Tourism Vote Planned

Members of Tourism Vancouver will hold an extraordinary general meeting on December 6 at the Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina to vote on major governance changes. The board has recommended reducing the number of directors from 31 to 15. If the changes are approved, the City of Vancouver will no longer appoint a city councillor to the board, and the president and CEO, Rick Antonson, will cease to be a director.

The proposed changes also stipulate that the treasurer must be "financially literate". The hotel and accommodation sector would retain four seats on the board, three directors would be elected at large, and various other industries--such as "restaurant and nightlife", "arts, cultural festival and events", and "visitor activities and retail"--would each appoint one director.

Last June, Elizabeth Watson, executive director of board resourcing and development in the premier's office, discussed corporate-governance practices with the board of Tourism Vancouver. Her PowerPoint presentation emphasized the importance of directors exercising a "duty of care" to the members, disclosing conflicts of interest, and abstaining from discussions and voting whenever there is a material connection to the issue.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Liberal government quietly passed the Vancouver Tourism Enabling Act. It gives provincial cabinet the power to order Vancouver "tourism businesses" belonging to a "specified class" to pay a "levy" to Tourism Vancouver. This can only occur under the law, however, if Tourism Vancouver "advises" the government that businesses in each class "have agreed by a democratic process" to support the levy.

Tourism Vancouver will be responsible for collecting the money and administering a "Tourism Development Fund". Tourism-industry officials have already agreed to contribute $90 million toward the capital costs of the $565-million expansion of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre. However, as the Straight reported in 2002, if Tourism Vancouver paid the levy from its own budget, which mostly comes from a two-percent Vancouver hotel-room tax, there would be very little money left for marketing and for paying its staff.