The leaves are turning, falling, crunching underfoot on the Valley Trail.
The evening air grows crisp, as Tapley’s Farm begins its early preparations for Halloween. Playoff baseball and early-season hockey on the TV; turkey dinners and togetherness in the kitchen; pumpkin spice and flannel on the Village Stroll; the early seeds of seasonal depression sprouting deep within our hearts.
These are the hallmarks of the waning months—the longing, languishing days before winter arrives in earnest—but for my money, there’s one fall tradition that tops them all: Democracy in action; a slate of hopefuls, an empty ballot and a few big decisions.
It has been an uneventful election campaign in Whistler, by any standard. As predicted in this space several weeks ago, we heard much from our candidates about how bad our housing situation is. But we heard very little about how to realistically fix it (aside from begging other levels of government for more money, which, why didn’t we think of that before? It’s genius).
At any rate, and whoever ends up on the other side of the table when the dust settles, all of our candidates deserve our gratitude. Running for office takes courage, and the more people we get participating in public processes, the better off Whistler will be in the long run. So thank you, candidates.
As for the makeup of Whistler’s next mayor and council, Pique won’t tell you where to spend your precious votes, and I’ve been proven wrong in the past by a candidate I had initially written off—so that is to say that none of our council hopefuls are completely hopeless.
Here are some other final thoughts ahead of election day 2022, in no particular order or weight of relevance.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB?
Inferences in the final week of the campaign that a meeting with select candidates hosted by the local construction industry (and organized, via email, by outgoing Councillor Duane Jackson) was a full-blown, salacious scandal were somewhat overstated.
The optics of the meet-and-greet—which included invites for all the incumbents, along with candidates Jeff Murl and Jessie Morden, sent from Jackson, currently a sitting councillor—were admittedly not great. But, much to the apparent dismay of some candidates, individuals and community groups are free to meet with whichever candidates they choose, and there is nothing in the Local Government Act that says every candidate must be invited to every event (because of course there isn’t—that would just be silly).
There is, however, a prohibition on vote buying, which, in its definition, includes a single reference to “refreshment.” On Tuesday, Oct. 11, candidates Curtis Lapadat and Dawn Titus told Pique they are filing formal complaints, alleging in part that the meeting, with its promise of light refreshments, is tantamount to vote buying, and in violation of the Act.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs will have the ultimate say. So we shall see where those chips fall, I suppose, but as far as political scandals go, Watergate it ain’t. It is, however, telling that this is where some of our candidates’ priorities lie in the final week of an election campaign.
Not everyone is going to get a seat at every table, because space and time are limited, and, to put it bluntly, not everyone deserves it.
That being said, it’s easy to see why some candidates would be upset, and the exclusive meeting does speak to a discussion we often have in the Pique newsroom—about the lasting legacy of Whistler’s “old boys’ (and girls’) club” mentality, and the immense sway the silent majority seems to hold here in the resort.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
That’s because, for all the social media rabble-rousing, and the apparent discontent hanging in the air and amplified by certain candidates in each election, Whistler’s voting habits are nothing if not predictable.
In every Whistler election, it seems that who you know and how local you are carry much more weight than any silly ideas.
Consider the remarkable continuity in Whistler’s elected councils, stretching all the way back to the first in 1975.
In every single one of its municipal elections (except for the infamous outlier in 2011), Whistler has returned at least one of its incumbents, and often more than one.
Since 1975, Whistler has had just nine mayors. In 2018, when Mayor Jack Crompton ran unopposed, there was very much a sense in the community that it was “his turn,” which some reasoned was why nobody stepped up to run against him.
I’ve thought a lot about that sentiment over the last four years—the downright politeness of sitting on the sidelines so as not to step on a neighbour’s toes as he runs for mayor. It’s not undeniable proof of the existence of a fabled “old boys’ club,” but it does speak to a quiet understanding, and a contentedness among longtime locals (many of whom would be considered “haves,” whether they like that label or not) with the status quo—even as some segments of the population set their hair on fire and take cover from the sky.
It’s almost as if there are two concurrent Whistler populations: one that is underhoused, overworked, and desperate just to carve out their own little Whistler niche; and another that is happily housed and mostly satisfied with the work of their friends and acquaintances on council.
Guess which population represents the voting majority?
IGNORANCE IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT BLISS
Then again, what’s more likely? That Whistler is run by a shadowy conspiracy cabal of old-stock locals, pulling the strings and steering the vote from the shadows, or that Whistler voters, taken collectively, are not stupid?
Could it be that they simply see through the nonsense that is floated by so many local candidates in each election?
I have no doubts that some candidates will claim it was their exclusion from the construction industry meeting, the perceived favouritism of municipal staff, or the lack of an endorsement from local columnists that ultimately sunk their campaign.
I would preemptively suggest those candidates look inward instead. I watched all the all-candidates meetings. I read all the profiles, all the websites, and all the responses in this week’s Pique cover feature. I spoke with many of the candidates themselves.
The hard truth is that most of our candidates are simply out of their depth—and one would hope that no amount of buzzwords or bullshit is going to mask that fact from Whistler’s knowledgeable electorate.
THE LOBBY HOBBY
And yet, maybe there’s just no escaping the lobbyists—arguably the most insidious, disruptive force in all of politics, no matter which level of government you shine the light on.
The construction industry and its preferred candidates is one aspect, but in Whistler, lobbying often seems to be wrapped in recreation.
We saw it at the Pique all-candidates meeting on Sept. 28, when tennis enthusiasts flooded the Slido chat with a dozen versions of the same, self-interested question about the Northlands rezoning. And we saw it some years back, when the local soccer club lobbied for years until the municipality finally built it an artificial turf field.
And I’ve watched it unfold in real time during this campaign, as candidates hastily updated their lists of priorities after speaking with one lobby group or another, desperate to secure votes wherever they might be found.
I watched them learn new things about our community (very basic, surface-level things, obvious to anyone who has been paying attention) and then immediately use those things to form new, half-baked policy positions on the fly.
Hey, it’s good to learn new things. But if your depth of Whistler knowledge is that shallow; your policy that easily swayed by a handshake and a doughnut, I’m sorry—you’re not ready.
But that’s about enough from me for one campaign. Here’s hoping for a robust voter turnout, and a productive and fruitful council term ahead.
See you at the polls.