© Star file photo
Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender gestures toward deputy mayor Bernd Staeben during the Monday, Jan. 23, 2014 public council meeting.
After a long battle to reach an agreement to impose a hotel levy in Corner Brook, there is at least one more hurdle to overcome.
During last week’s pre-budget consultation Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender expressed his disappointment by what he described as the province putting a stop to the process of implementing this levy.
Council has approved the execution of a memorandum of understanding between the City of Corner Brook and local hoteliers to implement a three per cent accommodations levy last September. It would help generate marketing and promotion within the tourism industry. The city sought approval from the province to continue the process last fall, and the mayor said a halt was put to it due to the ongoing review of the municipal-provincial fiscal framework.
Pender said it is both frustrating and disappointing, for the city and its partners on this initiative.
“It took us 10 years to get to the point where everyone was in agreement, and then the province said it was doing the fiscal framework so you can’t move on it now.”
The mayor considers the levy not to be revenue source for the city, so feels it should not be tied up with this review. It is particularly frustrating, according to him, because he expects the review will be 18 months to two years at least. Then, it is dependent on the agreement from municipalities.
“I would not want to see us lose the opportunity to have this agreement move forward because of this other thing that is happening,” he said.
Pender said council will be meeting with Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent while he is in Corner Brook, and this is expected to be discussed.
Public consultations for the review of the provincial-municipal fiscal framework is underway, and expected to continue until April. The discussions will identify options to change the way services are delivered, paid for and shared to better position local governments in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Meanwhile, Kent said the request is not being held up because of the fiscal framework review. The letter should have assured the city that his department was thoroughly considering the request, and an update would be provided once the proper analysis and consultation occurred.
It is not dependent upon the fiscal framework review. He said that review includes identifying, evaluating and costing options for potential new or alternative revenue sources for municipalities — such as the accomodation tax. So, it should also be considered in that context, according to the minister.
“Legislative amendments would be required in order to enable municipalities to institute an accommodation tax,” Kent said. “I think it’s also important that the views of local hospitality industry stakeholders be carefully considered.”
He said the analysis of the issue is progressing, and discussions with several government departments and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador staff has already taken place.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay has also made a request to government pertaining to an accomodation tax, according to the minister.