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Whitewater escapes wrath of HST

Peter Moynes photo

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

The harmonized sales tax has hurt tourism across the province, but the city’s largest tourism operator has passed under the governmental blight relatively unscathed, says the hill’s general manager.

Brian Cusack said Whitewater Ski Resort managed to minimize and nullify the larcenous effect of the HST on local skiers, absorbing much of the acidic effect of the tax increase last year, and raising annual season pass prices by only $10 this year.

But given the fact Whitewater had purchased and has now nearly installed the Glory Ridge chair lift, any increase in season passes is reflected in that capital cost, not the HST, said Cusack.

“We felt that we wanted to support the community and the HST was enough of an impact already so we kept that (season pass price) down,” he said.

The day pass ($57) remains the same as last season, with the season pass going from $700 to $710 ($580 to $590 for early bird passes).

Last year tourism at the hill was expected to dip but Whitewater didn’t see that at all, said Cusack. This year they have forecasted for a 10 per cent increase in skier visits.

“But it is my feeling that we are going to see more and we don’t know whether they will come on specific days, or they will be spread out over the year,” said Cusack.

B.C. Liberal Tourism Minister, Kevin Krueger, said the HST has hurt the tourism industry in BC. Krueger told media last week he would like to see an HST rebate for international tourists, saying “it just seems a very unnecessary barrier to be charging our visitors sales tax when we’re trying so hard to attract them here.”

This is a clear backtrack by the Liberals, said Bruce Ralston, New Democrat finance critic.

“The B.C. Liberal government has been saying that the HST will be good for British Columbia and good for tourism,” he said.

“Now he’s saying an exemption is required, which just goes to show that the B.C. Liberals should have consulted with business and consumers before … pushing through a significant tax change.”