Council candidate: Kim McKnight
Originally from Revelstoke, B.C., Kim McKnight grew up ski racing, eventually reaching the national development level. She moved to Whistler five years ago, after receiving a bachelors degree in physical education from the University of Calgary. A 28-year-old ski coach, she is single, a homeowner and making her first foray into politics.
Pique: Why do you want to be on council?
KM: There’s a great spirit in this community. A lot of people moved here with high hopes and desires. That’s fine to start with, but then they say ‘there’s an opportunity for me here to do something.’ That’s the kind of thing that I think a lot of people who have been here a long time hopefully won’t lose.
I have not been involved in politics, I’ll be completely honest about that. It’s been a definite learning experience. I’ve kind of stayed away from politics before but I feel strongly enough now that I want to get involved.
The biggest issue was the development starting here (she points out her window at the Nesters Hill housing project which she overlooks) and going through the public process itself, and just feeling that you really couldn’t make a difference or have an effective voice.
At the same time as this (Nesters Hill) the tourist accommodation issue was going on in council. I met a lot of people at those meetings trying to deal with tourist accommodation, the short-term rental issue. I know people who’ve lived here in different subdivisions who have done short-term rentals for 10 or 15 years, and all of a sudden now it’s outlawed and they’re the bad guys.
And then right after that they started the deal on the Emerald Forest, the swap with Intrawest. It’s great to save the Emerald Forest, I don’t think you could find one person who didn’t want that to happen, but I feel it just pits some people against others because of the swap.
You can’t look at anywhere in Whistler and think it will never be developed, but you look at our Official Community Plan and you look at the bylaws that are in place governing the land right now and you go well, ‘okay, this will direct development to be like this,’ and you get an idea and you’re totally willing to accept that. And yet when something comes up that is not even close to what the Official Community Plan had that land zoned as, you’re really caught off guard and a lot of people feel betrayed.
Pique: How would you do things differently?
KM: I would really like to see if there’s a way to reform the public process that made certain the people had their input, whether through a public facilitator, separate from the planning department, so that their ideas get voiced.
I think a lot of people just sort of sit back and feel ‘oh they’re dealing with these issues’ and then all of a sudden it’s voted through and people say ‘oh wait a minute, I thought they were going to deal with this first.’
Creekside is another one, where a lot of people have a problem with the all or nothing deal.
In respect to the people of Whistler who have put in their time, money, lives to the community — in respect to them, maybe we have to sit down and say ‘No. You want that, you take on the extra costs.’
Pique: What are the major issues facing the next council?
KM: The affordability issue. You look at a lot of our long-term residents, they make up a lot of the character of the town. They’re hitting retirement and all of a sudden their taxes are at $5,000-plus a year and they no longer qualify for the homeowner’s grant.
And you’ve got the families who moved here 10 years ago, and now they’re hitting the same problem. The way the taxes and all the extra costs are coming in in the valley, they’re no longer able to see that turning point: ‘when am I going to be able to save?’
And then you get the new employees in the last decade. Right now, a new affordable, entry-level home is quite unaffordable to most people.
And on top of that people can’t put as much money away because of all the extra costs. Which of course brings us to the pay parking. The transit is great, we have one of the best systems in all of B.C. But it’s also the nature of the place; most people will own a car.
So, affordability, pay parking and maintaining the integrity of neighbourhoods.
Pique: What do you think council can do as far as affordability?
KM: Well, limiting the extra costs. Definitely pay parking. I don’t think residents should have to pay.
Trying to reform taxes; I know it’s a provincial issue, but the municipality should be trying to at least start reform, possibly trying to increase the homeowner’s grant.
And the other thing is the Emerald sewer. I know the federal and provincial infrastructure grants aren’t there. Maybe looking at this $50 million we have... taking some of the capital we have and using it for the community.
Pique: Why should people vote for you?
KM: I am willing to work very hard. I’m going to be very honest with people; when I don’t know something I want to hear from people who’ve learned already. I know a lot of people are asking, well you don’t have a political background. No, but I’m intelligent and I would never say that I know what’s best for somebody else. I don’t see that I’m above any person in this community.
Everyone who’s lived here loves it, and why: it’s the spirit. There’s this thing in Whistler, there’s a belief that everyone can get out there and be part of it. The place is great, it’s amazing.
I want to work very hard to keep that here and keep the people here that make it that way. And I want to stay here too.