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Maxed Out: Let Whistler council know how you feel about the 2030 Olympic bid

'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.'
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'Well, public, do you feel engaged? Has anyone asked if you support bringing the circus back to town? Will anyone?'

When the first reports came out in late 2019 about a virulent new flu-like virus making an appearance, nobody, well, a few epidemiologists, gave it much thought. It’ll pass. It didn’t.

When the words normal and weather only began to be linked, in phrases like, “When the weather returns to normal,” about a decade ago, no one gave it much thought. Of course it will. It hasn’t.

When some meteorologist sprung the term atmospheric river on us last autumn it sounded cute and, after all, it was being used to describe a once-in-a-thousand-year storm. But then it popped up again within a year.

When the pandemic hit hard and jobs were shed by the tens of thousands, everyone assumed those jobless folks would come back when things returned to, there’s that word again, normal. But many planes still aren’t flying, bags aren’t being loaded, vehicles aren’t being produced, appliances are scarce, wait staff are AWOL, phones aren’t being answered, medical personnel are retiring at younger ages and in record numbers… just for a few examples.

When the provincial government announced it was going to spend nearly $1 billion to upgrade and renovate the Royal BC Museum, the outcry sounded in every corner of the province. With so many vital services in disarray, how could the NDP spend that much on a museum? Chastened, Premier Horgan backed down, acknowledging the unfortunate optics of the plan.

The one thing that remains constant throughout all of this? The con game known as the Olympics™.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. 

It seems someone reminded the provincial government of that old chestnut. Or perhaps there’s a growing realization their reign is growing long in the tooth and with the announced retirement of Mr. Horgan there is the ever-present fear they may wind up with a leader short on charisma heading into the next election. Lookin’ at you Adrian; we remember.

Whatever the motivation, Melanie Mark, B.C.’s Tourism and Sport Minister, has put the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) on notice that they’re not going to get a free ride from the province in their bid for the 2030 Games. She has informed them the province will not consider supporting the bid until COC gets “proof” the participating First Nations and communities are willing to pony up their share of the costs.

What kind of proof would Minister Mark be looking for? Letters of support and minutes or resolutions from Indigenous governing bodies—would those be the colonial-model elected governing bodies or the hereditary chiefs or both?—and local government councils... provided they reflect outcomes of local public engagement and are publicly available.

Well, public, do you feel engaged? Has anyone asked if you support bringing the circus back to town? Will anyone? 

The COC is supposed to provide this information by August 15? The Minister’s letter has set that date for the COC to make its case for the province to open up the coffers. 

Now, this may seem like a bold move, but it has to be read in light of the oodles of taxpayer dollars B.C. has already committed to hosting the 2025 Invictus Games—a $15-million relative bargain—and a handful of the 2026 FIFA World Cup games for a whopping $260 million. I’m sure it’s needless to remind everyone the bill for the 2030 Olympics™ will make those amounts look like chump change.

Naturally, none of the potential host sites are very keen on actually asking you if you support this boondoggle. Vancouver council already took a pass on Councillor Colleen Hardwick’s efforts to get a plebiscite on the upcoming October municipal election ballots. No word yet from our own council, but if memory serves—and it does—there was strong opposition from the RMOW council to actually ask residents whether they supported the bid for the 2010 Games. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

And if the Minister was genuinely concerned about how taxpayers felt about an inestimable amount of tax dollars going to fund the Olympics™, why wouldn’t she and her government want all B.C. residents to weigh in on this? I know in much of the potholed rest of the province, the $600 million that went into improving the Sea to Sky Highway for the 2010 Olympics™ is still a sore spot.

Adding to the list of things about which we can be certain—death and taxes—is the whimsy and inaccuracy behind any numbers the COC put forward as a budget for the 2030 Games. Even after the fact, the Vancouver Organizing Committee blew smoke about the 2010 Games breaking even by omitting, among other items, the billion or so that went into providing security. To paraphrase a long-dead U.S. senator, “a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.”

So let’s cut to the chase and short-circuit the process locally. Save everyone time and money. You should know by now how to email the mayor and councillors. If you’re not sure, here’s a link to all their email addresses: whistler.ca/stay-connected/contact.

Drop them a line. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just “I’m for/against the 2030 bid.” Simple. No excuses about how much time it might take or how onerous it might be. One email sent to all six councillors and hizzonor and your task is done. Since at least some of them are planning to run for re-election in October, I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear from you. They can consider my vote a no and I won’t bother clogging up their inboxes. But you should, because, well, you don’t have a column in Pique, and I do.

While I’d prefer the vote be overwhelmingly against, hey, I’m all for democracy. And if most Whistleratics want to do it all over again in 2030, so be it. But at least let’s have a voice this time around.

After all, if we’ve learned anything from the past few years and the sputtering start to getting back to whatever normal is going to be in the future, we should be keenly aware of how many things in our lives need support more than the Olympics™. Our crumbling health-care system? Indeed. Extreme climate event mitigation? Driven the Coq lately? Or the Canyon? Or even the Duffey? Hell, even the Royal BC Museum is a better place to spend tax dollars than the freakin’ Olympics. 

So weigh in. Make your voices heard. We’ve already witnessed how powerful mass reaction can be. Let’s not pretend we’re powerless to sway this decision.

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