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Letters to the Editor for the week of November 8

Help the bears Bears are a nuisance. This is a far-too-common refrain in Whistler. People don't say it outright, but the attitude is there, in people's actions and more importantly inactions.
Photo by Clare Ogilvie

Help the bears

Bears are a nuisance.

This is a far-too-common refrain in Whistler. People don't say it outright, but the attitude is there, in people's actions and more importantly inactions. It's there every time a bear is killed, a mother this time.

This mother and her three cubs were feeding on mountain-ash berries in a residential area earlier this month. The Conservation Office Service (COS) tranquillized the mother, who fell from a tree to her death, leaving three tiny cubs to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar area.

The likelihood of those cubs' surviving is slim. The cubs weighed roughly 14 kilograms and have only a month or two to pack on the necessary weight for hibernation and to find a den, now with no mother to fend off attacks or help or guide them. We killed one bear and three more deaths will likely follow. We may never know for sure.

There are a number of questions the public should be asking, but let's start with the most important: Why were those landscaped trees there in the first place? And planted on Whistler Housing Authority land no less?

I commend the COS for reaching out to the municipality to help remove the attractant where the incident occurred. It's great that the municipality is stepping up. But, shouldn't more preventative measures be pursued now?

Shouldn't we have attractants like mountain ash removed in our community, prohibit further residential areas from planting it and mandate garden centres not sell it, so the situation doesn't repeat itself?

Another question to ask: why did a member of the public call the COS to begin with? Did they call to report a sighting or was it a nuisance complaint?

The mother and cubs posed no threat to public safety. They were merely doing what bears do. Feeding in preparation for hibernation. Feeding not on garbage, or left-out recycling, or grease drippings from a restaurant bin. No, these four bears fed on what grows naturally in their habitat: mountain ash.

The residents should have notified their property manager that the mountain-ash trees needed to be replaced with a variety that doesn't invite bears into their neighbourhood. That would have been the right thing to do. And quite some time ago, as this has been an ongoing situation.

If a bear enters a property, from a safe distance, yell and shout at the bear to go away. Bang pots and pans. Snap and shake a large garbage bag. Give bears an experience that says, "Hey, you are not welcome here." And when the bear leaves, remove the attractant.

Or, if appropriate, call your landlord, property manager or municipality to do so.

Communicate to your neighbours about the furry visitor. Remind friends to be extra vigilant during this time of hyperphagia—a time when bears need to eat continuously to survive the winter.

Don't leave food or garbage in your vehicle. Take down bird feeders. Clean barbecues, especially the grease pan. One person can make all the difference in the world. One action, one conversation, one letter.

The COS could have done more, too. Several poor decisions were made: 1) the family of bears should have been left alone as they were not in serious conflict—this is the best decision; 2) an order should have been written to remove the mountain-ash berries—this is the best preventative action; 3) the CO should have been equipped with a catch net to minimize harm during the tranquilizing process; 4) the cubs, once orphaned, should have been taken to Critter Care where they are safe and could fatten up and be released back to the wild in the spring. 

Catch nets have been on the market for years. Why did it take so long for the COS to order one? Get Bear Smart, along with other Whistler Bear Advisory Committee members, suggested a net many years ago. A net was on the way, according to the COS. This means that the COS understood the importance of this net. Why delay?

Their answer is in their mandate. The No. 1 priority of the COS is to act in the best interest of public safety. Bears' lives come second.

We need to take time in our busy lives, filled with other equally demanding priorities, to collectively work towards coexistence. Each player has a necessary role—the COS, the municipality, the public and animal advocacy groups.

This past week, The Fur-Bearers launched an official complaint and campaign against the COS on how the mother and three cubs were dealt with.

Show your support. Get involved. Contact the municipality. Write your local paper or even The Province, the National Post, the Globe and Mail or Georgia Straight. Write the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy or the Chief CO. Let these organizations and people in power know what you think. Speak up. And if you don't want to complain, do something positive.

