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Housing proposal won’t work

We read with interest council candidate Ted Milner’s press release regarding his proposed solution to Whistler’s employee housing challenges.

We read with interest council candidate Ted Milner’s press release regarding his proposed solution to Whistler’s employee housing challenges. We fully respect the gravity of the situation and we appreciate the efforts by many to find solutions that will help carry us through the next two winters, until we feel the full benefits of the 1,000 new resident beds in Rainbow and the 1,000 new beds in Cheakamus Crossing.

Unfortunately, Mr. Milner’s proposal has some challenges of its own. The $5 million in WHA reserves are already committed to providing resident beds for our community. The WHA has just completed unexpected but necessary repairs to the building envelope of our rental building in Nesters, which will end up costing close to $1.5 million.

A further $3 million is going towards the purchase and development of the WHA’s new rental building in Cheakamus Crossing. This $7.2 million apartment building will add 40 studio suites and 15 one-bedroom suites to the WHA rental inventory. Without the funding partnerships and financial assistance provided from free land, the RMOW, CMHC, and VANOC’s support for the athletes’ village, the WHA’s development of this new affordable rental housing project would not be possible. All that support, plus the WHA’s $3 million, is just marginally enough to bring the mortgage costs low enough to deliver affordable rents to Whistler employees. No wonder no one in the private sector is actively building new rental properties in North America.

Leveraging the WHA’s existing rental buildings to raise additional funds won’t work either. The net revenue from these rental buildings is barely (in fact not quite) able to cover the costs of their debt servicing and running the WHA’s Resident Housing Program. Reducing or eliminating this income, due to the burden of paying off additional borrowing, would leave the WHA in the position of requiring ongoing subsidy from the RMOW’s general revenues. It is one of the hallmark successes of Whistler’s Housing Program that it has never required support from the community’s property taxes.

Additionally, it is a sad truth that housing solutions targeting seasonal workers require ongoing subsidies, in perpetuity. Ask the folks at Whistler-Blackcomb how much money they spend each year to support their staff housing program. The WHA can’t afford this so, once again, we would have to go to the RMOW for these funds. Aside from the stress on the municipal budget there would be legal challenges to this. Since this support would only directly benefit those businesses with employees occupying the housing, not the entire business community, restrictions in the B.C. Community Charter would disallow this support. This is why the WHA remains focused on providing permanent housing solutions.

The problem for the next two winters is very serious. New beds in Rainbow and Fitzsimmons Walk will help a bit (as every new resident restricted bed relieves pressure from the whole system) but not enough. The failure of the Phoenix program, in spite of the best efforts of the chamber, Holborn, the WHA, the RMOW and the business community, is a big loss. The full scope of the solution is not clear, but Ted Milner’s election campaign proposal, as presented, isn’t part of it.

Gordon McKeever – Chair

Marla Zucht – General Manager

Whistler Housing Authority

Financial tools needed beyond 2010

Thank you to Jayson Faulkner for his letter to the editor Oct. 23 titled “What were you thinking”. I believe that Jayson’s sentiments are shared by many Whistler residents regarding the Olympics, the Olympic process and associated financial burden that comes with holding the Games.

The absence of a registered public vote/plebiscite tainted the process from the start, subsequent gaudy highway signage, controversial school closures, the dropping of Whistler’s name from the banner, and the continued sparse information on the Olympic overlay have added to the level of frustration in the community and animosity toward council.

Whistler is perceived by some in the province as the spoiled little rich kid whose unnecessary highway expansion is paved with 600 million of provincial tax payer dollars while other roads are left in a state of disrepair. This creates a challenging environment for Whistler’s staff and council when negotiating with the province for such things as financial tools.

As someone who has attended many hours of council meetings I am not happy with several decisions that have been made but I believe that this council and staff have fought hard battles behind the scenes and have not communicated the details to the residents of Whistler for fear of jeopardizing Whistler’s relationship with the province and weakening an already tenuous negotiating position.

