TSL executive accuses city of issuing ultimatum over accommodation tax agreement

Mark Perrin - July 14/20 (Photo via community Zoom news conference)

The executive director of Tourism Sarnia-Lambton (TSL) has accused the City of Sarnia of issuing an ultimatum when negotiating part of the municipal accommodation tax (MAT) agreement.

While presenting an update on TSL activities to Sarnia council Monday, Mark Perrin expressed frustration.

“On November 10, 2020, after asking how MAT was going in the first quarter of collecting, city staff sent TSL a draft financial accountability agreement, which was actually London’s agreement word-for-word, however the Tourism Sarnia-Lambton and Tourism London organizations are set up completely different,” Perrin said.

Since then, Perrin alleges, TSL staff and its board of directors have been unable to come to terms with the city.

“During the process, TSL has endured some threats from the city, asking them to sign the agreement or else, which isn’t the way we like to work together in a partnership,” Perrin said.

After he made the comment, acting mayor Brian White interjected, consulted the city’s legal department, and asked Perrin to refrain from discussing negotiations or sensitive information.

Perrin concluded by saying the goal of his presentation was to make council aware of the situation, noting the municipal accommodation tax agreement is county-wide and the Village of Point Edward has already entered into it.

“We’re seeking a motion to accept the presentation and direct staff to do a fair agreement.”

Guests staying at Sarnia’s hotels and motels started paying a four percent tax on accommodations July 1, 2020, while it has been charged since January 1, 2020 in Point Edward.

Negotiation for a user-based fee, on all accommodations where people stay for less than 30 days including Airbnb’s and cottage rentals, were still underway with Lambton Shores.

Early in his presentation, Perrin shared that the Discover Sarnia-Lambton voucher rewards program, launched in 2020 with MAT funding from Point Edward, created an estimated $6.3 million in economic impact in Lambton County.

“From this, 55.7 per cent of the vouchers redeemed, were redeemed at businesses in the city of Sarnia, which created an estimated $3.5 million dollars in economic impact for the city.”