Adding up Mount Sima’s value

I wish I could measure the total economic and social impact that Mount Sima has on the Yukon. If I could, you would agree that the city investing $200,000 in Mount Sima this year is a very good deal. 

COMMENTARY

By Kirsty Lerch

I wish I could measure the total economic and social impact that Mount Sima has on the Yukon. If I could, you would agree that the city investing $200,000 in Mount Sima this year is a very good deal.

I can’t measure this, but there is one thing I can measure. That’s me.

I am a physiotherapist with advanced training and specialized skills. I was recruited by Whitehorse General Hospital two years ago. Before this, my job was vacant for two years. No other physiotherapist in the territory currently does what I do.

Because I choose to live and work here, about 40 patients per year do not have to go south for treatment. By choosing to live and work here, I save the Yukon government a net $170,000 per year.

This is a very conservative number. Its only 30 per cent of my job. It doesn’t include the money I spend, the taxes I pay, the recreational facilities I support, or the value of people getting treatment here.

I lived in B.C. and Alberta before moving here. I have never lived more than a three-hour drive from a ski hill.

Mount Sima was the tipping point for me to choose to come here. I can work anywhere. I would not have considered Whitehorse if Mount Sima wasn’t here.

I love winter because I love to ski. And I want my kids to learn to ski, too.

The only reason I chose Whitehorse over other cities is because it could offer me a local ski hill.

Now, this is just me.

Is it possible, that of the 500 plus adults who have pledged support for the hill, there are 20 people like me? People who work in business, the professions, or skilled trades and have a similar economic impact as me? People who are passionate about skiing, boarding or paragliding, and make it a priority in their choices? People who want their city to support their choices, like other choices are supported?

Yukon has a doctor shortage. Three doctors sponsored newspaper ads for the Friends of Mount Sima in the last six weeks.

How much does the territory save in unnecessary emergency room visits by recruiting just one doctor? How much does it cost to lose one?

One of my ski buddies is a machinist, another is an engineer. They can choose to work anywhere. What economic value do they bring?

I challenge you to find any city in Canada about the size of Whitehorse that doesn’t have a ski hill within a three-hour drive. Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec currently support 178 ski hills.

Canada is a winter country. Whitehorse is a winter city. How will we compete to attract the skilled workforce we need if we don’t support winter recreation that is standard across Canada?

I am certain there are 20, in fact I’m confident I could find 100 people like me, who choose to live and work in Whitehorse, because of this ski hill.

That’s a minimum return of $3.4 million to $17 million on the city’s potential $200,000 investment, per year. These are very conservative numbers. They do not include the taxes these workers pay, the money they spend, or the social value of their jobs.

These numbers don’t include the benefits to local business, local jobs and tax revenue that Mount Sima itself generates. It also doesn’t include the value Mount Sima provides to us in terms of health and other social benefits.

We do not need the majority of taxpayers to support this hill. We just need 20 people, like me.

Please do not underestimate the value that Mount Sima brings to you.

Mount Sima could be the reason that your doctor, your electrician, your mechanic, your hairdresser, your local mining engineer, and your physiotherapist are here.

These people are not going to come, and they are not going to stay, if they can’t access winter amenities that are common elsewhere, or if they have to sacrifice their quality of life.

What would taxpayers say if they knew that this local hill is currently bringing an extra $3.5 million to $17 million in economic return to the Yukon every year? And that much of this is going to the City of Whitehorse?

If taxpayers knew this, I believe they would say that’s a great investment, and we should support that.

Kristy Lerch lives in Whitehorse.