Volunteer with the Whistler chapter of the Get Bear Smart Society (contact:

Currently, three amazing volunteers—Marcelo Bacchi Ambrosano, Ivana Minic-Lukac and Mel Dutkiewicz—are making local bears' lives better one bike ride at a time as part of the inaugural Biking for Bears Ambassador Program.

Every time they request a dog be leashed, every time they educate people with cameras to keep a safe distance, the likelihood of coexistence between humans and bears becomes that much more possible.

This program came about from one phone call, when the Get Bear Smart Society was approached by a member of the public to help mitigate an area frequented by bears and hence curious people.

The person who called didn't complain about the bears. This person took issue with the public. The bears weren't a nuisance. The public was. And because of that attitude, people were able to step in and help better the situation. Three people. Could you imagine what three more people could do?

Whistler needs to change its attitude. Bears are not a nuisance. Bears are our opportunity to rediscover our humanity and relationship with nature.

Sylvia Dolson,
Executive Director, Get Bear Smart Society, Whistler

Looking at prorep in the light of pay

Last week’s “Letters to the Editor” from (MLA) Jordan Sturdy and Val Litwin (CEO of BC Chamber of Commerce) about B.C.’s electoral reform referendum seemed down right frightening until I remembered it was Halloween (Pique Nov. 1). Then the ruse of trying to spook people made perfect sense.

From the second sentence in Sturdy’s letter referring to Proportional Representation(prorep) as a “system where your representative could very well live in some other part of the province,” to Litwin’s claim that “voters must then rank three new PR models,” the truth of the matter was blurred into the shadows of a dark and scary Halloween night.

In fact, under all three proposed propep systems, we’ll still have a direct local MLA, but we’ll also have a regional one that serves to balance the overall representation in the legislature with the overall vote in the province. This creates a more fair system in which the legislature accurately reflects voters’ intentions.

Nor is it true that voters must rank the three proposed prorep models. They need only answer the first question as to whether they want to keep First Past The Post (FPTP) or choose a Proportional Representation voting system. They then have the opportunity to rank the three PR systems if they so choose.

Mr. Litwin warns that this multi-step voting process is “needlessly complex,” and that the referendum needs to be “simple and straightforward.” I believe British Columbians will have no problem reading the four descriptions of the voting systems in the ballot and going to if they want more in depth information. There is also an excellent non-partisan questionnaire at that helps you determine which of the four voting systems you would prefer.

So why are the well-funded forces behind the aggressive “No” campaign so set on scaring British Columbians away from Proportional Representation?

To begin with, FPTP has kept right of centre Liberal or Socred parties in power for 15 out of the last 19 elections, while in 13 of those elections the popular vote leaned toward the left (NDP or the former Liberal Party).

While FPTP worked passably in a two-party system, it fails to reflect voter intention in our multi-party system. Proportional representation will balance this unfair advantage.

Of even more pressing concern to those behind the “No” campaign—big money donors, old school politicians, party insiders and lobbyists—is the writing on the wall that they could lose their influence and power on future governments.

Former Liberal premier Christy Clark’s former attorney general Suzanne Anton heads up the No Proportional Representation Society of BC.

Its “No” campaign is supported by some of the wealthiest elites and right-wing power brokers in the province: mining tycoon and major BC Liberal party donor Ross Beaty, venture capitalist Rob Hartvikson, Future Shop billionaire and major BC Liberal donor Hassan Khosrowshahi, corporate lobbyist and former BC Liberal advisor Jess Ketchum, lumber magnate and BC Liberal donor Jim Shepard, and the list goes on. Also supporting the “No” campaign is the Urban Development Institute (UDI), a lobby group that works on behalf of more than 750 real estate industry corporations, and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

These wealthy elites are frantically trying to keep the sweet deal they’ve enjoyed for so many decades. Thus the litany of fear mongering that has emerged from their campaign.

The most laughable of these is that far right-wing factions could gain control of government under a PR system. One could successfully argue that the far right-wing extremists are doing exceptionally well in the U.S., and now Ontario, with 100 per cent of the power and less than 40 per cent of the votes under FPTP.

