Letters to the editor for the week of December 20th 

Slide for Hunger says thanks

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On December 10 the Whistler Sliding Centre welcomed almost 300 guests to the facility for "Fast Food: Skeleton Slide for Hunger." Through the overwhelming support of the community, we were able to come incredibly close to our goal of $15,000 for the Sea to Sky community food banks at a time of great need.

I would like to thank the community for its enthusiastic participation in the event; the incredible volunteer and sponsor contributions; and our dedicated staff. The Sliding Centre dedicated an entire day of operations to this event and each and every staff member went above and beyond to deliver a safe and fun experience for all the participants.

This event raised money for a great cause, and it also allowed the community to experience the facility firsthand, increasing awareness of sliding sports.

All of us at the Whistler Sliding Centre welcome the community to the venue for our public bobsleigh and skeleton programs, and we encourage you to follow sliding sport athletes training in our backyard...especially as we approach the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games!

Thank you again to everyone involved in the planning and execution of this event, and all those who participated. The event could not have been a success without you. Look forward to seeing you again next year!

Tracy Seitz

Director, Whistler Sliding Centre

Where's George?

If you rode a ski lift or walked through the village in the last 15 years, you probably met up with George Huxtable.

About to turn 94, George has been a frequent-flyer on the mountain and in the village forever. Maybe you shared a gondola ride and listened to a few of his Whistler stories? Perhaps you bumped into him wandering around town, sharing his photos of flying gliders in Pemberton? Always happy, always moving.

After 85 ski seasons, father hung up the boards a few years ago, but still rode the gondola daily to hold court in one of his favourite spots, the Roundhouse.

Still happy and quick with his version of local and world history, George is now residing at the Hilltop House in Squamish.

Many of you have asked about George and I encourage you to stop in and visit him. The Hilltop House is a wonderful facility just off the highway beside the Squamish Hospital.

Be prepared to be entertained. Season's Greetings from the Huxtable family.

Gordon HuxtableWhistler

Not Being Able to See the Forest for the Trees

Ernst&Young has agreed to settle for $117 million a class action lawsuit when faced with allegations of wrongdoing by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) regarding their audits of Sino-Forest, which resulted in $6 billion of investor loses in the largest Ponzi Scheme in Canadian history. Much of the OSC's case rested on the auditors' inadequate assessment of the forestry assets of Sino-Forest — a Canadian company harvesting forests in China.

Internal emails, according to the OSC, ran like this "how do we know that the trees that the forestry consultant identified are actually trees owned by the Company —i.e.: could they show us trees anywhere and we would not know the difference?" Another auditor replied, "I believe they could show us trees anywhere and we would not know the difference." With such evidence the OSC proceeded with only its third accusation of an Audit firm in its history.

Why is any of this of interest to Whistler? Ernest &Young just happens to be our municipal auditors. Not for a moment am I suggesting there could be a problem here but I am worried that auditing can trick us into believing one thing when reality might be something else.

At times auditing can miss the true liabilities of a client's balance sheet as it concentrates on minutiae, which is irrelevant in the total picture.

For example, is the time that municipal employees have accumulated with sick days not taken but accumulated as a future benefit recorded on the balance sheet? Are we providing adequately for the depreciation of the $400 million in assets our muni apparently has in its pocket? And most importantly, what happens if the assets of the pension fund of the municipal employees are unable to support the promised benefits?

The Fund must return six per cent plus per annum to meet its obligations, however, with equity markets stagnant and interest rates at record lows twinned with the fact that retirees are living a lot longer than originally anticipated, most pension funds are falling far short of their obligations.

An explanation is in order. Government employees receive their pensions based on years of service and salary levels of their best years near the end of their term of employment. This is called a defined benefit plan. Actuarial assumptions assumed these plans would earn at least six per cent plus per annum, however, financial markets have not been as kind as the assumptions and most plans are deeply in the red. Corporate Canada has reacted by closing such plans to new employees and showing their deficits publicly.

So how can the Canadian governments continue to offer this largesse to their employees?

It's simple, to-date they have ignored the massive costs, which will be forced upon you as taxpayers when the chickens come home to roost. Their books are about as opaque as Sino-Forest's when one considers the reality of the future possible costs which they have taken on our behalf. Greece collapses and California municipalities go to the wall with very serious consequences and primarily due to overly generous pension plans.

So dear taxpayer please educate yourself on this boondoggle that our politicians have been on in order to acquiesce government employees aided by their auditors who are not acknowledging the problem. Otherwise we will be stripped as cleanly as Sino Forest shareholders have been.

