Treat workers right
For the last several weeks and months there
have been many articles and ideas on how to help the “struggling” economy, and
to be perfectly honest, it’s getting a little repetitive. So here’s a new slant
on an old idea.
While many proposals such as meetings and
political change are wonderful, it just doesn’t seem to be happening very
quickly, so I’d like to point out what everyone talks about but that doesn’t
get carried through.
It’s really quite simple, and it flows from a
letter two weeks ago headlined ‘We want Whistler to fail’. I was affronted at
first when I read this title, but the letter spoke a truth from a worker’s
viewpoint that many head honchos, management, and owners in Whistler need to
hear and act on.
It pointed out that many of the transient and
lower level workers in Whistler don’t feel respected in this community. They’re
making minimal wages, living in relatively poor conditions, and many are only
here for a short time. They are treated as indispensable and feel it too.
And yet they are the ones (most likely more
than 80 per cent of them) who are on the front lines interacting with tourists
in this town.
When everyone is wondering why the welcoming
feeling has gone from Whistler, I’d suggest looking at a grass roots level. If
workers are treated as indispensable and paid bare minimum wages (in an
expensive place) they are not going to give 100 per cent effort in their job,
or even close to it. These conditions cause resentment and don’t create a positive
atmosphere in this town.
People, whether they are tourists or workers,
will not be as likely to return to a place with this type of atmosphere.
Whistler is amazing for all it’s beauty but Whistler is about it’s people too
and the energy of everyone here.
So here’s a little tip that will help both
your own business and Whistler as a whole. Genuinely make workers feel valued
and appreciated (financially and otherwise), and they will pass that on to your
customers, giving Whistler the edge (that it used to have) to rise above the
Why don’t we inspire guests?
Periodically I surf the local websites to see
what we are doing to inspire and attract guests. I did again this morning,
starting with whistler.com. To be honest I have to force myself to stay on this
site. I don’t personally find it attractive and have to ask what green cut
grass has to do with Whistler? All the mountain vistas, lakes and wildflowers
and we have cut grass across the top of the site.
On Tourism Whistler I do find the colours,
photos etc. more engaging. On both sites I was struck that most activity
suggestions cost money. I felt like I had to be constantly opening my wallet.
The one item that appealed was the mountain
host-suggested walk itinerary. Why don’t we expand on this? Have a contest for
local residents to suggest what they do with visiting friends and family.
When my 8- and 12-year-old nephews arrive for
a few days this summer we’ll start with a walk and visit to the doggie beach at
Lost Lake to stretch their legs after the drive up. We’ll finish the day with a
BBQ at Lost Lake. The next day we are off to Joffre Lakes and dinner on a patio
in the village. To give the legs a break the following day we kayak the River
of Golden dreams. On Saturday we go up Whistler to hike to Flute and dine at
the mountain top BBQ.
There could be a variety of itineraries to mix
and match, depending on the group demographics and activity levels. Dog
friendly, visiting waterfalls, shoulder season, wheelchair-friendly — the
list is endless.
We live here for a reason. Who better to
inspire guests to come here than sharing what we do with our friends and family
in our own backyard?
Foreign affairs need work
In reply to your recent article regarding
labour shortages in Whistler, it saddens me greatly that a fantastic place (as one
friend described it, Disney for grown ups) like Whistler is struggling to find
workers. But maybe the answer to the problem with foreign workers can be solved
by way of potential employers making it a priority to help foreign workers, on
a 1 year working visa, apply for extensions or residency visas if they want to
stay longer. Obviously this would have to be tied in with some loyalty towards
the employer in the agreement.
I spent a great deal of 2005 in Whistler and
indeed had enough job offers doing jobs I would have genuinely liked and would
have happily stayed in Whistler, but as I was on a visitor visa only one
company was prepared to help me apply to change my work status, and they were
based in Vancouver.
Whistler needs to be aware that as a resort
town it’s one of the best in the world, but there are many great resort towns
in the world and the developed world is suffering from a skills shortage in all
The European Union, Australia, Canada, the
U.S., New Zealand etc. are all nations that are friends and allies in most
issues, so why do we make it so hard for our citizens to work and experience
the lifestyle our cousins and friends in far off lands?
Meanwhile I do indeed have my working 12-month
visa for this year, so I’ll see you all in Whis-Vegas sometime in July.
