Northeast Town council votes against bolstering MTA funds

LITTLE CURRENT—The Northeast Town council voted to not contribute to the new Manitoulin Tourism Association (MTA) Premium Partnership Package at a cost of $1,500, citing that they already contribute to the operation of the MTA through the building committee at a cost of $9,600.

MTA Director of Operations Shelba Millette made a presentation to the Northeast Town council last month requesting that the Northeast Town buy into the new MTA Premium Partnership Package for $1,500. Ms. Millete explained that the cost is $3,500 a year, but that since the Northeast Town has already set and approved its budget for 2017, she was only asking that they contribute $1,500 toward advertising in the new annual MTA membership-owned Island-wide traveller’s guide.

“Almost all of the other municipalities and bands have already bought in,” explained Ms. Millette. “We also plan to have an Island-wide tourism steering committing.”

Under the $3,500 annual membership, Ms. Millette explained: $1,000 will go towards distributing the Island-wide traveller’s guide, brochures and promotional material at one industry trade show per year; $1,500 will pay for a one full-page, full colour advertisement for the municipality/band in the traveller’s guide, which will be on and offline and include a 25,000 print run with additional short print runs on demand; $500 will be used towards the MTA website featuring a visible homepage link for the municipality/band, corporate advertisement and year-round calendar event listings; $250 for the municipality/band website advertisement/address listing on the year-round Manitoulin Welcome Centre outdoor backlit sign in Little Current; MTA staff/volunteer visitor marketing including referral/direct marketing customer services at the Manitoulin Welcome Centre (one-on-one customer service, phone, emails and ground mail-outs), which will be based on specific communities audited percentage of staff direct marketing and promotion/referral services except for municipalities, townships and bands who pay into the building committee (such as the Northeast Town); $125 to access the MTA DM (data mining) year-round stats and reports; $135 for the full use of the MTA Island-wide continuously growing professional photo bank; and a free bonus ($500 value) of a display poster in the high-traffic information booth areas for community events.

Mayor MacNevin said he was confused by Ms. Millette stating that the majority of municipalities had committed, because he was only aware of Gore Bay buying into the new package so far based on discussions with other Island mayors and reeves following a recent Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) meeting.

“It is out of range to consider being a part of this?” questioned Ms. Millette. “Why are you challenging this?”

“We get approached by a number of organizations asking for funding,” said Mayor MacNevin.

Ms. Millette said that she didn’t like the MTA getting looped in with not-for-profits,  adding that the MTA is about sustainable tourism for the entire Island.

Mayor MacNevin referenced an email in which she stated that the majority of Island municipalities had bought into the new plan. Ms. Millette asked for the email to be read aloud and then explained that some councils hadn’t passed official motions, but that she had conversations with those municipalities’ economic development officers or other staff members who had said they would support the new package/plan.

“I feel like you are calling me a liar,” said Ms. Millette to Mayor MacNevin. “A lot of municipalities have committed to the guide.”

“We are doing this,” she added. “We have had enough negativity—if you want to be a part of it and be positive, great. If not, if you want to be negative, you can stay where you are. We really hope you want to be a part of this.”

Mayor MacNevin thanked Ms. Millette for her presentation and explain that council’s policy with deputations is to not make a decision until the following council meeting.

At its last meeting, council revisited contributing to the MTA partnership package.

Mayor MacNevin explained that since the budget was already set, the $1,500 would have to come from the working capital reserve. He also noted that the MTA was asking for $1,500 this year, to be included in the tourism magazine the MTA was developing, but that they were hoping for a $3,500 annual contribution moving forward.

Councillor Michael Erskine asked staff how much the municipality already contributed to the MTA. Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson explained that the municipality contributes to the operation of the MTA through the building committee at an annual cost of $9,600.

“I’m concerned that other municipalities aren’t buying into this,” said Councillor Bill Koehler.

“There seems to be a difference of opinion between Shelba and myself/town staff,” responded Mayor MacNevin. “I got my information from the MMA meeting. I understand that Gore Bay has committed to some degree and that Tehkummah is agreeing to buy an advertisement in the traveller’s guide.”

Councillor Marcel Gauthier said he spoke with MTA treasurer Stan Ferguson. “I have a lot of respect for Stan,” said Councillor Gauthier. “We can’t wait for the other municipalities. I think that $1,500 isn’t that out of line, and I will support contributing towards the traveller’s guide.”

Councillor Paul Skippen said he agreed.

Mayor MacNevin asked Mr. Williamson what the municipality current does for advertising.

Mr. Williamson responded that the town advertises in two traveller’s guide/tourism magazines, This in Manitoulin and Manitoulin’s Magazine through an advertising package with Manitoulin Publishing Co. Ltd.

He also said the town attends outdoor shows such as the Garson Sportsmen Show recently.

“We invest heavily into tourism marketing,” said Mr. Williamson. “We do this early in the year, making our commitments at the beginning of the year.”

“My understanding is that the MTA is designed to promote the interest of Manitoulin,” said Councillor Erskine. “We support through the building costs and the resort owners kicked in the rest. All of a sudden this is changing and municipalities are being asked to kick in more.”

“I was very disappointed when I asked presenter (Ms. Millette) about the majority of the municipalities buying into this package (at the last council meeting) and she got upset and asked me if I was calling her a liar,” the mayor said. “It doesn’t leave me with a good feeling going forward. I won’t be supporting the motion (to contribute $1,500 to the MTA traveller’s guide). I’m not confident in the person wheeling the helm,” he said of Ms. Millette.

“Ms. Millette seemed to expect to be commended on doing her job,” added Councillor Melissa Peters. “I wasn’t clear on the purpose of the $1,500 during her presentation.”

Councillor Gauthier requested a recorded vote. The motion was defeated with Councillors Laurie Cook, Michael Erskine, Melissa Peters, Bruce Wood and Mayor MacNevin voting against the motion to contribute $1,500 to the MTA, while Councillors Marcel Gauthier and Paul Skippen voted in favor of the motion.