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A love story…

As a resident (citizen?) of Whistler” I’d like to call out a disturbing perception and trend of thinking I have seen reflected recently in many ongoing, well intentioned conversations, voices and letters by some who are offering up suggestions on way

As a resident (citizen?) of Whistler” I’d like to call out a disturbing perception and trend of thinking I have seen reflected recently in many ongoing, well intentioned conversations, voices and letters by some who are offering up suggestions on ways to “help solve the problems facing our community.”

There seems to be a prevailing belief or attitude that areas like childcare or accommodation should not be part of the responsibility of the RMOW. To be clear; I am not suggesting it should be the sole responsibility of the RMOW to manage these specific areas. I am suggesting there is a level of responsibility and ownership that cannot be denied or dismissed that needs to be taken, and is essential to the permanent resolution of specific ongoing or developing issues. The RMOW by nature can serve by providing a degree of resources, skills, or management needed to do so.

We need to remind ourselves that it is people who provide the skills, talents and service that allow the smooth operation and success (or not) of our resort community. We need to stop denying the ripple effect and interconnectedness of many core issues like accommodation or childcare, and the direct influence they have on the success or failure of the resort municipality at large.

While our community is blessed with many opportunities that in part serve to strengthen our potential success as a resort municipality, we cannot continue to pretend that specific, chronic, unresolved issues, some of which span decades, are not important or relevant as part of the ongoing management provided by the RMOW, that leads to the success or failure of our resort community. A shift needs to occur in recognizing, understanding and differentiating the diversity of the unique needs and challenges of our resort community to every other municipality in the country. We are different, and we are unique.

The childcare issue is a good example of a developing issue that represents this interconnectedness. It takes the form of a Whistler love story…  Boy and girl quest their individual dreams; boy and girl (or may be even boy and boy or girl and girl) find the place, the dream, and each other. Boy and girl work hard, looking to secure their dream. They get married (or create a couple ship) and decide to have children (or even adopt). They seek the security of work, a home and access to a magnificent playground in which to grow and thrive. Boy and girl, provide amazing services to guests who also thrive, if only for a day, week or six months, living out their own dreams. Boy and girl earn money for themselves and all shareholders. They use the roads, hospital, daycare and schools; they spend their hard-earned money, mostly in Whistler. They pay taxes and support revenues, they volunteer.

Boy and girl, now family, are the foundation and key to Whistler’s success or demise... Where is the separation? Where is the distinction?

What are the core services that are needed to support the people? If the people thrive, the resort thrives? Where, and have you, drawn the line? Does the line need to be re-drawn?

Editing, sanitizing, dismissing or denying the unspoken chain of interdependence the role and function the RMOW plays, will I believe, determine how our love story begins or ends. Perhaps we need more clarity or revision in defining Whistlers “core services.” Perhaps we need to step, if only temporarily, outside our previous ways of being, thinking and doing, to engage ideas, choices, decisions and actions that recognize the interconnectedness and interdependence of core services that are uniquely Whistler; core services that would “normally” fall outside the realm of regular municipal management.

I don’t think you necessarily have to raise taxes because you’ve added more critical responsibilities. You can adjust your thinking to the unique needs of your community and then make choices balanced against budgets that speak to, and meet the unique needs and challenges of, your community.

How much lost revenue in the form of "hotel tax" is hidden and lost in homes that will be rented out just for the Olympics?

The background conversation is always more informative than the foreground conversation. While we have some great foreground conversations (Peak 2 Peak and Olympics), the issues, challenges and needs that lie in the background conversations of those who live, work and play in Whistler can be, and in some cases must be, addressed as a matter of survival for this resort community.

When you dismiss those conversations and concerns, by not providing a vehicle to manage their resolution, you automatically dismiss the value and contribution of those who ultimately will determine the success or failure of this community for decades to come.

Michael Sean Symonds

Whistler

Long-term strategy in place

Now that the municipal election has drawn to a close, Tourism Whistler, on behalf of its Board of Directors, would like to first congratulate Mayor Ken Melamed, the two incumbent councillors Ralph Forsyth and Eckhard Zeidler, and the four new councillors for all of their hard work and ultimate success in their campaigns.

