I took offence to Nigel Protter's letter (Whos afraid of the big bad WEF?, Pique April 5, 2002), not because of his views on the WEF conference everyone's entitled to their opinion but because his tone drowned out the points he was trying to make. Instead of considering the other side of the coin which he presented, I was compelled to educate Mr. Protter on the diversity of people and motivations in Whistler. I found his smarmy grouping of community members as "rich escapees of real global society" as incredibly undermining. Maybe Nigel isn't here for the same reasons many of us are? It wasn't "blind luck" that brought me to Whistler. I chose this lifestyle over previous lifestyles because I've never felt happier in such a natural environment. And don't kid yourself Nigel, many of us gave up the 9-5 rat race and the financial benefits to lead a life where we may live paycheque to paycheque covering absurd housing and grocery costs, but watching the mist burn off the mountains in the morning is priceless. I consider my choice as protest to the direction society is going, and I stand behind it.
Which brings me back to the WEF. My sentiments against the WEF stem not from the idea of having thousands of security officers, or the effects on my snowboarding that week. By signing petitions and voicing my concerns, it's the first stage in my protest of the World Economic Forum itself. Should I wait till it's in my backyard to sit up and take notice?
Whistler , please hold an environment forum, I'll put David Suzuki up on my couch. But the WEF is an invitation-only club of the world's richest corporations, whose agenda is determined by who has the cool quarter million dollars US to pay for their say. Its members are anything but globally representative, and recently Greenpeace publicly rejected their 2002 invitation as protest to the "insincere treatment of NGOs (which were only invited to attend in the past few years) and the environmental agenda by WEF." (www.citizen.org/publications/ < http://www.citizen.org/publications/ > ) It's a money-fuelled club aimed at making more money. Does their track record prove them to be champions of individual rights?
So before we're condemned as Peter Pans and Tinkerbells, maybe Nigel could give a bit more credit to the Whistler Community. Nigel, if you think this is your big chance to be heard, we'll see you in the picket lines. Unless you made the guest list.
While it is somewhat encouraging to see that Whistler council has yet to sign the contract with Mr. Schwab to host 2,000 of the World's corporate élite in our little town, I fear that Mayor O'Reilly and certain councillors are now trying to spin the thing in a certain way so that they (and we citizens and taxpayers) get the WEF and they maintain their elected positions so they may personally enjoy the benefits of their vote for the World Economic Forum, while we poor taxpayers foot the bill as they hobnob with the world's supposed élite.
While I was out of town for the last council meeting, apparently David Roberts, GM of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, and Suzanne Denbak of Tourism Whistler were encouraged to speak out in favour of the World Economic Forum. Those who have collected over 1,000 signatures on a petition opposing the WEF and others in opposition were strangely not represented. David Roberts is an excellent individual who has contributed greatly to our community and has certainly earned my respect, so I must assume that David has been instructed from above that as the most likely central venue for the WEF, David and his property are the most likely financial beneficiaries of the WEF. Sorry David, but I do not agree that Fairmont Hotels and Resorts get premium rates from the élite WEF delegates while the mountains and most businesses suffer losses, our community gets a tarnished image and we poor taxpayers have to foot the bill for all of this madness.
Tourism Whistler? Well of course Suzanne supports the WEF because she honestly believes that Premier Campbell is going to give her a "free" $15 million conference centre renovation. Two things disturb me about this. Firstly, it's only free to Suzanne because we taxpayers of British Columbia have to pay the tab and I really don't know where Premier Campbell is going to get the money, given the government of B.C.'s dismal financial position. Secondly is the basic principle proven around the world, that "free" money from politicians is seldom well spent. To further prove this example, if we add $15 million to renovate the conference centre plus $12 million for all the riot policemen and fencing, we get $27 million for a five-day party, which at over $5 million per day is pretty rich for the B.C. government. If the expanded and renovated conference centre is so desperately needed, why isn't there a compelling business case that demonstrates the need and benefits such that funds can be raised the old fashioned way... by working for it?
I have now begun to develop some sympathy for Mayor O'Reilly because he must have some very heavy political hands leaning on his shoulders. I mean Prime Minister Chrétien last year offered Whistler as the venue for this year's G8 summit but after all of the injuries and a shooting death in Gothenburg, Sweden and Genoa, Italy, the leaders of Whistler strongly opposed this proposition and the thing was forced upon Kananaskis Country in Alberta, where they can just close the entire damn valley. The locals are not impressed but it has been shoved down their throats anyway. That doesn't mean, however, that the citizens of Whistler have to just lay down and die.