There are too many false scare-mongering claims from the “No” campaign to address here, so I’ll instead focus on some of the many positive aspects of Proportional Representation.

•Countries that use proportional representation outperform countries that use FPTP on measures of democracy, quality of life, values of tolerance, environmental policy and fiscal policy. (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, UN Index of Development)

•Nine out of ten of the top economic performers in the OECD use proportional representation.

•The Fragile States Index indicates that nine of the top ten most stable countries in the world use proportional representation.

•A study of elections in OECD countries over 50 years showed there was no difference in the frequency of elections between countries with PR and those using winner-take-all systems such as FPTP.

•A study of elections in 100 countries found less economic volatility in countries using proportional representation, providing more certainty for investors than the left-right lurch when governments change with first-past-the-post. (Irfun Nooruddin, Coalition Politics and Economic Development.)

•Countries with proportional representation have lower taxes for business.

•Countries with proportional representation have lower tariffs.

•Pro Rep countries have better gender balance and better representation of racialized and Indigenous people.

•On average Pro Rep countries voter turnout is five percentage points higher than countries that use First Past the Post—for youth the turnout is twelve percentage points higher.

Most importantly, under Proportional Representation governments will more accurately reflect voter intentions, with 40 per cent of votes equaling 40 per cent of seats in the legislature, putting power back in the hands of regular people instead of wealthy elites and lobbyists.

The “No” campaign is focusing their fearful messages on older voters. I hope these positive attributes of ProRep will encourage all voters, and especially younger ones, to vote in favour of ProRep to create a stronger democracy for the future of B.C.

Stephen Vogler


WMSC—50 years and counting

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) has been part of this amazing community since 1968; thanks to the generosity of Whistler and the Sea to Sky community, we can't wait for our next 50 years! 

WMSC is so grateful for the donations to our recent 50th Anniversary Gala, raising funds for upgrading facilities that will support training, coaching and allow us to continue our tradition of building champions in life and sport.

Over our first 50 years, WMSC and this community have hosted the annual Whistler Cup—North America's largest international youth ski race, FIS World Cup races and the 2010 Olympics.

Of special mention, many of the Canadian alpine racers got their start at the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. We are very proud that currently, 13 WMSC athletes are on the Canadian National Alpine Ski team (approximately 30 per cent of the squad), representing our club on the world stage! We are very proud of these athletes and their quest to become champions, knowing that it takes an entire community to reach their goals. 

(There are many individuals and organizations to thank—our success would not continue without their support.)

We are deeply appreciative to be part of a community that understands what it takes to be champions in life and sport.

Patrick Maloney
Chair, 50th Anniversary Committee

Wildfire prevention needs attention

We have been hearing about all the good things the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has done, but would it surprise you to know that our fire response and prevention budget is considerably less than what other communities nearby spend? West Vancouver and both the City and District of North Vancouver spend 20 per cent of their budget, while in Whistler, a little over five per cent is dedicated. 

The RMOW has spent an additional $1 million on clearing and thinning, plus some grants, a Fire Smart program, and some cameras, but if you add all this up, we still don't reach seven per cent of our budget. 

While the North Shore cities are like us with a large green belt, much of the land borders the ocean, while we are embedded in a high-risk forest. If a major fire breaks out on the North Shore, they can draw on each other for reinforcements, just minutes away. Whistler's mutual aid centres are much smaller, less capable units, and are 45 minutes away at best.

Whistler is surrounded by high-risk C2 and C3 forests, a very serious fire threat as identified by the Blackwell Report commissioned by the RMOW. Our situation is much more precarious, yet these North Shore cities have budgeted 20 per cent, compared with our seven per cent. 

I don't know about you, but I do not want to turn on the television one night to an episode of 60 Minutes—What happened in Whistler?" and hear Anderson Cooper state something along the lines of, "In the post-fire investigation, it should be noted that the RMOW placed a significantly lower than usual amount of money toward fire response and prevention compared to similar cities in the region, this despite being given a clear indication by a respected consultant it commissioned of the dangers that lay before it. Whistler's attitude to safety measures mirrors that of the Titanic's." 

