In recent years tourism has been one of the primary drivers of our local Comox Valley economy.
It brings in $82 million annually. Taxpayers have helped it out. About $22 million has gone into the expansion of our airport, in large part to attract and accommodate tourists. Another $4 million has been spent on a brand new visitors’ centre.
At present Courtenay council is considering a tourist hotel room tax to promote tourism. It is supported by the majority of hotel owners— and for good reason. Ministry of Labour figures show that in recent years there has been a steady increase in tourism and 43.5 per cent of the rooms in the region are occupied by tourists.
Increased tourism is especially important to small businesses in the downtown core areas. Many of them are struggling with a difficult economy. With the development of box stores and outlying shopping malls they have enough to contend with.
But looming on the horizon is another obstacle — the proposed Raven and Bear Coal Mines and a third potential Anderson Lake mine at the foot of Mount Washington.
Recently the town of Whistler came out against the Enbridge Pipeline. People wondered why. The tankers coming out of Kitimat seem so far away.
Small business owners in the town have spent millions of dollars over the years developing an international clientele. They know that even the hint of an oil spill on the beautiful shores of Super Natural British Columbia could send tourists elsewhere.
Tourists come to the Comox Valley because of its spectacular beauty. Recently, Travel and Leisure Magazine named Vancouver Island the top Island in the continental U.S. and Canada — a getaway paradise close to home.
Our small businesses in the Comox Valley depend upon our valley staying that way. So do the folks working in those sustainable tourist-related businesses.
With the possibility of three new mines turning the valley into an industrial Appalachia North, is it logical to spend all that money and energy on tourism and, at the same time, allow the development of coal mines? They are simply not consistent with the vision that many of us, the tourist industry and the tourists have of the Comox Valley.
It’s all a matter of common sense. Isn’t it time for our common sense politicians to step up to the plate and tell the decision-makers in Victoria that coal mines are not consistent with our vision of a beautiful and sustainable Comox Valley?