First-term Whistler Councillor Arthur De Jong isn’t done yet.
Feeling he hasn’t accomplished all he set out to, the self-proclaimed “rookie” of Whistler council will seek a second term in this fall’s municipal election.
“I had the privilege of being the rookie councillor last term, and learned greatly from my fellow, more experienced, councillors and staff, and so I feel like I’m a bit of a bridge this year,” De Jong said.
“I can carry some of the experiences I learned from the councillors leaving, like Duane (Jackson) and John (Grills), whom I have huge respect for. We worked tight as a team.”
De Jong, 62, was first elected in 2018, and has been a staple in local mountain and environmental circles for decades, serving 42 years as a ski patroller and later environmental consultant with Whistler Blackcomb.
As he did in 2018, De Jong is focusing his campaign on his “Five Ws”: Wildfire, Weather, Wildlands, Wellness and Whistler.
“With wildfires, I keep saying this, the most sustainable thing you can do is not lose our town to a wildfire. This is by far the No. 1 issue for me, and how do we do that? We need more community education, and we need to push for more funding from all levels of government,” he said.
“We are a cash cow to the provincial and federal government, and we need to ask for more money back to protect our important assets.”
To address the weather/climate change, De Jong believes the municipality needs to work harder to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and said he is committed to not voting in favour of any new developments if they use natural gas.
“A lot of our emissions come from commercial buildings,” he said. “It’s very high. It was at 24 per cent of our emissions. So I will not support any new commercial buildings that use natural gas, and that line is in the sand.”
To lower the community’s emissions, De Jong believes the municipality needs to continue working on becoming a bike- and e-bike-friendly community and getting people out of single-occupancy vehicles and onto transit.
“I often refer to Copenhagen or Amsterdam, and I think our community ... especially with the growth of e-bikes, we can do much more to stay out of our cars,” he said.
As it relates to wildlands, De Jong wants the Resort Municipality of Whistler to completely ban any form of commercial logging within the municipality’s boundaries, with an exception for First Nations logging operations.
On wellness, De Jong’s focus is on improving affordable housing, health-care, childcare, and affordability.
“In general, this is a really tough one, because we don’t have the budget authority to make these problems just go away,” he said. “I learned through the first term that it’s a ground game, and as a councillor, we must fight for every gain we can make with these issues.”
De Jong’s final point, Whistler, is a general reference to the work of the Balance Model Initiative and projections of “unconstrained growth” that predict thousands of new residents and visitors—and all the related pressures that will come with that—if no actions are taken.
For his money, De Jong still believes in the efficacy of the municipality’s bed unit cap.
“I believe that we are built out,” he said. “I do not support any additional beds to our cap except for employee housing.”
The nomination period runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9, with the official campaign period taking place between Sept. 17 and Oct. 15.