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Letters to the Editor for the week of July 12th, 2012

The Magic Within
Joern Rohde Photo

In a world of miserly austerity and national retrenchment, we were thrilled to experience for the second time the "Miracle of Main Street" last Thursday. Whistler's Intercultural Festival thrives on connecting locals and visitors, newcomers and old timers in this growing celebration of our rich cultural diversity.

Despite the overcast skies, nothing dampened the spirits of close to 3,000 festivalgoers sampling the foods of 20 different cultural cuisines, as well as the songs and dances of performers from a dozen traditions from around the world.

German Chancellor Merkel and others might think that multiculturalism is dead in Europe but it is alive and well in Whistler, B.C. and Canada. We are grateful to the generosity of spirit and open-mindedness of all those who supported and participated in what we hope will be an annual and signature event in this international destination resort community.

We will continue to build on the festival's success to increase business and promotion of all the Main Street restaurants, Whistler's distinctively international zone. We will encourage all those new Canadians working and settling in Whistler to showcase their talents and traditions, and to connect in with the Whistler Multicultural Network. And we are committed with the federal government and muni council, staff and sponsors like IGA and the Pique to build bridges between differences creating new interactions, new fusions and inclusive, innovative communities that draw on cultural diversity.

Particular thanks to Rosemary Cook and her able team of volunteers; to Steve Clark and his stage crew with Ghazal Tohodi, MC extraordinaire. And from Belgium, Capilano U student Ester Melotte who learnt lots on the ground about event production, together with the skilled, dedicated team from Watermark — thank you.

Our immigration and labour policies, our settlement services and refugee supports, our deeper understanding of citizenship and democratic values amidst an ongoing "clash of civilizations" continue to test us. But in an increasingly welcoming Whistler and with intercultural forums and festivals, we are building a firmer foundation for a brighter future.

William Roberts, President on behalf of the board of The Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue

Electoral boundaries need common sense

For the last six months the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission has been reviewing electoral ridings across Canada. Incredibly they conclude Pemberton and Area C should remain part of the Chilliwack-Fraser Valley Electoral riding. In addition, they recommend the riding should encompass One Hundred Mile House in the Caribou region making it a massive, probably ungovernable region for one lone MP.

Is anyone else concerned about this? As a long-time resident of Pemberton, I feel we should share representation with our neighbours — Whistler and Squamish.

Our current MP Mark Strahl was even quoted in the Whistler Question (Feb.2, 2012) as saying: "I think it makes sense for Pemberton to be with Whistler. A lot of people who live in Pemberton work in Whistler, and certainly they're more connected in terms of everyday life to that part of the world than to the Fraser Valley."

The main criterion for creating electoral boundaries is population. Re-distribution attempts to ensure populations are relatively even between ridings. It's strictly a numbers game.

But if this means rural communities are simply divided up and lumped together across the province to balance the population of more urban centres, we lose any chance of having representation that reflects specific concerns of the area in which we live.

Public hearings will still be held in September before this decision becomes final. More information is available at:

Let's be sure Pemberton and SLRD Area C have a strong voice at the public hearing. We consider ourselves part of the Sea to Sky Corridor. Let's restore common sense electoral boundaries that reflect that.

Hillary Downing


Honk if you love the bears!

My new job this summer has me driving Highway 99 more than I have in my past five summers in Whistler, and this has resulted in me seeing lots of bears on the side of the road.

Much like most of us in Whistler, I feel that seeing bears is a highlight and a treat. Bears are cool! In fact, I have even been counting bears (currently 113) much to the amusement of my friends!

Most of the bears I have seen have been on the side of the highway, some of them trying to cross the highway, which scares the bejeezus out me as I am flying along at 80km per hour (yes, I am of those who stick to the speed limit — another issue altogether that was already mentioned in a letter a few Piques back).

But what I want to talk about are the bears. They are beautiful and wild, they make you want to look and for some numb-nuts out there, even though there is signage everywhere and common sense should tell you to let wildlife be, they find it necessary to stop along the highway and look at the bears.

