Since first running for council in Whistler’s 2017 by-election, Dawn Titus has not only been a fairly regular face at council meetings, but to hear her tell it, something of a thorn in the side of the resort’s elected officials.
She still remembers hearing about a former official who apparently saw her as something of “a troublemaker” at municipal hall, a badge the 64-year-old wears with pride.
“I’m lucky; I can go into council and ask these tough questions,” Titus said.
The long-time local resident and former schoolteacher is throwing her hat into the ring once more ahead of this fall’s municipal election after narrowly missing out on a seat at the council table when Whistler took to the polls in 2018, earning 754 votes, only 59 votes behind Ralph Forsyth, who claimed the sixth and final council spot.
There remain plenty of tough questions to ask Whistler’s current council in Titus’ opinion, but the first on her mind is one that a lot of residents have been asking lately: “What are we doing to support local?” she said. “Because everybody is stressed.”
The main peg of Titus’ platform centres on affordable housing. In particular, she questioned the province’s recent decision to expand its housing speculation tax to six more B.C. communities, including Squamish, but not Whistler.
“That’s the first thing I think our local government needs to do; it needs to be speaking with the B.C. government and saying, ‘Hey, if anyone needs a speculation tax, it’s us,’” she said.
Given the proportion of private dwellings that sit vacant in the resort—according to the 2016 census, 61 per cent of all privately owned dwellings in Whistler are empty for at least three months of the year—Titus would support any initiative that would help incentivize homeowners to rent out their property to locals.
“What has been done in the last four years to incentivize, for instance, a new homeowner coming in, to maintain their suite and make sure it’s rented to a current employee, working in Whistler—and I’m not talking working remotely for Amazon,” she added.
Titus has also been a vocal critic of the 43-unit, mixed market-employee housing development slated for the shores of Nita Lake. She stressed she is fully in support of more employee housing—she lives in employee housing herself in Rainbow—but questioned a process that has moved the project forward every step of the way despite overwhelming public opposition.
“The Nita Lake public hearing—and there were two of them—was almost unanimous that the people they engaged … didn’t want to see what was happening over there,” Titus said.
If elected, the two-time council candidate said she would like to see a free locals’ parking pass introduced for residents, similar to what the District of Tofino already has in place.
“I don’t think we need free parking every day, anytime, anywhere. But let’s support the residents in some way. Residents are struggling,” she said. “The pay parking, correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think it’s done anything to decrease the incoming traffic to our community.”
Titus was also critical of council’s recent decision to increase officials’ yearly salaries: starting in 2023, councillors’ salaries will rise from $41,313 to $48,798, while the mayor’s salary will increase from $105,300 to $128,903. Titus said, if elected, she would challenge mayor and council to donate $5,000 from their pay to Whistler Community Services. “I don’t know anybody else who got a raise like that over the last four years and voted it in themselves without one iota of oversight,” Titus argued.
Titus did commend Whistler’s council for its recent push to measure and assign value to its natural assets through the work the RMOW is doing with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative, a process she’d like to build on further.
“Hallelujah to that,” she said. “We’ve got a long way to ensure that local natural assets like Alta Lake are protected—I’d love to see us pursue electric motors only on that lake.”
TItus is also an advocate for Whistler's senior community, noting she is "in full support of the Whistler Mature Action Community, a dedicated group advocating for Whistler seniors and creating opportunities for aging in place. It is crucial as a community that we strive towards supporting those who have been a foundation for Whistler for decades."
Learn more on Titus’ campaign Facebook page, “Dawn Titus for RMOW Councillor.”
Whistlerites head to the polls Oct. 15.