Second we would like to thank the remaining candidates, who invested equally in their platforms and campaigns, ultimately making the process truly a democratic one.

And thirdly, we would like to thank the former four councillors, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, Tim Wake, Gordon McKeever and Bob Lorriman, for their commitment and efforts over the past three years.

Finally, we would also like to take this opportunity to clarify the tourism direction and priorities of Tourism Whistler. A number of opinions were expressed by various candidates during their election campaigns regarding Tourism Whistler’s focus and direction, which would have been appropriate if the stated direction was accurate, but unfortunately, it was not.

While a belief was stated that Tourism Whistler focuses solely on core skiers; in fact, Tourism Whistler has taken a leadership role over the past several years in developing a long-term tourism strategy for the resort, which profiles new, high-opportunity geographic markets, product segments and demographic segments. These profiles identify the greatest growth opportunities for the resort; match the level of Whistler’s export-ready products against market and segment demand; identify gaps in product offerings and make future development recommendations; and prioritize segments based on communications, marketing and sales investment.

While this strategy is a long-term undertaking, completed work to date includes comprehensive profiles on the growing and/or new product segments of Mountain Biking, Nordic Skiing, Hiking, Health & Wellness, Event Tourism, Arts & Culture, Aboriginal Tourism, and Sustainable Tourism; on the new geographic markets of China, South Korea and Alberta; and on the growing and/or new demographic segments of gay, women and solo travellers. These are over and above existing core markets (Canada, U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia, Japan, Mexico); core product segments (Ski, Golf, Summer Sightseeing, Meetings & Incentive); and core demographic segments (Boomers, Couples, Families) that Tourism Whistler traditionally targets.

As a result of the above, new marketing and sales investment has been made into the segments of Mountain Biking, Events, Health & Wellness, Gay Travellers and the markets of South Korea and China over the past several years. In addition, messaging of Arts & Culture offerings and new 2010 venues (Nordic, Sliding) have been incorporated into website, e-blast and collateral communications.

As a point of clarification, when every international target market in the world is suffering from the latest global economic crunch, with most consumers choosing to either not travel or to stay closer to home; our short-term tactics will shift to focus on core markets and travellers more insulated from an economic downturn (ie: high-awareness customers, repeat visitors, regional markets, Canadian markets, luxury segments).

But make no mistake, we will absolutely stay the course with our long-term strategy (continuing to grow and diversify our tourism markets and segments) to ensure both long-term and year-round economic sustainability for Whistler’s tourism industry.

And while limited resources ensure our budgets always focus on markets and segments producing the highest and greatest returns on investment, the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, and the international media exposure Whistler will receive as a result, will fully position the resort to take its rightful place on the global stage.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the mayor and chief administrator of the RMOW, who sit on Tourism Whistler’s Board of Directors, for their solid contributions to Tourism Whistler’s long-term strategic plan and short-term shifts in focus. I would also welcome councillors (new and old) to attend Tourism Whistler’s all member meetings to better understand our strategies, initiatives and results; and to meet with me at any time to discuss Tourism Whistler’s goals, objectives and strategic priorities for 2009 and beyond.

Barrett Fisher

President & CEO

Tourism Whistler

Interest in our future

Congratulations to Rachael, Amy, Connie, Christine and Chris for making the elections for the Sea to Sky Board of Education an important issue in this year’s election. By putting your names forward you brought the conversation about education to a higher level of awareness for all.

The commitment of individuals, like yourselves to the position of school trustee, is the first, and in my opinion one of the most important, aspects in maintaining the very essence of the Canadian public education system. We must all cherish that, while there may be some flaws, an education system that allows so many children to succeed, no matter where they live in B.C., is an education system that many throughout the world are envious of.

It is the participation of our communities and parents in the classroom, with the local school parent advisory committees, with the district parent advisory committees and through the decisions of many to put their names up for election for the Board of Education, that keeps Canadian schools current and focused on the students and their achievement. Your time and thoughts were greatly appreciated by us all and I for one was pleased to have so many conversations about education over the past few weeks.