The province passed legislation not long after the successful Olympic bid which insured the provincial trump card over Whistler in negotiations regarding the Olympics. It is my understanding that our then new Mayor Melamed and council made a strong stand with the province when negotiating for financial tools early in this term; that took courage and leadership from Mayor Melamed. What was negotiated was a fixed term agreement that needs to be extended in these financially challenging times well before the expiry date in 2011 and before we host the Games in 2010.

Stuart Munro


My leadership wish list

We've been in the thick of elections lately, and as a result, I've been giving leadership a lot of thought. The following defines the kind of leader I'd like to see, in no particular order:

1). Strong, decisive and principle-based. I'd like to be able to vote for a visionary who can also make the tough, yet balanced decisions with integrity. Someone who is able to call it like it is and isn't afraid of a little old-fashioned negotiation in order to achieve what is best for this town.

2). Economic and business literacy. I’d like a leader who knows that money doesn’t grow on trees and that just because Whistler is fabulous it doesn’t mean that we can rest on our laurels. Our leaders should have a strong entrepreneurial streak and an understanding that if we take things too far we can kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

3). Environmental literacy. Leaders need to walk the talk. Biking to the village and choosing not to drive an SUV are what I'd expect from a leader, however, these deeds are exponentially cancelled out when decisions are made to pave hectares of land for parking adjacent to a creek. We live in a finite world and infinite growth is just not possible. I’d like a leader who wants to maintain our growth cap.

4). Energy literacy. Energy is the fourth leg of the stool and the biggest issue the world will face in the 21 st century. Hydrogen is a fairy tale, a net energy-loser and not something we should be wasting our money on at this time. And how is it that Californians will be powering their electric cars with electricity created by a run-of-river project on Fitzsimmons Creek? I want a leader who is energy literate.

5). Fiscal responsibility. Construction peaked in 1996, as did development revenues. Despite this fact, the muni has continued to expand. Without other revenue streams, staffing and spending need to be downsized. I hope that future Olympic spending is kept to a bare bones minimum and any outrageous talk about "trying to compete with Beijing" is quickly ixnayed.

6). Passion — for community betterment. I'd like to be able to vote for someone who still likes to play in the mountains, go to Citta's for a beer and jump naked into Lost Lake.

7). Education. Is it too much to ask for a well-educated leader? At a minimum, I hope that our leaders can do their homework, even more thoroughly than their staff.

8). Non-religiosity. Anyone who believes in armageddon, end-times and the second coming, can’t possibly make decisions with an open mind. Bill Maher's latest movie, Religulous, sums up my feelings on this topic.

9). Big picture thinking. In this town, it's all too easy to develop myopic tunnel vision. I'd like a leader who truly understands international, national and provincial plans, policies and trade deals.

10). A keen eye on the cost of living. With limited land and resources, we must make very careful decisions. We cannot afford "affordable housing" that is clearly unaffordable and does not meet our core needs. I'd like a leader who works for a living and feels the pinch of having to pay for misinformed decisions and bad project management.

What about the “S” word? If leaders and staff truly integrate sustainability into decision making, no bells and whistles are needed...

To all of you who have put your names into the election bucket, I commend you. It is not easy to put your ego and reputation on the line in order to serve your community. If you meet all of the above criteria, you've got my vote. I wish you the best of luck.

Kim Needham


No thanks

I was disgusted to read about the blatant opportunism of Jag Bhandari. This man, who has absolutely no connection to the RMOW, is running for a council seat in Surrey, and vying to be 2010 mayor for Whistler.

Apparently, he claims that he will work for free and donate his earnings back to the community. Let me say this: no thanks Mr. Bhandari, we don't need to re-direct a mayor's salary back to the community at the expense of an opportunistic and inexperienced person like you, running Whistler into the ground.

I will be casting my vote for merit, for experience, for compassion, for sound community knowledge, I will be voting for a true local — Ken!

Sam McGregor


Reconsider private MRI clinic

Whistler has often prided itself in being the number one ski resort in North America, with the longest vertical, over 8,100 skiable acres and the new Peak 2 Peak Gondola.

But now, a most reprehensible first , for a ski resort, can be added. It seems that yet another drive (a third) to contribute to the destruction of Canada’s cherished Medicare is being launched… a private medical facility.

