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Maxed out: Be wary of simple solutions to complex problems

'You interested? You paying attention? You ought to be.'
simple ideas MAX
To the extent they’re solvable, Whistler's problems are going to require knowledgeable people working hard to achieve incremental victories.

So, there’s this election thing happening. Again. You interested? You paying attention? You ought to be.

Yeah, I know, it happens every four years locally, and whenever someone in power provincially or federally thinks they can sneak in a win. Senior levels of government aside, local politics are where you have the best shot at making your voices heard and your vote count. Maybe you don’t believe that. Maybe you should.

Use the skate park? Know how it got there in its very improved way? It only took a handful of skateboarders and a bit of organization to convince council to pony up enough dough to make it happen. Try that with provincial or federal politicians. 

That’s not the only example. Many of the community amenities we might take for granted came about because a few people—sometimes even one person—pushed a good idea far enough and long enough to make it a reality. 

So, you’ve got a choice. If you’re comfortable letting other people make the decisions and advocate for the changes that affect your life, sit back, ignore politics, let it all just wash over you. It’s a valid option. But don’t complain about what you get. Don’t bitch and moan on social media and think it matters. It doesn’t.

On the other hand, if you’re not comfortable just taking whatever you get, jump right in. Get involved. Make your voice heard. You’ll probably never live in a town where it’s easier to talk to and maybe influence the decision-makers than this one.

How do you get involved? Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. Talk to your friends. What do they know and think about the candidates? Read what’s in Pique. Hop on to the municipal website and read about the candidates. Here’s the link: whistler.ca/municipal-gov/elections/candidates/candidate-bios.

Not a lot of information here, but some of the candidates provide links to their own websites where you can find more. 

Shake yourself out of your home and attend the meetings where the candidates speak and answer questions. Not too many of you, and mostly the usual suspects, made it out to WORCA’s speed dating night. A few more at the Racket Club. Don’t know about Pique’s Wednesday, Sept. 28 all-candidates meeting, since this is only Monday morning, but that one is probably still available to stream. 

Your last shot is Oct. 5, when AWARE and WCSS host the candidates to talk about climate and community well-being. 

Seeing and hearing the candidates face-to-face is worth the effort. It’s like the difference between communicating with a potential partner online and meeting them in person. It’s easier to judge whether they impress you or not. Whether they’re open and genuine or sketchy and furtive. 

After all, these are the folks who are going to be making decisions—and setting policy—on issues you’re interested in.

Like housing, for example. 

Every candidate has listed housing as an important issue, the important issue. A few seem to think it’s an easy issue to deal with. Most just want more. We need more employee housing to make the resort operate. There isn’t a category of workerbee that doesn’t need more housing, from doctors to lifties. Many running say not enough has been done; all want to do more. 

Few have suggested it isn’t as easy as, well, just building more housing. In the clamour of voices calling for more, they seem less enthusiastic. But they’re not. They’re acknowledging the very real difficulties engulfing the housing issue. Like the cost of construction that has risen so far so fast it’s impossible to build rental housing that doesn’t require either huge grants and/or subsidies or huge, maybe unaffordable rents.

This is probably a good time to mention I’m writing this as an opinion columnist with a long history of writing about housing, not as a board member of the Whistler Housing Authority. 

The simple fact is Whistler will never have enough housing for everyone and anyone who wants to live here—at least unless we abandon our self-imposed limits to growth. So it’s not a problem that yields to easy solutions, soundbites or glib admonitions to just build it. 

Same with issues like adequate availability to health-care, day-care, regional transit, climate change and environment mitigation, the high cost of living, staff shortages, right sizing, over-visitation and seniors’ issues. Very few are challenges any municipal council can change or solve by fiat. Most involve working with other levels of government... all other levels. They involve give and take. They involve changing the way people live their lives. They involve money. They involve solutions no one has successfully imagined or executed, otherwise they wouldn’t be issues, they’d be solved.

When a candidate says, for example, “Hey, just set climate targets and reach them. Problem solved.” Think about what that actually means. It means, for example, getting a lot more people to use transit... even you. To which you might say, “Why should I use transit when we can’t even get restaurants to stop warming the air and melting snow with their damn outdoor heaters? Or sledders filling their big trucks and sleds to chase pow?” 

It means forcing those restaurants to stop using once-through water-cooling, a large expense when they’re still recovering from the hit they took during covid. It may mean mandating no more use of natural gas for heating and cooking. Is that something a municipality has the power to do under the Community Charter?

These are small examples of big problems. To the extent they’re solvable, they’re going to require knowledgeable people working hard to achieve incremental victories. Those victories aren’t going to be gained by simplistic slogans. Fact is, the people who want you to believe those problems are easily solved will be the ones who become disillusioned if they get elected. Once disillusioned, they’ll either tune out or become angry, neither of which gets things accomplished. 

We need to elect councillors who will think big while accepting small victories. We need people who are willing to work harder than the job pays. Who know both their power and limitations under the Community Charter. Who will build the bridges between Whistler and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the provincial ministers and bureaucrats and their federal counterparts. We need people who will work harmoniously together while advocating their own beliefs when their colleagues don’t necessarily agree with them. We need people who will nurture the community while remembering we’re a resort whose success is the underlying foundation for anything we can accomplish as a community.

Simple, eh? Now it’s up to you to decide who those people are and vote for them. It ain’t a beauty contest, and just because a candidate is your friend doesn’t mean they’ll make a good councillor.

Choose wisely, grasshopper.

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