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Whistler and Pemberton students have their say on municipal councils

Student Vote brings democracy, civic education to the classroom
Students at Sea to Sky schools got to cast their own mock ballot as part of the Student Vote program.

The day before B.C. voters headed to the polls to decide the future of their municipal governments, students across the province also got a chance to participate in democracy through the Student Vote program. 

Student Vote is a direct learning opportunity for students across the province to learn about politics, the powers of different government levels, and the election process. 

Across the province, 55,968 students from 461 schools in 99 municipalities participated in the student vote this year. While the results from the mock election are still slowly trickling in, the preliminary results paint an interesting picture of who would be elected if the youngest generation could vote. 

If students in Whistler got to elect the mayor, council, and school trustees, the results wouldn’t be all that different from what took place on general election day. 

As of Pique’s weekly press deadline, the results had only come from Myrtle Philip Community School and Spring Creek Community School, with Whistler Secondary School still to report. Still, the preliminary results indicate that the students of Whistler share a similar mindset to the general electorate. 

According to the student election results, Mayor Jack Crompton would still win re-election, taking 172 votes—136 more than his closest competitor Marcus Culver, who gained 36 votes. Brian Walker came third with 19 votes. 

The top three vote-getters on Whistler’s student-elected council consisted of Jen Ford, who came in first place with 148 votes; Ralph Forsyth (109 votes); and Jessie Morden in third with 91 votes. Cathy Jewett, Arthur De Jong, and Dawn Titus rounded out the slate with 87, 86 and 78 votes, respectively.  

As for the rest of the council candidates, Melinda Lopez received 77 votes, followed by Sarah Rush (72), Brendan Ladner (71), Jeff Murl (67), Gordon Jeffrey (56), Curtis Lapadat (56), Rhonda Millikin (55), Tina James (44) and Gabriel Pliska (29).

When it comes to the school board, the elected body that arguably has the most influence on the students’ day-to-day lives, the trustee election result matched the general election result, with Cynthia Higgins coming out on top with 131 votes, followed by Rachael Lythe (99) and Deb Bordignon (97). 

In Whistler, the student vote at Myrtle Philip included seven classes of students from Grades 3 to 7, with a little more than 100 students participating in the mock election. 

Myrtle Philip students received presentations in person and over Zoom from 11 of the 15 council candidates, who informed the students about what they hoped to accomplish if elected. 

Afterwards, the students held a classroom discussion about what they heard, then went home to talk with their parents before finally doing a mock election, with ballot boxes and all.  

“It was actually quite neat to hear all the different things, and then have the conversation after about what they thought, and why they thought they were impressed with somebody or they weren’t impressed with somebody, and whether they answered the questions, or whether they were more general,” said teacher Jeanette Unruh. 

Some students even questioned how the candidates would fund their more lavish proposals, showing that, although most of the students are not yet taxpayers, they still have fiscal prudence in mind when casting a ballot. 

So what were the significant issues for Whistler’s youngest demographics? 

Interestingly, the key issues Myrtle Philip students brought up are similar to some of the topics raised by the general electorate: housing, the Valley Trail, labour shortages, and stores closing early, to name just a few.

“We had a big conversation about housing, because they found that some of their friends have had to leave town, and some of their parents have to work more at their businesses because they don’t have enough staff,” said Unruh. 

Speed from e-bikes on the Valley Trail was also a concern for many students, as some said they had near-misses with cyclists. According to Unruh, the idea of speed bumps or a separate bike trail came up in class discussions a few times. 

Up the highway in Pemberton and Mount Currie, Signal Hill Elementary and Xet’olacw Community School also held student votes. In the race for mayor, Mike Richman came out on top with 43 votes, followed by 18 for David Mackenzie and 14 for Chadi Abouhalka. 

Council-wise, students elected Katrina Nightingale (25 votes), Jennie Helmer (24), Ted Craddock (22) and Derek Graves (20), who withdrew from the running but not before his name could be removed from the ballot. Laura Ramsden and Eli Zysman received 19 and 10 votes, respectively. 

View the full province-wide student vote results at