Whistler has its first official candidate for this fall's election, as local Gabriel Pliska has declared his intentions to run for council.
Pliska, 41, has lived in Whistler since 2018, working a few different jobs in his time here, including at the Whistler Visitor Centre, Whistler Blackcomb guest services and currently as a turf labourer for the municipality.
Pliska grew up in Ottawa and attended Carleton University, where he studied marketing and finance. After graduating, Pliska moved to Tokyo, where he worked for a marketing company for four years.
From Japan, Pliska moved to Germany, where he worked for three years as an English teacher. Pliska believes his international perspective is useful, as it gave him an idea of how other places deal with their problems differently.
“I've lived in various parts of the world, and seeing how different communities run and operate and seeing how things can be done differently from an international perspective, so I thought that would bring some pretty unique international experience to the table,” Pliska said.
“I kind of like the analogy if you want to build a unique house, maybe don't go to an architect, maybe you hire an artist who deals with ways of dealing with space or something like that.
“Someone who thinks outside of the box may bring and offer a different perspective at the table, because often creative solutions are literally just one step away, but it takes a different viewpoint to see that.”
After living in Germany, Pliska moved to Vancouver, where he began gardening on his and his neighbours' front lawns in Kitsilano, culminating in the creation of Frisch Farms Vancouver, a locally focused small farming business.
“In terms of my experience, I was sitting on the board of the Kitsilano Community Centre (KCC) while I lived in Vancouver for six years before moving to Whistler, and I helped create the community garden there at Kitsilano Community Centre,” Pliska said, adding that he spent two years on the KCC’s board.
For Pliska, there are two main issues facing Whistler ahead of the Oct. 15 vote.
"No. 1, housing for locals, and No. 2, addressing transportation. I think those two are very important issues for locals here. Especially the goal of reducing road traffic by 50 per cent by 2030. So a lot has to be done in terms of public transportation,” he said, adding that, like many, he was not satisfied with how the municipality handled the four-month transit strike earlier this year.
“I felt that during this time, maybe the Rainbow Lake shuttle or the Lost Lake shuttle buses could have been used to drive just up and down the highway to pick up those who were hitchhiking on the highway, which is very unsafe,” Pliska said.
On the housing file, Pliska wants the municipality to find ways to build more employee-restricted housing and speed up the building process.
The municipality has land, he said, but the process of building has been slow.
“So I would like to expedite the process of building more employee housing or employee-restricted housing or rentals,” Pliska said.
“Over the years working and living here, I've read the Pique. There are many dissatisfied locals writing letters to the Pique, talking about issues from housing, road safety, daycare facilities, etc.
"I feel that given my background, international experience and where I land in my family structure, I'm very democratic and try to understand the needs of various people. So I felt that I could represent the people."
Pliska believes Whistler’s council needs to look forward to what the community will look like 28 years from now, in 2050.
“What is this place going to be looking like in 2050?” he said.
“And I think of someone who's 10 years old right now, or someone who's 20 years old right now, it's going to be very important for them, what this place looks like in terms of how nature looks, the impact on local wildlife, housing, and the population of kids [who] will be able to grow up here."
The nomination period runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9, with the official campaign period taking place between Sept. 17 and Oct. 15.
Follow Pliska’s campaign at votewhistler.ca.