"That's a big source of concern for us in Bill 9 - the fact that this fund needs to be untouchable. It needs to be a fund that the tourism industry can depend on: stable funding over the long term and money that no greedy minister can get his or her hands on ever, in perpetuity. That's what we would like to see in this government's legislation. That's an attitude we would like to see pervade the cabinet."
"...although I certainly do have some very grave reservations about this bill, it's a beginning, it's a start, I suppose, and it's something that I intend, in the end, to vote in favour of."
"To see an agency formed that will indeed help the tourism industry to become even bigger will have my strong support."
"To put on the record from the start, I support the act. I will be voting in favour of it..."
John van Dongen
"I speak in support of the bill."
"Another concern I'd like to raise - and certainly I'm hearing it from representatives of the tourism industry in my riding - is about the independence of the new board. We really, truly hope, along with the tourism industry, that this board will be autonomous, that the stakeholders will have a real say in who gets appointed to this board and that this government is not going to stack this board with their friends and insiders who will do their bidding..."
"...we are supporting this bill. This side of the House is going to support this bill, because we do support the tourism industry, and we've talked to the representatives."
"I will be supporting this act because I think the intention of the act is sound. But I have one area of concern that I wish to address, and that is of the board that will be appointed to oversee the tourism act. This government does not have a good reputation for appointing boards that are representative of the community. It has a reputation of appointing friends and insiders to boards, and I want to ensure that this board will represent the tourism community and the people of British Columbia as a whole...They have a reputation for wanting everything to be under their control, and I can assure you that tourism will be a disaster if it becomes part of this government's controlling mechanism. So I want to see that this board is independent of this government's manipulation and this government's continual desire to control everything in its grasp."