Let's help Mayor O'Reilly and any councillors who still have cotton in their ears by all of us writing letters to the mayor and council expressing our views on the matter. Write to the newspapers. Call the municipal councillor closest to you and express your opinion. Let's have a little lesson in democracy.
I am personally strongly opposed to Whistler hosting the World Economic Forum because I have worked in Davos for about 10 years and have seen a good thing go bad in that community. I am certain that the WEF will only bring economic benefits to a few of the very best (expensive) hotels and restaurants and that the rest of our tourist beds and businesses and the two mountains will bear the brunt of our valley being closed off to the outside during nearly two weeks of our prime season. I also estimate that we taxpayers will be forced to pay for the lion's share of the security, which cost Davos $11.5 million in January 2001.
Finally, the mayor may be right when he says the WEF will get our name in the paper. Sure, something like "Three youths shot dead in Whistler, Canada." Great marketing, Hugh!
Frankly, we just don't need this thing. The risks and costs far outweigh the perceived benefits.
So let's get out there and let our elected officials know that those who vote for the WEF will be remembered in November and we will elect a new mayor and council who will allow free dialogue in this community and will listen to the voices of the people who work and pay taxes in Whistler. The new council can then un-invite Mr. Schwab and his corporate élite and tell them to do their business elsewhere. Whistler is for nature, sport and recreation and that's the image we have worked so hard to develop these last 30 years and that's the image we wish to keep.
Regretfully, being in hospital, I was unable to attend the April 2 municipal council meeting. However, highlights of the address to council were relayed to me.
With the utmost sincerity, I urge those who support bringing the WEF to Whistler to stop reading the National Post and articles by the Fraser Institute (which might well have caused their astounding naivete).
Rather, they should read truth-revealing publications such as that of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
On March 4 th , council was divided on whether to host the World Economic Forum (WEF). So, in order to gauge community sentiment, it decided to postpone the vote until April 2 nd .
At that council meeting on April 2 nd , two citizens spoke in favour of hosting the WEF. One spoke against.
Council also acknowledged receipt of 946 signatures on a petition, 25 e-mails, and nine letters, all against hosting the WEF. As well, there were two e-mails and one letter in favour.
That makes five in favour, 981 against.
Council again delayed the vote, this time until April 22 nd . One wonders, if the numbers had been reversed, would this debate still be going on?
Its important to separate the facts from fiction about the World Economic Forum.
There has been a great deal of misinformation about the possibility of hosting the World Economic Forums 2004 annual meeting in our community. People have confused it with some of the controversial large-scale political meetings that have attracted notoriety and some measure of insecurity.
The facts are these: hosting the non-profit, non-partisan World Economic Forum would be a great opportunity to showcase our splendid community for the worlds leading academics and scientists, for the greatest artists, philosophers and thinkers of our time, for the leaders of nations, businesses and trade unions and the stewards of our natural environment.
The WEF would inject at least $4 million in direct economic benefits to Whistler (using conservative estimates based on the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus calculations) from some 1,000 members and 2,000 participants enjoying our hospitality, services and recreation. If the WEF comes, we will also receive monetary contributions from the provincial and federal governments for renovations to our conference centre.
A security plan is being drafted specific to Whistler, maximizing safety and convenience for all. People have expressed concern about the January timing of the event curtailing the opportunity for skiers. This will not be the case. In fact, the WEF will provide ski passes and equipment rental for all conference attendees and our other visitors will have ready access to the slopes.
Its been suggested that the WEF and Whistler are not a good fit. The fact is our communitys own core values are very well reflected in the founding principles of the World Economic Forum. It is " committed to improving the state of the world acting in the spirit of entrepreneurship in the global public interest to further economic growth and social progress."
Sounds very close to what were trying to achieve in Whistler as well.
Because of the WEFs admirable core values that are shared by our community, and because this conference will be very beneficial to our resort in these times of "flat-lining" tourism revenue, we indeed look forward to welcoming the World Economic Forum to Whistler in 2004.
For further information about the WEF, see our article elsewhere in this publication or check out: www.weforum.org
To express your support for hosting the WEF in Whistler, write a letter to the editors of our local papers, send a copy of that letter to our municipal council and attend the April 22 council meeting at which this matter will be discussed.