Is that all this valley is worth? A budget of five per cent or seven per cent, or even 10 per cent, when districts around us are doing so much more? And again, I will say it: one area we can do something about is changing our minds about the Blackwell Report's recommendations and spending that extra $1 million a year on Option 2, the option that brings us to safety in 20 years rather than the 40-year schedule now being followed.

Stu Wild's proposed "Whistler First" fire attack and rescue helicopter had a budget of $1 million a year; if we tossed that in, we would still be under 10 per cent—and we'd have one fantastic first-strike option, a helicopter, that could fly right over your house (legally) and drop water on it.

Most fire departments in California have these types of helicopters for this very reason. If we added this in, we would still be well below West Vancouver's budget. Bed unit to bed unit, we are almost the same size as West Vancouver, 36,000 to 42,000. 

So in the meantime, as we do some much needed fire mitigation and thinning over the next 40 years, let's pray that no stray lightning spark or carelessly tossed cigarette signals a devastating wildfire that gives the news teams so much to talk about. 

Lance Bright

Responding to MLA Sturdy

I think the letter from MLA Jordan Sturdy requires a reply and his arguments against Proportional Representation (ProRep) require a rebuttal (Pique, Nov.1, "Letters to the Editor").

Sturdy stated that with ProRep we would be moving away from local representation to a system where your MLA could very well live in some other part of the province. That would certainly not be true for the Sea to Sky corridor. For example, under the Dual Member model, two neighbouring ridings would be combined into one bigger riding. Therefore, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky may be combined with West Vancouver-Capilano—hardly more difficult for someone in Squamish to visit his MLA if he/she desires to do so.

He also stated: "We (meaning Sea to Sky residents) would be absorbed within Metro Vancouver and move from a riding of 50,000 to 250,000 people." I don't know how Sturdy came up with those numbers since the next riding of West Vancouver-Capilano has about 27,000 residents. I also would like to add that having a very "local" MLA may sound quite comforting, I can't remember the last time when one such local MLA has voted against his or her party in favour of their local constituents, even when the majority was clearly against some provincial policy.

Sturdy also suggested that we may end up with something like a, "BC Free Ferry Party" because special interest groups may reach the five-per-cent provincial vote and somehow end up in government to create havoc in Victoria.

First, I would say that I'm happy to hear that Sturdy is not repeating the scare-mongering tactics of the ProRep "no-side," which was trying to tell us that we will see goose-stepping Neo-Nazis in Victoria. But his argument still doesn't hold up to reality.

In the many developed nations that use ProRep as their preferred electoral system, the reality is that fringe parties in countries like Germany come and go without ever gaining any real power. That is because they get shunned by the major parties and never get included in government (cabinet). I can't see why this would be any different here in B.C.

He conjured up The Art of the Deal, infamously the title of U.S. President Donald Trump's book, to describe what he thinks will happen when two parties have to form government when no party has achieved a true majority of votes—meaning support from 50 per cent or more of the electorate.

First of all, in my opinion, no government deserves 100 per cent of the power with 40 per cent of the votes, no matter how deserving they think they are.

Then Sturdy is talking about "backroom power brokers." Yikes, I would stay away from that expression, giving the track record of 16 years of Liberal governments in B.C.

He said that, "By the time coalition negotiations are complete (to form government) all accountability will be buried." Again, this is not the experience of real-life examples of ProRep governments in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. In fact, the opposite is true, with people consistently rating their satisfaction with their governments and their way of life higher than countries with FPTP systems.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage Sea to Sky residents to vote "yes" to ProRep and replace an antiquated electoral system that was designed for a two-party democracy, and move forward with a positive change that reflects today's modern B.C. and Canada.

Erich Baumann

ProRep is right choice

Really? I mean really who thinks the streets will be full of jack-booted, goose-stepping soldiers and violent protests whilst warning of neo-Nazi extremism if B.C. adopts a proportional system of voting?

That was the message that proponents of First Past The Post (FPTP) recently presented in TV ads.

