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MBOT Responds to New Tourism Bureau

 

Deputation to General Committee

City of Mississauga

on

Tourism Mississauga – New Tourism Corporation

by

Brad Butt, Vice-President,

Government & Stakeholder Relations

Mississauga Board of Trade

February 26, 2020

 

Good morning Mr. Chair and Members of Committee,

 

On behalf of the Mississauga Board of Trade I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address you today about the creation of a new Tourism Corporation for Mississauga.

 

Although we have waited quite some time for this day we are pleased to see this move forward but want to ensure this is done properly and effectively and to make sure that the stakeholders in the tourism sector are front and centre in any new Tourism Corporation.

 

We have had the opportunity to review the staff report with our hotel and other tourism sector members to seek their feedback and input into the recommendations and the use of the Municipal Accommodation Tax money which the City collects from Mississauga hotels and motels.

 

While we are supportive of the City establishing a Tourism Corporation we are concerned about the proposed set up and operation of such an entity as it is described in the staff report.

 

Tourism Corporations in Ontario are generally independent and arms-length from municipal government.  Although the municipality has a role in supporting the work of Tourism Corporations, they neither direct nor control the day to day operations of the Corporation.

 

In the report, the City of Mississauga is described as the sole shareholder of the Corporation which greatly concerns us.  Although the report does propose a Board of Directors and the day to day work therein, we are concerned that the independence of the Corporation may be overruled by the shareholder. 

This would not be in the rules or spirit of the regulations in the Provincial Statute and flies in the face of the operational mandate of organizations like Tourism Ottawa or Tourism Toronto which operate completely independent of the municipal government.

 

The report states that, “the affairs of Tourism Mississauga shall be managed by the board of directors. This includes:   Financial Oversight – develop a budget and allocation of resources; Program Planning– develop a business plan and/or strategic plan; Develop/Adopt Policies, Mission, Vision and Values and Performance Measurement and Monitoring.”  We support these important roles being implemented in the Board’s mandate.

 

The report further states, “Council will play a dual role in the operations of Tourism Mississauga.”  We believe this puts the City in a conflict of interest whereby the interests of an independent Tourism Corporation are being controlled inappropriately by City staff or City Council.  As Council is likely aware, the Municipal Accommodation Tax funds two separate streams.  One is the funding of the Tourism Corporation and the other is the discretionary fund over which Council does have direct control.

 

In this entire discussion, it is important to remember that this money is generated through a 4% tax on overnight accommodations and not property taxes.  The transparency and accountability for this money should be to the hotels that are charging and collecting this from their customers.  They are the most important stakeholders in the tourism sector.

 

The composition of the Board of Directors as described in the report does include two City Councillors on the Board of Directors, which we think is appropriate, as equal voting members.  The recommendations of other Board Members in the report is supportable although we would recommend that the members in the “other services/organizations/venues” be better defined to include the Mississauga Board of Trade, a Business Improvement Association representative, a convention centre representative and Square One as the four appointees.

 

The report calls for Council to appoint the first CEO of the organization.  We are of the view that this should be done by the Board of Directors after being appointed and not directed by Council.  It is appropriate that Council appoint an interim CEO to ensure the Corporation is properly established and able to operate.  Therefore, we would request that the appointment of the CEO be termed “interim” should Committee decide to approve the report today.  Also, the CEO should not have a “dual” role.  The CEO would report to the Board of Directors of the Tourism Corporation and not the City of Mississauga.  There will of course be regular interaction with City staff and Members of Council by the CEO and the Board of Directors.

 

Further, all staffing decisions should be made by the Board and not simply be City staff transferred over to the Tourism Corporation.  While current City staff may wish to apply for positions in the Tourism Corporation, the new CEO in consultation with the Board should decide any staff positions and budget for the Corporation.

 

It is certainly appropriate for the Tourism Corporation to report regularly to Council on its activities and submit an annual report and audited financial statements to the City.  Financial transparency and independence are critical to the Tourism Corporation being successful.

 

The bottom line is simply this.  Tourism Mississauga must be a fully independent, non-political Corporation that is operated by a stakeholder driven Board of Directors and accountable to the very sector funding its existence.  The City of Mississauga has a role to play as a partner in the success of the organization.  However, if today’s report does not conclusively state that Tourism Mississauga will be a fully independent Corporation then we cannot support it.

 

This report has not gone before the current Tourism Advisory Board for comment although it was circulated to the members only last Friday.

 

It may be appropriate to defer the report back, engage the stakeholders again and report back.

 

Thank you.

Brad Butt

Vice-President,
Government & Stakeholder Relations
Mississauga Board of Trade

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