Council candidate: Stephane Perron
Stephane Perron left Kingston, Ontario in 1986 with a business administration and marketing diploma in his pocket. He was heading for Vancouver but a trip up Highway 99 to a place he had heard about, Whistler, changed his life. "I took a little drive up the Howe Sound and discovered this magnificent place and never left," says Perron. "The very first fellow I met on the way, a hitchhiker, is still my best friend."
Perron has made a living Whistler-style. He worked for Whistler Mountain in various departments including guest relations, ski school and volunteer ski patrol. He has dabbled in the hospitality and restaurant industry and worked in construction as a labourer and drywaller. Perron was one of the first in the community to start an eco-tourism business, in 1988, doing backcountry tours and nature walks. His business expanded to include a tourism charter service from the Vancouver airport in the winters. He has sold his business. "I don’t feel unemployed because I am pretty busy but I don’t actually have a paying job right now."
It was the construction of the Green Lakes golf course that became a pivotal point for Perron. "That really irked me. That prompted me to join AWARE in 1994. I guess coming out West changed me in a lot of ways. Living in Whistler and hiking in the mountains, mountaineering, my life took a focus toward enjoying the natural world." He was a director with AWARE before becoming vice president in 1996. The following year he was elected president of the environmental group.
Perron was also a community advisor for Whistler’s environmental strategy and a member of the Black Bear Task Team. He is a member of the Whistler’s Fisheries Stewardship Group and the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua regional advisory committee.
Pique: Why are you running for council?
Perron: I want to be on council because I feel there is still a lot of work to be done on the environmental front, especially as we are reaching buildout. The pressure to keep increasing the size of the resort will be immense on many fronts. The bulk of my campaign is keeping Whistler a liveable community beyond buildout. That probably summarizes my campaign — liveability and sustainability.
Pique: How would council have been different with you on board?
Perron: I am actually relatively happy with this council. I have been here 13 years and I have seen a few councils go through. I think that if I had been on council, for instance, we might have moved ahead faster on the Emerald Forest deal and it might not have cost so much in the sense I think if we had moved earlier on the issue we might have been able to buy it outright. But, because the issue was dragged on and because there were, from what I understand, too many opposing views within council as to how to approach the situation, it eventually ended up costing us what it did, which nobody is really happy with.
This council has made progress with employee housing. They have supported community groups. I think youth issues need more attention and our ageing population as well.
The tourism accommodation issue is a job left undone in my opinion. It needs to be revisited. I don’t think anybody is happy with the situation. That needs to be addressed. I know the planning department worked really hard on providing council with options. I can’t say if I would have gone for licensing or blanket rezoning to allow people to rent on a short-term basis. I don’t have the solution but leaving it as it is not adequate.
Pique: What are the important issues the next council has to deal with?
Perron: Buildout. It is one of the central points in my campaign. The community is facing buildout and achieving sustainability is the underlying tone of my campaign. We know that to reach sustainability we need a strong community. We need to be strong economically and we need to be strong environmentally. One of the biggest problems facing us at buildout is the fall in municipal revenues. I am quite concerned about funding for the municipality as we reach buildout. I know the municipality, this council, has looked into that but I think the next council has to stay really focused on that especially finding new ways of funding municipal services as we move away from works and services charges. Without money, we can’t do much for the environment and the community. These things are an important part of the triangle.
I am very supportive of the Stoltmann initiative. When I look in the long term what the future is for our forests, I think we have got a serious management issue coming up. It’s not now, but 50 years down the line when we look at our landscape and the great majority of the old growth forest will have been harvested. I think the opportunity to preserve ecosystems will be gone and I think we have the opportunity now to protect working wilderness, working ecosystems.
I am supportive of a national park but I have to qualify that. I am in favour of any form of protection for that area with ecological values being out at the forefront. The Forest Practices Code doesn’t offer adequate protection If the Forest Practices Code can’t do it, if the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations are not interested in a tribal park and if the provincial government can’t afford it, then the only option is to create a national park in the Stoltmann area. It may not be my best choice but it seems to be the only choice available. Any kind of tourism use of the area that will have negative effects on those things is not acceptable but I would favour eco-tourism uses that do not diminish the ecological integrity of that area.
Pique: Why should people vote for you?
Perron: I think, as I said, a financial squeeze will come on the municipality as we reach buildout and I think it is very important that we stay focused. Usually with a fall in revenues, the first things that go are environmental initiatives and community initiatives. I think it is important to stay strong and focused on those things and to make sure that we find adequate funding sources.