The attempt to bring a private MRI clinic to Whistler adds to the existing operations in Vancouver, which already mark the beginning of a slippery slope towards the privatization of B.C.’s Health Care Services. Our public health care system in B.C. and across Canada is available to everyone equally, based on medical need and not on the ability to pay.

The model proposed by Dr. Mascia sends us down the road to U.S.-style health care under which those with higher credit card limits or better health insurance, get better care. We believe paying a private clinic is a misuse of public funds. We cannot endorse a two-tier system that will only benefit insurance companies.

Congratulations are due to Marni Simon for her dedication to fundraise for the installation of a CT Scanner, which will serve all citizens — not just those who can pay cash for its use. Surely a group of concerned citizens could do something similar in pressuring the B.C. government to contribute to the installation of a badly needed MRI facility to serve the Sea to Sky corridor.

Successful public examples are North Vancouver’s “one stop” joint-replacement assessment clinic, which has reduced wait times to see a specialist from 50 weeks to between two and four weeks. The two-year pilot project at Richmond Hospital with dedicated operating rooms for orthopedic surgical procedures and a new system to increase operating efficiency, which has reduced surgery waits by 75 per cent, the wait list by 27 per cent, and costs by 25 per cent.

Those in my age group will remember knowing of the early deaths of ill people in Canada who failed to see a physician because their family didn’t have the $2 to pay for a doctor’s visit. Let’s not return to private medical centres. In the end, the challenges facing our public health system can be fixed with public solutions, not private ones.

Betty McWhinnie


Festival benefits widespread

This letter was addressed to Shane Bourbonnais of Live Nation. A copy was forwarded to Pique for publication.

On behalf of the Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce and the Community of Pemberton please accept our sincere thank you for the donation of $105,991 from Live Nation Canada Inc. A special committee was established consisting of representation from the Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce, Pemberton Lions Club, Rotary Club of Pemberton Centennial, Royal Canadian Legion Br. #201, Live Nation, the community of Mount Currie a member at large and non-voting representatives from the Village of Pemberton and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. The name of the committee is “Pemberton Festival Community Fund Committee”.

Applications for grants were accepted from community organizations until Oct. 10, 2008. Currently the committee is reviewing the 55 applications received. A decision and distribution of the funds will take place before Dec. 1, 2008.

We are also appreciative of the $25,000 donated to the Barn Dance fund which was shared by the Rotary Club of Pemberton Centennial, Royal Canadian Legion Branch #201, Pemberton Lions Club and Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce.

The Pemberton Festival was the largest event ever staged in the Pemberton area. It was the end product of extensive research, good organization and execution. The economic benefit to not only our community but our neighbouring communities was very significant, not only during but before and after the festival.

The legacy that Live Nation has provided in the form of the funds donated to our community will be widespread as many community organizations will benefit from funds they receive from the Pemberton Festival Community Fund.

Paul Selina

President, Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce

Many guest experiences

I found myself reading the Letters to the editor in the Oct. 23 issue and couldn't help but feel the need to reply to the "Guest Experience" complaint.

I work at one of the hotels here in Whistler and have come upon many situations with innocent onlookers, tourists, and locals who have taken the liberty to park in the "empty five-minute check in spots". Mr. Ross, you must look at it from a "service industry" perspective and remember that these spots are not rented out by our employers as public parking spots.

Now first off, you must put yourself into the place of a guest who is planning on checking in — but as they pull into the area there is nowhere for them to park. This can create major conflict with incoming guests as they struggle across the road with their luggage.

Secondly, no this isn't the actual job description we service industry individuals signed a contract to, but just like any other occupation, in "shoulder seasons" we help out with keeping our guests spots open for arrival.

Lastly, ignoring the situation will result in a free for all for these spots, leaving our future Whistler regulars behind. Also it would show no respect for the paying customers who have spent hours travelling to get here.

Now let's be helpful and please use the public parking spots, that is what they are there for!

Jimmy Leask


Be afraid, be very afraid.

Consumer confidence has been surveyed for 41 years by the American Conference Board and last month it was at a less than robust 61.4 level. (100 is considered the norm). On Tuesday the October number came out at a shocking 38 — the lowest level ever recorded — economists surveyed had expected a number over 50.

