The race for Whistler’s six council seats is beginning to heat up ahead of the official nomination period opening on Aug. 30.
Whistler local Brendan Ladner, 42, is the latest to announce his intention to run for council in the Oct. 15 municipal election.
Ladner’s main campaign slogan is to create a “skiable future” for Whistler with a platform focused on lowering greenhouse gas emissions, building adequate housing and bringing a younger point of view to the council table.
“A skiable future is a future where we have snow on the hills and happy people to work in the resort, so that we can ski, and future generations can continue to enjoy the amazing skiing we have here,” Ladner said.
Ladner visited Whistler often as a child, and following university (where he studied urban planning), lived in the resort for five years before moving to Vancouver to launch the healthy fast food business, SMAK.
“At one point, we had 45 employees and three restaurants,” he said.
“We served 1.1 million customers over almost nine years of doing SMAK. So it was successful. It was just an unbelievable experience, but because of COVID and the pandemic, we shut it down.”
The pandemic encouraged Ladner and his family to close their businesses in Vancouver and fulfil a lifelong dream of moving back to Whistler, where they have lived for the last two years.
Since then, Ladner and his wife Amanda have launched a local climate advocacy group (Smart Whistler) and been a regular fixture at council meetings.
Ladner’s top priority is environmental action, as he believes the current Whistler council lacks a sense of urgency to deal with climate change and rising emissions in the municipality.
“When the council first announced the Big Moves Strategy, I was excited by the target and thought, ‘wow, this is incredible.’ Then they announced a budget involving no municipal funding to lower emissions. A year later, we got an update, and things aren’t looking good on emissions,” Ladner said.
“Whistler has been on the right track, historically, but due to a lack of leadership at council, we have fallen behind, and we’ve spent the last decade falling further and further behind many other jurisdictions.”
Ladner believes Whistler’s municipal government can substantially reduce emissions through transportation, land-use and building policies.
“The reason I’m running at the municipal level is because I believe that this is the level we can have the most impact on lowering emissions and planning for a skiable future,” he said.
Regarding the housing crisis, Ladner believes the RMOW needs to implement its Official Community Plan to create more dense, walkable neighbourhoods in Whistler to achieve the municipality’s housing, quality of life, and emission targets.
“We’re on a trajectory to continue to stifle business in town due to lack of housing, and most crucially, the imagination among the leadership of this current council is so limited in scope that we haven’t even come close to exploring all of the options that are available to us,” he said.
“This next council will need the courage, leadership and imagination to tackle this issue in a meaningful way. Without it, we don’t have a skiable future. We don’t have enough people to work the lifts. We don’t have enough people to run the restaurants.”
As a result, the Whistler guest experience is stifled, businesses are constrained, and workers are burned out, Ladner said.
“I’m not a big fan of thinking that Whistler is exceptional—that Whistler is different from other places, and therefore we can’t learn or implement what other places have done,” he said.
“I think we’re much better off looking at best practices from all around the world and then using those best ideas and implementing them here.”
The nomination period runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9, with the official campaign period taking place between Sept. 17 and Oct. 15.
You can keep up with Ladner’s campaign at brendanladner.ca.