Let us keep this momentum going forward and as a community stay interested in the issues around the education of our youth — after all they are our future.

Andree Janyk

Whistler

People sending a message?

Voter turnout in our recent federal election was a historic low of 60 per cent.

Despite the heroic effort of possibly the greatest U.S. political evangelist ever, voter turnout in the U.S. election, the highest level since 1908, was only 65 per cent.

I don't know where it ranks but the average voter turnout for this past week's municipal election was 22 per cent.

I believe the consensus is the trend is down and I too am inclined to think it is an indication of increasing general apathy. However, I haven't yet completely given up hope declining voter turnout could be a message to those who have a vested interest in perpetuating divisions, that a growing number of "the people" are getting really sick and tired of being forced to choose sides.

I wonder about the possibilities and the implications for war.

Doug Barr

Whistler

Decisions, decisions

I am writing in response to the recent Climate Change ad campaign being waged by the provincial government. Your paper ran one of the ads last week.

The gist of the ads is that it is up to each and every one of us residents of B.C. to make a difference towards climate change. While I think that as individuals we have the ability to say, eat a healthy diet, we do not have the choice to make a difference towards climate change.

It is not individuals who decide where roads get built, or where residences get built, or what transit infrastructure gets invested in, or how big we’re allowed to build houses. These fundamental decisions in how we relate with the landscape and the climate are being made by our elected officials.

I’ll draw from a local example, the upgraded Sea to Sky Highway. Because of the upgrades, we will likely see suburban sprawl all the way from Horseshoe Bay to Brackendale. Where do we expect the residents of Furry Creek or Porteau Cove to shop, work, and engage in culture? I know that they’ll be doing a lot of driving.

Bringing it closer to Whistler: with the exception of the Nita Lake Lodge and Evolution, most of Whistler’s new development is taking place not walking distance to the lifts, but driving distance. The athletes’ village, the new waste transfer station, the Rainbow project, these are all examples of development that, from a climate change perspective, do not make sense. If our elected officials here were at all interested in climate change and (ecological) sustainability, they would insist that all development be walking distance to the lifts. But instead, we get to not only drive to the lifts, but we can drive to our new celebration plaza — located walking distance to jobs, lifts and culture.

It is not individuals that decide how the province and its towns get laid out. But as individuals we are the ones who must live in the spaces created by our elected officials. If our elected representatives could get their heads out of the last millennium, then we as individuals could start making a difference.

Sadly, I did not read about one candidate in Whistler who made this issue a small part of their municipal campaign. Sigh….

I would like to get into how our suburban sprawl model of development makes people obese and socially disengaged, but most of us already know how hard it is to get exercise and make friends from behind the wheel of a car, or do we…

Brendan Ladner

Whistler

A good shot

Wayne Gretzky once said “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you do not take.” I took a shot at being a councillor in Pemberton. I missed this shot and I am 50 per cent disappointed and 50 per cent relieved.

We as a community have charged four councillors and a mayor to deliver services as requested by the community. I suggest that, as a community, we take some shots. Within our grasp is achieving a solid recreation plan, the physical construction of trails, and a real and substantial industry is seeking to establish in Pemberton.

With respect to trails we need to purchase the necessary rights of way and build the trail on the Crown land by the old sewer treatment plant to complete the Valley Loop Trail. We need to overcome the objections of the adjacent cattle farm owner and exercise our right to build this important community trail on public land. I would like to see this loop fully constructed with a gravel base and ready for asphalt by the end of 2009. To the new council I request that you commit to getting this done as it does not matter that it’s in the regional district, it’s in Pemberton. The Friendship Trail only requires 10 right of ways to get from Mt. Currie to the rail bridge . I can guarantee six of them. The rest can easily be accomplished with some resolve.

With respect to a recreation centre; Pemberton, Mt. Currie and Area C must come together to be able to afford indoor recreation. To accomplish this we need to: develop a modest plan, acquire land, work within a reasonable budget, establish funding and negotiate a cost sharing agreement between local governments. If we do not start we will never get there. Any members of the public interested in getting involved in an independent recreation association feel free to e-mail me at cwmcivor@telus.net .