The highway is NOT a zoo! Not only is it dangerous to stop along the highway, it is also detrimental to the bears. We don't want them to become accustomed to humans or cars because much like a garbage bear is a dead bear, so is a highway bear. So as a result I have become a honker. If I see a car stopped because of bears along the highway I honk to scare the bears away from the cars and hopefully to make people realize that what they are doing is WRONG!

So join me if you love the bears and honk next time you see cars stopped along the highway endangering our beautiful bears!

Mariana Guaraldo


What's the rush on IPPs

Innergex is attempting to construct three power plants via the Upper Lillooet Hydro project.

"We are pleased to consolidate our presence in the Pemberton region and we look forward to strengthening our relations with local stakeholders in what has become a strategic area of development for the corporation," said Innergex President Michel Letellier in (a recent) press release.

Do we really need more IPP projects right now!

Not according to Gwen Barlee, policy director of Wilderness Committee. She was referring to the open houses that were held in Mount Currie on July 9th and in Pemberton on July 10th.

"This is an important opportunity for citizens who are concerned about the gold rush that has been triggered by our provincial government's subsidization of private power projects to voice their opposition to this short-sighted policy. In the last call for power, BC Hydro paid $125 MWh for electricity generated by private power projects — but right now BC Hydro can buy firm electricity for $20 MWh. Not only are these industrial projects a financial drain on BC Hydro — ratepayers and BC Hydro are on the hook for $40 billion in energy purchase agreements to private power producer — aside from the significant environmental impact these projects have."

BC Hydro has the obligation to buy each and every MWh at a set price for the length of the lease. In the case of the Upper Lillooet River Hydro Project the lease is slated for 40 years!

"Run of the river" energy is not a storable energy. It is produced by the flow of the river and added to the transmission lines to be sold immediately.

Marvin Shaffer, of the Vancouver Sun reported in his column: "The government policies directed BC Hydro to buy all the energy generated by the IPP at a price that exceeds market value, regardless of the costs to Hydro to provide backup and other services it would have to supply and assuming the market risks.

"In its rate application BC Hydro reported that by 2014 it will be buying over five million megawatt hours of private power as a result of the government's policy. This is power that BC Hydro does not yet need, would not otherwise have acquired and the BC Utilities Commission would not have approved. The average price BC Hydro will be paying for this power is well over $100 per megawatt hour and its value, based on Hydro's latest forecasts of its market, will be less than $50 per megawatt hour. The financial loss to BC Hydro will be well over $250 million in that year alone.

"As for exports, the purchase and resale by BC Hydro of low-value high-cost private power never made sense and makes even less sense now with the depressed power markets in the U.S. as BC Hydro has recently pointed out."

What the government can and should do is to change its policies and rescind the legislation and directives that have prevented BC Hydro from planning and operating its system more efficiently.

Why the rush to build more power plants?

One cannot blame the private companies, which have been given the go ahead by the government's legislation to maximize such an opportunity with the guaranteed commitment from BC Hydro to buy all the power they generate. A formula for success! Why the rush to push forward, the rivers will still be there for a long time. Why not take the opportunity to slow down, reflect and then move forward.

Let us not give our children the opportunity to say: " Where were you when all this was going on?"

Linda Ronayne, President, Valerie Megeney, International Convener, Jeanette Helmer, Canadian Industries and Environment Convener for The Women's Institute of Canada Pemberton Branch

Butt out!

As summer is finally here and we are now all able to enjoy the outdoors once again, I would like to send a kind reminder to the smoking population here in Whistler; don't do it near me.

The next time you think you're not affecting anyone by lighting up while driving think of the person behind you and know that they smell it.

When you're hanging out with your buddies on the dock at the dog park; we smell it. When you're sitting on the bleachers at Spruce Grove watching a softball game with a butt hanging out of your mouth; we smell it.

And if someone calls you out on it (because obviously the only reason that you would be smoking around others is because you truthfully believed that you live in a special glass bubble and aren't affecting anyone else with your cancerous emissions) save the attitude and move away from us.

Far away.

We all live in Whistler for our common love of the outdoors and nature. It is our right to enjoy it and its fresh air — from the beaches to the river, the mountains and trails.

