Some political analysts—including one Pique spoke with last week—have opined that, just two years since Canadians last went to the polls, there isn’t a dominant narrative to the federal election campaign.
Incumbent Liberal candidate Patrick Weiler disagrees with that notion, arguing that the narrative going into the Sept. 20 election centres firmly on getting out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a very different world in 2021 than it was in 2019. The type of policies we’ve had to bring in over the course of the last two years were unique and they weren’t measures that people necessarily voted on, the electorate,” he said. “So this is giving people a voice in how we’re going to be able to move forward given we’re in a very, very different Canada today than we were in the last election.”
As they pertain to Whistler, the issues top of mind for most are the same that have persisted here for years: tourism, labour, housing and affordability. And with the pandemic only adding further urgency to those challenges, Weiler believes any progress to be made has to first start with getting more people vaccinated.
“That is the best economic strategy that we can have because if we don’t, then we’ll see mutations of the virus and we’ll be in a situation where we do have to lock down [and] put restrictions on businesses again,” he said. “That’s the thing that will hurt the tourism industry the most, so that’s what I see as first and foremost the most important. Likewise, it makes it easier for us to also open up to international visitation as well if we have herd immunity.”
Weiler noted how he continues to hear from businesses both in the Sea to Sky and beyond about the growing difficulty of hiring staff, particularly without the usual influx of temporary foreign workers and working holiday visa holders.
“Part of the challenges with some of those programs is they require action on the part of the Canadian government as well as the government of the country of origin of those international workers, and a lot of the facilities in those countries have actually been shut down, so it’s really slowed down the process for existing applications,” he explained. “But as we’re able to, both in Canada and around the world, get to a higher level of vaccination, it’s going to allow access to those services to be much more facilitated and that’s going to really speed up the process.”
Weiler also pointed to the Liberals’ promise to extend the wage subsidy through March 2022 as well as the $500-million Tourism Relief Fund as important levers for the tourism industry’s recovery.
Housing, an issue that has long been closely tied to the tourism sector, is another key area Weiler said the federal government, if re-elected, would focus on. He highlighted Ottawa’s funding support for the Whistler Housing Authority, as well as the Canada-B.C. Housing Benefit, a 10-year, $517-million investment launched earlier this year that will provide financial assistance to marginalized and low-income groups for rent payments as other examples of the Liberals’ priorities.
An environmental and natural resources lawyer, Weiler, 35, said there were two accomplishments in particular he was most proud of since taking office two years ago: Bill C-12, a climate accountability act he called “the most progressive piece of legislation we’ve got passed in our country’s history” along with passing the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law, “the most important measure that the federal government can and needed to take to ensure we can have reconciliation with our First Nations.”
Whistler’s all-candidates meeting is set for Sept. 8 on Zoom. Pique will have more candidate profiles in the coming weeks.