Lennox McNeely

Whistler

Norway's lessons

I would like to comment on Bruce Kay's letter to the editor (Pique Dec. 13, "Global Warning – Our Defining Issue") which he wrote in response to my letter (Pique Dec. 6, "Innergex's Upper Lillooet Hydro Project" ). His assertion that Innergex's Upper Lillooet river diversion project would have "little significant impact both visually or ecologically" seems to reflect a common misconception that river diversion projects have a low environmental impact.   

There is a growing body of science that shows the environmental damage that river diversion projects cause to fish and other wildlife as well as to their habitat. I urge readers to read Watershed Watch Salmon Society's excellent report on river diversion projects in British Columbia (http://www.watershed-watch.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/TamedRivers-Web.pdf).

This report highlights the problems generated by river diversion projects in Norway. River diversion projects supply 99 per cent of the country's electricity and are "the most widespread cause of problems for salmon in Norway, affecting more wild Atlantic salmon stocks than any other human-related cause, including ocean harvesting, sea lice and other parasites, acid rain, and other forms of habitat destruction." Norway is even considering removing some river diversion projects to prevent further extinction of salmon populations. These lessons learned from Norway should serve as a wake-up call to B.C.

Documentation produced by the environmental assessment process of Innergex's Upper Lillooet river diversion project shows that both the provincial government and Innergex recognize that the project will have an enormous impact on fish (bull trout, cutthroat trout and coho), grizzly bears, mountain goats, pacific tailed frogs and wolverines as well as on their habitat. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations expressly stated that the project's impacts on grizzly bears cannot be "meaningfully mitigated."

Innergex naturally argues that most of its project's impacts can be mitigated and/or compensated, including through such "measures" as imposing a maximum speed limit of 50 km to "prevent" traffic accidents with grizzly bears, and the use of blasting mats to "reduce noise" when blasting, which particularly affects wolverines. Innergex also proposes to "mitigate" the direct effects its project would have on a mountain goat winter forage area in a legally designated Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) by seeking to remove the affected area from this legally designated UWR and to swap it with appropriate replacement habitat. I hope the mountain goats get the memo on time.Another so-called mitigation measure is to have an independent environmental monitor on site during the construction phase. Given that such a monitor would be paid by Innergex, her/his independence is highly questionable. I do not understand how the monitoring of known destruction to wildlife and their habitat is supposed to serve as a mitigation measure, especially given that Innergex has a history of non-compliance with flow management regulations?     I hope that the Honorable Minister of Environment, Terry Lake, and the Honorable Minister of Energy, Natural Gas, Rich Coleman, take the very substantial concerns expressed by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations as well as the Department of Fisheries and BC Parks into account and hence do not issue an environmental certificate for Innergex's Upper Lillooet river diversion project.

Louise Taylor Pemberton

Thanks from WASP

Whistler Adaptive Sport Program (WASP) volunteers and staff engaged in a very intense training program designed to update and improve their expertise when teaching the Cognitively Disabled. This group of learners now constitutes 65 per cent of our clients!

The four days of workshops included presentations by medical experts, speech pathologists, special education teachers, representatives from Special Olympics, the RCMP and even a guest PMTS ski instructor from the U.S. This training program is thought to be the first of its kind in Canada and our instructors came away feeling much more informed and confident to work with the 15 disabilities that were presented.

All the presentations were professionally videoed so that this information can be available to train new people who volunteer in our program in the future.

All of the 12 resource experts and the six videographers volunteered their time and talents to make this project a reality. WASP would very much like to thank them for their support and their belief in the benefit our program has to this group of disabled individuals.

We would like to acknowledge the following people: Doctors Vera Frinton and Michael Jones, Lindsay Willms, Colin Worth, Harald Harb, Patty Wheeldon, Susan Fawcett and Jill Petersen. These people all did two-hour presentations and in some cases did more that one lecture. The calibre of their presentations was outstanding. On the hill assistance was given by Wylie Buchanan and Sietse Breedijk and off-hill assistance was given by Hazel Boyd and Bridget Daley.

Our videography team consisted of Rebecca Wood Barrett who so kindly coordinated the video team and her assistant Mike Bruno both of R/Town Communication; Stephen McVeigh, Peter Bailey and Matt West. A special thank you also goes to Ian Dunsmore of Shaw TV who loaned us a camera that enabled us to record consistent high quality sound and image. Jaime Kerrigan of Watermark was also very helpful publicizing our need for videographers.