Some advice from me: I would disengage that ad agency pretty quickly. That type of fear mongering is not welcome in B.C. and more than anything, discredits the supporters of FPTP and undermines sane and reasonable debate.

You only have to look south to see the consequences of inflamed rhetoric or mistruths—actually no, let's call them by what they are, outright lies—to know this is not healthy. This is something I do not want to see in B.C.FPTP has been around since the time of the rotten boroughs under the Westminster system; its time has passed and we need to look to a system that better reflects the world today.

There is a reason that prospering nations have moved to Proportional Representation (PR). Look at New Zealand and Norway, for example; they are doing pretty well all around.One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of a PR system is that there is a likelihood of more minority governments. So what? Please tell me what is wrong with our elected representatives having to cooperate and collaborate to move along what needs to be done.

And things do get done under a minority government. Of late, I have had to use our medical system pretty frequently. Each time I leave the hospital, clinic, or doctor's office I think, thank you, Lester Pearson and your minority government for giving us medicare.

I have recently retired and each month my Canadian Pension Plan arrives in my bank account—CPP was put in place by a minority government. Post-secondary education was opened up to anyone via the student loan program, again the result of a minority government. You get my drift. Minority governments can be very productive if there is a will for collaboration and cooperation.

I do not see too much chaos in New Zealand, which currently has a minority parliament with the Prime Minister from one party and the Deputy Prime Minister from another. As far as I can see things are getting done in a civil manner and the people there seem quite happy with the way things are.

What happens when regular citizens come together to look at which voting systems are best for B.C.?

Answer: Proportional Representation wins by a landslide. In fact, by 146 to 7 votes. Did 146 people collectively experience a brain freeze? Of course not! That was a result from the BC Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, an innovative and copied process put in place some years ago to look at Electoral Reform.

Two people were randomly selected from every riding in the province; I was one of the two from the North Vancouver-Seymour riding. We heard a united message from British Columbians via public hearings, written submissions and conversations in our communities.Three reasonable requests resonated: Make local representation more effective. The message came through that FPTP prevented MLAs from being community champions when the party position overruled any community concerns. We overwhelmingly recommended a PR system because voters want their MLA to be a community champion.Give voters more choice. Without choice, you do not have a viable option to hold politicians accountable. Without being held to account, politicians are free to serve vested and party interests. We overwhelmingly recommended a PR system to hold our politicians accountable.Voters wanted a system that delivered accurate outcomes:  We heard "make my vote matter." FPTP delivers extreme swings with small changes in voting, which leads to false majorities, (when is a majority not really a majority?  Answer:  when 65 per cent of voters do not vote for you but you are elected), wrong winners, (more people vote against you than vote for you but you are elected), and missing local representation when party interests take precedence. We overwhelmingly recommended a PR system because voters wanted their vote to matter and reflect actual outcomes.We considered, discussed and hashed out all we heard and recommended (146 to 7) a PR system known as BC-STV; a system where every single vote cast matters and is used. The bar set by the politicians for acceptance was unreasonably high, 60 per cent of ridings in the province had to accept a PR system and 60 per cent of voters had to vote for this.

In actual fact, every riding in the province but two voted for a PR system, so the first bar was overwhelmingly surpassed and close to 59 per cent of voters voted for the recommended system.

Think about it, a majority wanted this, anywhere else 50-plus-one would be enough but not here!

So the wrong winner prevailed.

I have often wondered if we had picked a catchier name such as something like BC-EVM, (every vote matters), or BC-EVC, (every vote counts), rather than STV, (single transferable vote) whether that would have been enough to make the bar.B.C. voters now have the choice of three good PR systems. They will work in B.C.; each has been designed with our population and geography in mind and will deliver the benefits of PR.

The BC Citizens Assembly overwhelmingly decided that a PR system would meet the requirements for a successful voting system, now it is simply up to you to vote for it.I hope I will be waving my Maple Leaf flag, (arguably one of the most distinctive and respected flags in the world, and again, something good enacted by a minority government—who said nothing of value comes from minorities?), together with my B.C. flag once we accept a PR system.

Lynn Hill
North Shore/Whistler