The World Economic Forum in Whistler Committee
David Roberts, chair and general manager, Chateau Whistler
Suzanne Denbak, president and CEO, Tourism Whistler
Victor Burt, general manager, Westin Resort & Spa
Ken Cretney, general manager, Delta Whistler Resort
John Nadeau, chair, Whistler Chamber of Commerce, and manager North Shore Credit Union
David Campbell, owner, Keir Jewelry
Bring on the Forum
I surprise even myself with the comments I'm about to make. I say, bring on the World Economic Forum! You see, I'm a dedicated anti-corporate, left wing, freedom to the underdog kind of thinker and I applaud the efforts of local columnist GD Maxwell and Van Powel in mobilizing the local body politique and knocking down the walls of staid local politics. Good on ya, I say.
My thoughts on the matter, however, crystalized when I considered carrying a petition around to gather signatures against the forum. All of the reasons stated against it: less business for Intrawest and village merchants, the inconvenience of not being able to get a cappuccino at any hour of the day, and the possible danger of cutting my finger on razor wire didn't wash with me. And most importantly, it all seemed rather hypocritical.
Here we are hosting tens, if not hundreds of major corporations in our village on a daily basis, yet not wanting to let them host their meeting here. Maybe it's just because I'm a writer, but personally I think it would be fascinating to have all those movers and shakers from the transnational corporations gathered right here in our town. At least we could have a close eye on them, and the ability to poke a finger in one of theirs (a metaphorical one, of course). When the Libertarian conference met here in 1996, I attended as a journalist and heard a bunch of right wing wackos pronounce on why there's no free lunch and why homosexuals are evil. Did I agree with them: not in the least. But it was interesting and refreshing to come into contact with thoughts that exist out there in the wide world, no matter how much I may disagree with them. And when it comes to the WEF, the matters to be discussed will have a powerful bearing on people around the world as well as all of us right here in Whistler.
Whistler is one of the most corporate towns in North America. Witness the World Ski & Snowboard Festival that's about to take place from April 12-21. Check out how many new cars will be parked in the village advertising their brand names, how many banners and tents advertising soft drinks, Web sites and cell phones will be plastered all over town. For that corporate inundation we seem willing to flash a sun-tanned smile and forget about our global, anti-corporate stance.
In a town that thrives on the image of fun, it might be worthwhile to exercise our brains for a change and see what we think about trends that are going on around the world. I say, bring on the WEF. When a protestor protests, they know there's a certain element of danger. When a cafe patron can't get a cappuccino, they survive. And when a town sees what they're really a part of, it just might shake them awake.
Reading the results of the recent KPMG study on Whistler's considerable impact on the provincial economy reminds me that little has changed in this province over the decades. Hard-working people built communities to take advantage of a resource, but the financial benefits rarely stayed in those communities, they were siphoned off to Victoria usually leaving ghost towns in their wake once the resource was gone. British Columbia is filled with towns that didn't have the financial tools to make a transition to a broader economic base. Whistler a resource town? Sure we are, we export happy visitors who have used our natural surroundings and recreational infrastructure. Won't our resource be there forever? Because of our balmy coastal location this place is more vulnerable to a warming atmosphere than just about any other major North American ski resort. By 2020 it is anticipated that our average temperature could be 2 degrees higher, with potential devastating consequences for our main winter industry.
There are dedicated people working in this community trying to get the tools we need to have more control over our future, from keeping more tax revenues here (contributing to affordability) to expanding our municipal boundaries, and a land bank which could go a long way in helping alleviate our housing problems. They have been working on these important issues with Victoria, in some cases for years, and now this hard work may be put at risk. Why? Because Premier Gordon Campbell went ahead and put the word out that Whistler would love to host the WEF forum, and Whistlers potential rejection of the WEF is going to give him a big ol' black eye.
This is one of those decisions where staying as we have been as a community in the past is not an option. Deciding that yes we want to invite the WEF may bring with it potential disruption, security issues and the appearance that we support the WEF and their (troubling) global corporate agenda. A no decision could possibly result in losing provincial support for the tools we need to improve the future of this community because we unintentionally embarrassed the government that could provide us with those tools. We won't be staying as we were there are going to be real consequences either way. Even if the WEF and Olympic bid vanished tomorrow this community still needs those tools. Also, plans are underway to renovate our old hockey rink-meeting centre into a real conference centre and the plans include making it into one of the most environmentally sustainable structures in the world, an amenity that will bring conference visitors we couldn't begin to attract today, and year round. If the WEF doesn't come, neither does the cheque for that renovation.
For me the decision to encourage Whistler council to invite the WEF for One Show Only in 2004 is an easy one. We don't have any prior experience to say... "oh yes remember back in 93 when we had that conference that required all that security? Never again!" or "It wasn't anything like the fearmongers told us it would be, let's do it again..." We have to grow up and get the experience we need to move successfully into the future or risk agonizing year after year about what might or might not happen as we are asked to host similar events. Whistler is not Davos and to say our experience will be just like that or worse is irresponsible.
