Veterinarian Dr. Melinda Lopez never expected to run for council when she first moved to Whistler—but after seeing some of the resort’s most pressing issues escalate in recent years, she feels her experience can come in handy at municipal hall.
“I have spent the last decade of my life working as an emergency veterinarian, and I think that's exactly what Whistler needs right now,” Lopez said. “Somebody who understands how to prioritize critical issues and to be able to understand scientific data, and to be able to make the best decisions to achieve the desired outcome when time is limited before the situation gets so bad that it can't be corrected.”
Lopez moved to Whistler in 2015 and started the region’s only after-hours veterinary emergency clinic, Twin Trees Veterinary Clinic, in Creekside. However, like many other local small businesses, her clinic has faced staffing challenges due to the housing crisis.
The clinic has lost qualified staff in recent years that are hard to replace, Lopez said.
“We were unable to bring in replacements, and that is so critical that we're losing all of these experienced, qualified, amazing staff,” she said.
Whether it’s health-care, childcare or labour, Lopez believes the housing crisis is at the core of many of the community's problems. She used an example of a health-care worker she talked with who could not find a place to live, contributing to the ongoing staffing challenges facing the municipality's health-care system.
Lopez said the municipality needs to work with specialists who have experience solving housing issues and, if elected to council, she will work closely with staff to implement Whistler’s Official Community Plan (OCP).
“My goal would be to implement Whistler’s community vision and OCP to the best of my ability. I'm not trying to reinvent the long-term vision for Whistler. I think a tremendous amount of work has already been done in establishing it through public input from the community," she said.
“[So] working with the staff to develop a beautiful vision for what we hope to achieve as a community, and paths to get there as far as public policy. The gap, I think, is how do we get there? And that would be my goal, is to use all of my resources, experience and talent to move us forward in the direction that we desire for Whistler as a community.”
As far as addressing housing goes, Lopez said it needs to be a collaborative effort.
“One of the most important things is that you need everybody, all those different demographics and stakeholders affected by the housing crisis indirectly or directly, to be committed to coming together and solving the problem,” she said.
“Whistler is such a special place. It attracts some of the most brilliant, creative and talented people on our planet, and we need all of these people.
"I truly believe that if all of these people come together, the most skilled builders, the most fabulous businessmen, all of the stakeholders, and we all come to the table and say, what can each of us do to help solve this problem? I believe that we can do it.”
Read more at twintreesvet.com/pages/whistler-council.
Lopez joins 14 other candidates in the race for Whistler's six council seats.
Whistlerites head to the polls on Oct. 15.
Check back with Pique for more election coverage in the lead-up to the vote.