I congratulate Susie for her win. It is my hope that she can build the “bridge” that she promised and create better cooperation between the village and Area C. Ironically, I too was attempting to “ride two donkeys with one ass.” It can be done.

I know that conflict of interest was the forefront of discussions around my candidacy. I can only say that I wish I had the opportunity to show how I could contribute at the council level and prove that I do have the best interest of Pemberton in mind.

I congra t ulate all the candidates who have won and commend them for the three-year commitment that they have made to Pemberton.

Cam McIvor

Pemberton

Whistler shuts down

Whistler is the place it is because people from all over the world are willing to come here to work for minimum wages so they can sample the lifestyle that long-term residents are so lucky to have.

It is becoming apparent that greed is getting the better of everyone and all those people that are renting out rooms and homes are not only, blatantly discriminating on the basis of looks, but also out-pricing a huge number of potential low income workforce that keeps this place running. It is discrimination. Where are the background checks, police checks, previous landlord checks? One look at a person here seems to justify an opinion on character and an ability to pay rent.

Admittedly, on occasions, this is a foolproof method, but nevertheless.  Many places currently advertised, ask for professional families or corporate people only. This is clearly insinuating that people not conforming to these stereotypes are not “house-trained” and quite naively presuming that those fitting the stereotypes are!

So, what is going to happen when the workforce can’t afford to live here? Or even aren't welcome anymore! Are landlords going to find themselves renting to seasonaires who have no mountain to ski on because there’s no staff to open it? Or are businesses going to start slowly closing down, leaving more empty commercial buildings? Will hotels be forced to reduce what they can offer because they don't have enough housing for their staff?

The consequences could be catastrophic. Maybe that’s what the original dwellers of this village want; a deserted town with a "saloon" at the mountainside!

The economy is tough right now, yes, but isn't it for everyone? Upping the price of rent to pay for your Porsche just doesn't seem fair now does it? What's wrong with downscaling the Porsche and passing on the good will?

Now is the time to make the U-turn, let’s not get greedy, let’s not get selfish and let’s allow others to appreciate this town comfortably.

What about a governing body? Regulating rental prices and making sure things are not getting out of hand. Someone needs to keep these “self-proclaimed realtors” in check, making sure they are not taking people for a ride.

Whistler needs to be seen as a welcoming place, it would be better to know that people are leaving because there is nowhere to live rather than they cannot afford to live here.

Al Churchill

Whistler

Province listening on child care

As a government, we recognize that communities like Whistler face a unique challenge in the recruitment and retention of trained professionals. Early childhood educators (ECEs) who perform an important function in child care centres are no exception.

We have been working with the operators of Whistler Children's Centre for more than three years, ensuring they continue to operate while their qualified staff received certification. We did this because we understand how important access to quality child care is, and how important the service that Whistler Children's Centre provides to families in the community is.

I was recently in Whistler and met with representatives of Whistler Children's Centre to discuss their current situation and whether there are additional steps our government can take to assist them. We are working with the operators to ensure that the necessary steps are being taken to license their staff. While the process of verifying credentials for staff with overseas training is more time-consuming, we will continue to expedite their applications as they are received.

We also discussed some of the programs available to their staff who would like to upgrade their certification. These include a new loan assistance program which provides up to $2,500 towards new graduates’ outstanding B.C. Student loans. The provincial government also offers more than $760,000 each year in bursaries — a 71 per cent increase since 2006.

Communities across Canada are struggling to recruit qualified ECEs to meet the growing demand. We are committed to working with child care providers and will continue to seek solutions to overcome this challenge.

Linda Reid

Minister of State for Child Care

Remembering Colin

It has been one year since my brother (Colin Law) died in a car accident. It seems strange that in some ways it was so long ago and yet at times it seems like yesterday.

The family is thinking of all the terrific people that helped us get through that terrible experience and we know you also are thinking of Colin at this time.

Colin we miss you.

Aurelle Law and Family

Kelowna




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