Kate Turner


Time to re-think muni vehicle fleet sales?

Recently the municipality put three pick-up trucks from the utilities depart up for auction. It caught my eye, as the mileage on the trucks ranged from 100,000 to 130,000 km's, while the models ranged from 2004 to 2007.

The minimum auction price for the three trucks combined was $22,200, while the replacement value is approximately $160,000 for the three.

The replacement standard for federal (like retired RCMP cruisers) vehicles is ten years, or 160,000km. I've seen municipal vehicles from the Vancouver area municipalities go to auction that were over 20 years old.

I brought this up at the last council meeting, and the general manager of Infrastructure, Joe Paul, explained that there is a complicated (and apparently mysterious) formula that basically works out the ratio between the vehicle's amortization, and what it costs in extra maintenance to keep an older vehicle on the road.

It seemed to be a pretty vague answer.

Not wanting to get into an argument about vehicle amortization in the middle of a council meeting, I let it slide. However, I have a lot of experience with company vehicles, and with the auction process of retired government vehicles, and thought I would expand my thoughts a little.

Taking the 2005 F-450 diesel truck with 101,000km on it, the replacement cost is approximately $70,000, while the minimum auction price was about $6,500. Since it's an auction, assume that the truck will sell for $10,000, and that it has depreciated $60,000 in seven years. If the RMOW were to keep that truck on the road for another seven years, and it depreciated to zero (unlikely, a quick scan through the classified ads and I couldn't find a similar truck of any year in any condition for less than $5000), then it would cost $10,000 in amortization for the same time period that a new truck would depreciate from $70,000 to $10,000. At the end of the day, that's about a $50,000 difference.

As for the maintenance costs, now there's $50,000 in amortization savings to put towards that. The RMOW has a fully equipped mechanical shop with a full time mechanic, so it's not like they have to take it to Canadian Tire every time the oil needs changing. Still, older vehicles are prone to mechanical failures, so I checked into the repair costs on a worst-case (and very unlikely) scenario, blown engine, transmission, and differential. All of that would probably run about $12,000 to repair, at a commercial shop.

Three trucks in the utilities department are barely a blip on the municipal budget. However, the municipality has a huge fleet of vehicles, and the budget for them ranges from $800,000 to $1,000,000 (excluding fire truck replacements) per year. Keeping that fleet on the road for longer will save a lot of money.

Finally; a personal note. This winter, I put over 10,000 km's on my 18-year old car in four months commuting to Vancouver because there was no work for me in Whistler this winter. I'm putting a big chunk of the money I earned doing that into paying my municipal property taxes.

David Buzzard


Whistler U worth consideration

Congratulations to Pique Newsmagazine for consistency in negative press regarding the university proposal. But really, comparing Whistler University (WU) with casinos and prisons? Not wanting students in town because they will be drunken yabbos that beat "locals" to the lift lines and ski freshies ahead of the self-chosen few? Exaggerating the size and scope of the proposal to demonize the project? Or pontificating that educational opportunities such as this should take place in underutilized existing infrastructure, a hotel for example.

Has one of the major accommodations properties decided to repurpose lately? Guess I missed that rezoning application.

How about adding some balance to this issue. Should WU go ahead at the Zen property the immediate areas of Function and Creekside would receive a much-needed economic injection. Cheakamus Crossing would not be so much of an out of the way satellite neighbourhood. The transit system does need riders to fill 80 per cent of the empty seats. The taxation base will benefit. The infrastructure can handle effluent. The school schedule and tourist seasons are not in conflict. The shoulder seasons would not be so quiet for local business. The addition of construction contracts for a decade won't hurt our local builders. Well-paid educational positions in perpetuity would be a welcome addition to our workforce. Adding diversity to our economy should not be considered a bad thing. One lousy winter snowpack would be a wake-call for us all.

