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Opinion: With the election over, the real work begins—for all of us

'A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit'
Time to get planting.

Another municipal election is in the books, and Whistler is once again opting for familiarity, returning all five incumbents to office with a pair of young newcomers to round out the slate.

The challenges the new council faces will be familiar, too.

Housing, affordability, growth management, health-care, child-care, labour, mental health… the list goes on and on, and branches off in different directions depending on who you talk to on which day.

And if we learned anything from the previous term, it’s to expect the unexpected—that new, unforeseen challenges could present themselves at any moment.

The new council will be sworn in on Nov. 1, and the annual strategic planning/initiation retreat will follow. So we will hear more about our new council’s priorities and preferred direction in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I hope our newly elected officials are reflecting on the campaign that just wrapped, and the concerns they heard from their fellow candidates and the electorate throughout.

I also hope those candidates who missed out on a seat don’t fade into the background. There are many ways to make your community a better place, whether that’s committee or board work, volunteering, or simply showing up to council meetings and asking questions of our officials—all of which will also serve as invaluable experience should you plan to run again in the future.


The first milestone in the new mayor and council’s term—and the first big opportunity for residents to engage with them—will come Dec. 1, at the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) annual budget open house, which is taking place this year at the Whistler Public Library. 

If you’re looking to take part in municipal planning, or just want to know more about local planning processes, this is your ideal jumping-off point.

Nearly all the work that happens at municipal hall stems from the annual budget, and the budget is built off of community members’ input.

Don’t want to see your valuable tax dollars frivolously spent? Come to the budget open house, watch the presentations, then submit your burning questions and righteous anger to mayor and council directly. 

All of the budget feedback received becomes part of the public record, and council uses it to finalize the municipal budget with staff.

Have you ever seen a big old RMOW project under construction with a big old RMOW budget and thought, “why the hell did we build that expensive monstrosity?”

Well, your (likely valid) criticism is too late at that point.

Real ones know that financially righteous outrage is best delivered at the budget open house, before the project lists and tax increases are finalized.


And those tax increases so many like to complain about? They are also determined through the annual budgeting process, and explained in great detail at each budget open house.

So if you’ve ever looked at all the (ever-increasing) numbers on your annual tax bill and gone cross-eyed, this is the best place to decipher it.

RMOW finance staff have gotten quite efficient at explaining the breakdown for residents, and general managers are also on hand for the open house should you need more detail about specific projects or expenditures.

For reference, Whistler’s past four tax increases were: 2.9 per cent in 2019; 2.8 per cent in 2020; 1.08 per cent in 2021 (reduced from the originally proposed 4.89 per cent due to COVID after significant public outcry—lest you think your input won’t be effective); and 6.72 per cent in 2022. 

Whistler’s 2023 tax increase won’t be revealed until the Dec. 1 open house, but don’t expect much regression on that front—the RMOW has not minced words about the need to rebuild municipal reserves in the coming years.

After “smaller-than-necessary” tax increases in years past, the municipality is now in the midst of a “multi-year process,” to rebuild reserves, director of finance Carlee Price told council last December.

“This is not the sort of problem that can be solved in a single year—2022, however, marks an important beginning in the sense of those reserve contributions … Delaying the first step on this journey is dangerous to the long-term fiscal health of the organization,” Price said at the time.

Will the RMOW find the “true resiliency” in its budget it so desires? Come to the budget open house to find out for yourself!


And on the topic of public engagement, at just 35 per cent, Whistler’s voter turnout in 2022 was, once again, pitiful (though still slightly better than the 32-per-cent turnout in 2018). But the provincial average was a mere 37 per cent, so it’s not a problem exclusive to Whistler.

For some (perhaps obvious) reason, municipal affairs don’t garner the same attention or carry the same prestige as their provincial and federal counterparts—for comparison, in last year’s federal election, B.C.’s turnout was 75 per cent; in the 2020 provincial election, it was about 55 per cent.

For many, municipal politics are an afterthought, at best. That’s because, when the average person thinks of how they can affect change, they tend to start with a baseline of big: national scale, nightly news, stump speech-type solutions.

Most don’t start by looking in their own backyard. And that’s a shame, because the best way the average person can make a difference in their life and the lives of others is to get involved at the local level, in any way they can.

You may not see the fruits of your labour immediately, but that’s OK. And, if we’re going to get philosophical about it, that’s kind of the point.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit,” says the old Greek proverb.

We’ll all be better off when we start planting more trees—metaphorical or otherwise.