I hope we have the WEF here in 2004, and I'm looking forward to joining at the front of the protest line all those who spoke out on idealogical grounds against this conference and may not agree with their vision of the world, but Whistler can show that we aren't afraid to gain much needed experience as we take steps on our journey to a sustainable future.
I am nearing the end of my fourth season as a volunteer with the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program and Im writing Pique for two reasons.
- To thank you for the informative, inspiring article in your April 5 edition about special needs sports.
- To note a slight inaccuracy in that article. It was stated that " Whistler-Blackcomb provided a new equipment centre." In fact, this awesome equipment centre was a co-operative effort between Whistler-Blackcomb and the Whistler Rotary Club. The Rotary Club deserves a huge "thank you" for their help with this project, as well as other projects involving aid for some of our low income guests.
The Whistler Rotary Club rocks!
We have been Whistler residents for some period of time, sharing this home with one in Bellevue, Washington in the States. My wife (who is Canadian) and I consistently read your magazine and commend your efforts to provide information and news about Whistler, and we particularly enjoy your editorial comments.
The April 5 th issue of your publication had a variety of subjects about the opportunities that lie ahead for the municipality, including the 2010 Olympic bid. While opportunities abound in Whistler, we believe that the resorts law enforcement and hospitality industry need to address the consistent and bothersome behaviour of patrons of the local night clubs and "party spots."
The problem of the irresponsible use of alcohol and other controlled substances is certainly harming the reputation of our community and the problem has become more critical over the last few months. It appears that the hospitality industry and policing agencies have little control over the increasingly acute problem.
Over the past six months, we have had four occasions where our windows have been broken out by rocks and snowballs thrown by individuals returning home after "partying" in the village. Within the past two weeks, my wife awoke to find an intruder in our home rummaging through our belongings and otherwise terrorizing her in the process. This past weekend, at 1:30 a.m., we awoke to a car attempting to "run down" individuals walking home after "getting their fill" in the village. When I called 911, it was suggested that we may be "having a bad dream," until the dispatcher actually could hear the screaming and screeching tires over my irritated voice.
It is a nightly occurrence that we experience lewd and drunken behaviour by patrons of local night clubs passing by on their way home. Additionally, we observe drugs being sold at many places in the village, read your publication about a cocaine problem in Whistler, hear about violence in the village and see the offensive behaviour of taxi patrons after hours.
It seems to us that the RMOW needs to recognize that there are current issues of civil disobedience and inadequate policing that need to be resolved before the Olympic bid. Also, if Whistler cant seem to handle the small stuff, how in the world can it consider having the WEF in town?
It is ironic that at a time when young Canadians are visiting, memorializing and paying tribute to those who sacrificed their lives at Vimy Ridge, a battle which is often referred to as defining Canada as a nation, that Church leaders, native groups and others are advocating destroying ballots or not voting on the referendum.
"We shall not sleep though poppies grow."
As a Whistler publication it is reasonable that the focus of your stories is the Whistler community. So its understandable when you report that Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA) board appointee Dave Brownlie "is confident he can be the voice for Whistlers concerns." (Brownlie to represent corridor on new health authority, Pique March 29, 2002).
And although Brownlie suggests he will represent the interests of the entire Sea to Sky corridor, he has acknowledged elsewhere that he was not appointed to represent the corridor per se.
In addition to Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, the North Shore, and the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, the VCHA area includes all of the Sunshine Coast, Powell River and with some mental health affiliation with Bella Bella and Bella Coola. With such a large area and such diverse communities, its astonishing that there would be only one board member from outside the Vancouver area. It would appear that no consideration has been given to community expertise and input.
But theres a more disturbing aspect to the make up of the board. It is extremely unbalanced, representing a very narrow segment of society. With perhaps one exception, board members have been recruited exclusively from the ranks of the corporate, major business, and financial sectors. Is it any wonder there are fears that the main priority is cutting budgets, not improving patient care?
And with board members such as the president and CEO of BC Hot House Foods can privatization of ancillary services be far behind? It puts the lie to Gordon Campbells pre-election promise not to "do any kind of privatizing of health care."
I really want to say a very special thanks to friends, family, the staff of the Great Wall Climbing Gym and a most gracious thanks to Bobby and Corrine Allison. Everyone has been so awesome and caring with putting together the fund-raiser at Dustys on March 27.
Thank you everyone for your amazing support. My heart and soul gives out much happiness and love to all of you. May peace and harmony be shared between us all.