I would like to see this proposal go a step further. In addition to the courses WU currently intends to offer there could be a medical course teaching facility combined with a private clinic. Instead of the boomers travelling south for advanced orthopedic procedures they could travel here (Stedman Clinic in Vail contributes 20,000 bed night visits annually). Or What about MBA course offerings, or climatology? Where else can students in climate studies get on a lift and visit a glacier, or walk a few metres to appreciate and understand the value of an adjacent wetland?

There are many positive aspects of the WU proposal worth exploring and contributing towards. But the kangaroo court of journalistic opinion from the Pique lately has not enriched this debate.

Steve Anderson


A word of thanks

I would like to take this time to thank the local Sea to Sky corridor RCMP.

Last month I had my bike stolen from my place of residence in Whistler. Just as I had given up all hope I received a call that officers had recovered my bike.

Now I know that I was lucky but I would like to let everyone know that the RCMP takes bike theft seriously and really does its best. Some good advice to maximize the return of your stolen bike is to write down the serial number, know every component on your bike, and know all scratches or dents that make your bike unique. The latter is how I was able to get my bike back as I did not have my serial number written down.

Anyways, a big thanks to the RCMP, my friends who kept their eyes peeled, and my wife who always stayed positive.

I believe all these factors helped to bring my bike back to its rightful owner.

Mark Kissner


Think human safety first

I'm writing this letter in response to the letter written, and surprisingly published, regarding the lady who stopped her vehicle on a major highway (Highway 99) to ensure a duck could cross the road (Pique June 28). This REALLY frustrates me. I drive a motorbike and have almost been in a few severe accidents because of people just like her!

I do value wildlife but I value human life more highly. I have seen people pull over into oncoming traffic lanes on a blind corner in the Callaghan (for this reason) — in fact I almost went right over their hood but narrowly avoided doing so. You see it all the time, someone sees a bear at the side of the road and stomps their brakes before checking to see if it's safe to slow down.

My main point is that (some of) the drivers we have on B.C roads are not skilled enough to drive, period, so the last thing we should be encouraging them to do is disregard the rules of the road to preserve wildlife.

There are rules of the road for all drivers' safety, you could use your horn and failing that leave it to Darwin and the survival of the fittest, but don't save a duck's life at the expense of a human's.

Ross O'Connell


We love pancakes - thanks

Canadians love pancakes, or at least locals and visitors to Whistler do, as evidenced by the success of the Whistler Food Bank Canada Day Pancake Breakfast. This year was our best year ever, with $1,165 raised and around 380 pancakes flipped, served, and smothered in maple syrup.

Thanks to the generous support of our event sponsors, close to 100 per cent of proceeds will go to food for people in need in Whistler.

The Four Seasons Resort was our main event sponsor, helping with a lot of the supplies like the BBQ, tent, and tables, but most importantly — a team of amazing volunteers. Thanks Jean Pinnegar, Sarah Bolton, Lucie Vermette, Lina Gavino, Kristy-Lee Belanger, Hana Lynn, Tony Chadfield, Fiona Stewart, and Chris Jaycock. We even had the General Manager of the Four Seasons, Peter Humig, preparing and mixing the batter from scratch!

Miranda Pawlett from the Human Resources Department was the amazing coordinator of this team of volunteers.

Another key volunteer came to us from Big Smoke — Adam Protter was our head volunteer chef, and he managed to flip pancakes, tweak recipes, and instruct less experienced volunteers on how they could assist his efforts. Thanks to him the pancakes were just the right shade of brown and were cooked to perfection.

We couldn't have made the pancakes from scratch without the ingredients, which along with the juice were provided by Upper Village Market.

Whistler Community Services Society insists on making the pancakes from scratch on Canada Day to better represent a traditional Canadian breakfast — it may be more work — but the result is a great tasting pancake.

Of course, no Canadian breakfast is complete without a coffee and thanks to the Village Starbucks we had both coffee and tea available.

And a big thank you to the weather gods who made sure all the rain fell the day before, and left Canada Day dry — it was even a little warmer than last year.

Thanks for your support Whistler and visitors.

Sara Jennings, Whistler Community Services Society Food Bank Coordinator

A letter last week incorrectly stated that Lindsay May lives in Area C. She, in fact, lives in Pemberton. Pique apologizes for the error.