Whistler Councillor Ralph Forsyth has announced his intention to seek re-election in October’s municipal election.
“I've made the decision to seek re-election because Whistler is at a critical point in its history, and for some, the future looks bleak. The issues we face can be resolved. Whistler has faced difficult times in the past, and we've confronted those challenges and survived and thrived,” Forsyth said.
“What we need is leadership with enthusiasm to see opportunity where it exists, insight to see potential pitfalls, and most importantly, the experience to know the difference.”
Forsyth, 53, has been deeply involved in local affairs for decades as a member and chair of the Whistler Advisory Planning Commission, the Whistler 2020 Advisory Committee, Resident Housing Task Force, the Chamber of Commerce Service Strategy Committee and the Catholic Parish Finance Committee, as well as the Whistler Toastmasters Club.
In addition to his work as a councillor, Forsyth has worked as a ski instructor, a small business owner and a past contributor to Pique Newsmagazine.
Forsyth was first elected to council in 2005 and served two terms before running for mayor in 2011. Forsyth lost that election and took a short break from politics until the 2018 campaign when he was re-elected with 813 votes. The Oct. 15 election will be Forsyth's fifth as a candidate.
“Housing sadly remains the biggest problem facing the community,” Forsyth said. “I’ve served on the Whistler Development Corporation (WDC) board of directors, and I’m pleased with the 100 units of housing we’ve delivered. The council has also approved housing developments at the Athlete’s Centre, Nita Lake and Nordic, but much more needs to be built.
“Resident affordability is also a huge challenge right now. I’m glad that we’re about to embark on Phase Three, the community engagement piece of the Balance Model Initiative, in November. This kind of community engagement is critical to the resort’s success.”
Forsyth believes Whistler needs to focus on more infill housing in neighbourhoods and densification to tackle the housing crisis.
“One of my ideas is blanket zoning for infill. Say you've got a big lot—they have tons of big lots in Alpine and Emerald, and if you can subdivide those, then the lot price comes down. I mean, it's still pretty expensive, but at least it could come down somewhat,” he said.
Forsyth also wants to explore ways to manage the peaks and valleys of tourism in Whistler to balance out the busy days over the shoulder season.
“I think it’s important that we acknowledge that business levels are too high at prime time, and many in the community are asking if we’re killing the golden goose. Demand management is something we need to take seriously; it goes hand in hand with our transportation issues,” Forsyth said.
“We're filled to the rafters on a day like today (July 25), but then in October, you talk to the hoteliers, and they're running into the red. So how do you flatten out those peaks and valleys?
“I'm not sure what policy levers the council could pull, but certainly incentivizing people to travel on those off-peak times.”
When asked what the biggest challenge was on council this term, Forsyth pointed to COVID and last year's cyber security breach.
“People always default to COVID, but COVID didn't really bother me. It was irritating having to do zoom meetings, but the big thing was the cybersecurity breach,” Forsyth said.
“The biggest thing was the cybersecurity breach because COVID was happening to everyone at the same time. That thing was happening just to us, and we had no idea. It had never happened to any of us before. So we were trying to figure it out on the fly. Kudos to the staff. I think they did a tremendous job getting us back on track, but that was the biggest challenge.”
When describing what makes his selling proposition unique this election, Forsyth pointed to his previous experience.
“I’m happy to campaign on my record and what I hope voters feel was a record of excellent service to the community. My priorities also haven’t changed—in fact, they are more relevant now than ever," he said.
"I want to create a Whistler where young people can look forward to owning a home and raising a family, where residents have meaningful career opportunities and where entrepreneurs can share in the collective success of the resort."
The nomination period for the October election runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9, with the official campaign period taking place between Sept. 17 and Oct. 15.
Follow Forsyth’s campaign at ralphforsyth.com.