WASP 's Executive Director, Chelsey Walker, and our Ski and Snowboard Program Manager, John Brown (WB), are also thanked for their assistance in this project.

We would also like to give a special thanks to Whistler Delta Suites for their continued support of our program and their kindness in allowing our workshops to be held gratis in their conference centre. The Delta staff was most gracious in attending to our every need.

Thanks also goes to the Abercrombie Foundation for its financial support of this invaluable training program for WASP'S instructors.

All of the above individuals and organizations have my greatest appreciation. Without your support this project would never have been possible.

Jennifer Erickson

Whistler Adaptive Sports Program

Volunteer and Member of the Board

No bus service at the end of the Rainbow

I have been living in Whistler since 2009 and I've always praised the Whistler Transit system except for in the winter!

This summer I moved to Rainbow and had no problems with the bus service all summer and fall. Then the new winter schedule came out on Dec. 13 and I was left wondering what happened to all the stops in Rainbow? I have two jobs, both in Creekside, and I take the bus seven days a week. Now, if I work at 7 a.m. I'll have to get up extra early and catch the 5:27 a.m. bus instead of the 6:02 I used to get or I'll have to walk to Alpine to catch the bus!

To me it seems like the spring to fall schedules were a lot more frequent then the new winter one and you'd think that it would be the other way around — seeing as that in the winter people aren't using as many different modes of transportation such as bikes, motorbikes, skateboards, etc. I just find the bus to be very inconvenient now and it makes me want to start looking at getting a car.

It doesn't stop at the lack of buses that come to Rainbow either! The buses are always over crowded, full (just drive right past you), late, or don't show up at all! I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one out there with issues concerning the winter schedule.  

Please address these issues to the best of your abilities or you will lose a commuter and gain another polluting vehicle on the roads of Whistler.

Shain EmpeyWhistler

Upper Lillooet power project

A 72-kilometre power line, (where none now exists) and a 69-metre, by 23-metre concrete powerhouse on the left bank of the Lillooet River, not to mention the miles of pipes, roads, clear cuts etc, will most certainly have significant impact both visually and ecologically.

Those who do not agree have either never been in our lovely Pemberton valley or they consider concrete and power lines to be things of beauty.

"Water flow" certainly is a "significant issue," and from the countless documented fish kills in other rivers with power projects, here and in Squamish, management and oversight is definitely "woefully lacking."

Can we afford to squander our creeks and rivers, not to mention our precious backcountry, leaving them in the hands of powerful companies and a weak government?

Jennie and Jeanette Helmer

Pemberton

Reflections oN Peace in 2012

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the community members, sponsors and volunteers who have been involved in the peaceful adventures of growing the Whistler Week of Peace Celebrations in 2012.

Peace begins within each of us and in September 2010 we began the goals of shedding light, encouragement, sharing and freeing the spirit within all of us through the celebrations of peace.

Over the past three years we have grown together with the community by sharing in these experiences and the gifts of peace, the following activities are just a few of the treasures we have enjoyed: We began by listening to our grandmothers speak of reconciliation and sharing their indigenous ways, we have drummed to a unified heart beat and meditated our way to peace of mind. We continue to light the World Peace Flame in the Whistler Olympic Plaza each year and rejoice with our local Whistler Children's Chorus and Whistler Singers to spread the sounds of peace. Some won a day of peace and others had the chance to speak their peace. We have raised funds for local groups in need and for global areas in crisis. We invited guests in harmony to share how they Peace it Together so we may begin to learn the Art of Peace, through film, workshops, arts, culture and communications.

The work of peace is a global effort and every positive celebration in the area is a step forward, we are very happy that our energy of peace is spilling over into other communities in the Sea to Sky corridor.

This year, our Mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, and Council graciously recognized the United Nations International Day of Peace September 21 and have proclaimed the week of peace in Whistler, September 21 to September 27. We are very excited and grateful for this beautiful opportunity to bring more awareness, hope and the opportunity for people to get involved in future celebrations to make a difference in their own lives, families, schools, workplaces, communities and the world.

One of the greatest gifts of peace is to reach out to assist another. We are very appreciative to the FE&A committee for their consideration of the Whistler Week of Peace Celebration for augmentation in 2013. I would like to personally thank Bob Andrea, Jan Jansen, John Rae and others at the RMOW for their patience, kindness and sharing of their knowledge as we learn the processes involved.

We look forward to bringing the world to Whistler to unite in the spirit of Peace in 2013!

Caterina Alberti

Director and Founder, Whistler Week of Peace

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