A number of this magnitude signifies an economy likely falling off a cliff, as consumers account for 2/3 of the economy. One noted economist voicing his opinion stated: "This is a shock to consumer psychology of a magnitude we haven't seen in decades.”

Combine that with a loss of confidence in the theory that housing and equity markets can create wealth and you can see a change in the consumer's propensity to save that will have a significant consequence on discretionary spending (i.e. ski vacations). The sharpest drop in confidence was amongst income earners above $50,000 — again our market.

What can we do as a small village beset with this tidal wave of financial grief? First, we should stop the municipal council from spending like a bunch of drunken sailors on projects we can ill afford, either now or to pay for in the future. We should initiate imaginative discounts to show we care for the tourists that make the effort to come here. Why not ideas like this:

• Free Thursdays if you buy a pass through to Sunday to encourage extra long weekends.

• A free pass for those that have birthdays — bound to bring a number of friends to celebrate.

• TGIF — thank goodness it's February, with discounts galore during the month.

Let's try to change the way our guests perceive us — not flaunting our number one rating with ever higher prices, but a resort willing to come off its pedestal to meet the beleaguered consumer half way. If we do not change our approach I can easily foresee a 25 per cent drop in visitor numbers.

How did the red suspender crowd of Wall Street take us to the edge, check out for a guaranteed laugh compliments of a very perceptive pair of comedians from one year ago.

Lennox McNeely


I love Whistler!

While this is true, somehow these words don't quite cater for what I'm trying to say. In fact, not even close. Whistler is a gem, alright — there's never a day when I walk out my door without having to pinch myself for assurance that it's real. It's a world class resort — the trails and potential for adventure are simply beyond belief. But, let's not kid ourselves, there are other places in the world you can visit that can readily boast the same.

Yet for many who live here — for those who could not resist its magical allure, Whistler is so much more. As Michel Beaudry has been so eloquently expressing in his series of Alta States (and my heart-felt thanks to him and Pique for the story, which ran last week), " Whistlerites’ stories speak to the very essence of Whistler's identity."

I agree. It seems many of us who live here do so because we insisted on following our dreams. We are, in a sense drawn together in this home away from home'. The Whistler Spirit to me is about just this. As Craig MacKenzie once said to me, "Whistler is like a bungee cord — you might try and leave, but it'll always pull you back."

Tell me about it — and there's a reason for this... a reason that I, for one, am not quite ready to sit back and watch drift away.

If you agree, perhaps you can relate with me when I say it's been a little challenging to listen to some of the comments going around of late; comments I've heard while seeking to gain momentum for embracing community dialogue in affecting positive change. Remarks, such as:

"What's the point of trying to do anything. It's pointless — a waste of time! No one cares about the 'Spirit of Whistler' anymore..."

"It's too late. The community is changing. With the price of rent and local legislations, it's getting harder to run business. Whistler's youth and even its seniors are being pushed right out of town."

All I can say is: Stop right there!

Come on Whistler, we can do better than that. Call me naive, tell me I haven't been here long enough, and “ should've seen how Whistler used to be,” but I believe when enough people get together, amazing things can be achieved. But we have to get engaged! has been live for quite sometime now, and with over 32,000 page hits to date, on the surface it may look as though we're doing quite well. Alas, regardless of the wonderful array of encouragement and kind remarks about the site, few are actually stepping up to express what it is they have to say. If there is something you don't understand about the site, please give me a call! (604-905-9531).

If not, am I to believe current members of council when they say to me, "I agree the community should get more engaged, but we've been trying to get the community involved for years — and they simply don't want to know. The community only starts to kick up a fuss when it's too late for change! I wish you well, but don't think you'll succeed."

Please tell me this is not the case. I know we all lead busy lives, but if you want change, be that change — don't just look to someone else.

VoteWhistler is a non-partisan site and as such invites all members of the Whistler community who want to be engaged and have a say in the issues that affect us all, to take action — visit the site today and post a comment.

Caroline Smalley

Whistler Citizen