Resale formula needs to be discussed
Recently I received an e-mail notice from the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) that provided information concerning the new resale formula for both the sale of new and the resale of existing ownership projects. The notice provides a listing of the housing that will be affected, how the proposed appreciation formula works and why it is necessary. There is no mention if the change will ensure that our community will continue to want to purchase and live in the increasingly restricted units or if current owners can continue to expect subsequent covenant changes.
None of the changes recommended will apply to the current ownership, but will come into effect when current owners sell their home. In reviewing this proposal, several questions on both sides of the argument came to mind:
• Are the WHA and RMOW certain that the current resale values will be sufficient to ensure that homes will be suitably maintained?
• Is the restriction on rental reasonable for personal circumstances?
• Will the covenants on restricted units continuously become more restrictive whereby the future and current owners will feel increasingly “overcontrolled” and leave Whistler?
• How will the change to resales affect owners that hold onto their properties in the long term, when similar properties with lesser appreciation rates sell at the same time?
• Shouldn’t the WHA/RMOW consider imposing resale restrictions to unrestricted properties, where the appreciation is much higher?
• Do properties with lesser appreciation rates have the opportunity to voluntarily apply the higher appreciation rate or will it only apply to subsequent owners?
• Have the existing appreciation rates resulted in affordability issues? (Are the sale prices of existing units not comparable to the recent Nita Lake and Rainbow projects?)
• Would a supply of new units that keeps closer pace with demand be a better way to ensure reasonable resale values (supply and demand)?
• Will other developments such as the golf courses and preservation areas that were granted bed units in a similar manner as restricted housing also have their covenants adjusted due to unanticipated increased valuations?
It is important for all owners and the WHA/RMOW to fully understand and openly discuss the implications of retroactively changing the resale controls. Invited discussions should go beyond submitted comments with a staff report and council workshop, but rather must include a public meeting where future and current owners can share their queries.
As a passionate advocate for price restricted resident housing for the past 17 years, I would like to see an improved and formalized voice for those most affected by the long-term decisions of the WHA/RMOW. It is important that the approximately 500 households currently owning resident restricted properties in Whistler be able to track and understand the ramifications of any policy changes to their properties. This could be achieved first by organizing themselves as an advisory body providing comments on issues such as resale, capital improvements, waiting list changes, and new projects. Second, the RMOW could amend the WHA bylaws to include a voting director as a selected member representing this resident housing advisory group.
Whistler’s restricted housing and the residents that have embraced this sub-market have ensured that our resort community is a vibrant place to live, work and play. But as in any town or organization, those people most affected by new laws or policy must be provided representation to ensure meaningful and informed input on decisions. Ignoring such engagement typically leads to mistrust, and in some cases results in costly litigation.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to live in a town that has progressively developed resident housing opportunities. I also understand the five-year wait my family experienced to be selected to purchase our modest, price-restricted home with a ridiculously high mortgage was just part of living in Whistler. But many times I wonder if the WHA/RMOW really thinks it is my home or their property they are letting me use. Although our resident restricted units are not intended to be “nest eggs”, it is still our “nest” where we have invested our savings, time and life plans based on the covenants and restrictions that were in place when the project was first developed/purchased. (Our financial institutions likely feel the same way.)
Bilked on milk
The price of one litre of 2% milk on May 4 th was $1.78 at Nesters, where I bought it. At IGA on the same day it was also $1.78. Next day I travelled to Kamloops, staying with old Weasel Worker friends for the night. They sent me to the local Safeway for milk that evening — but for the same one litre of 2%, I paid $1.40. Whew, 21 per cent cheaper!
Returning to Whistler on May 9 th I stopped at Whistler Creek Marketplace for groceries, but not milk; their price was $1.79.
In Squamish on Nov. 11 th a few groceries were purchased at Save On Foods, including one litre of 2% for $1.39; slightly lower than at Kamloops, yet the same ownership was dinging us Whistler locals $1.78 at Nesters.
For two years I have read and heard the plight of why Whistler tourism is suffering a decrease in overnight stays, fingers pointing to 9/11, the rising Canadian loonie, poor weather, been there/done that syndrome, highway construction and other drawbacks. I will suggest another: outrageous prices on the necessities of life. Yep, we all know the old axiom: "You charge what the traffic will bear." Well the overnight traffic isn't buying, and henceforth I will buy my groceries, whenever possible, in Squamish.
No one appreciates being stiffed, no matter how well you smile. And we wonder why potential year-round residents are looking north or south to live, while working at Whistler.
The start of something good
It is with great respect and gratitude that we write this letter of thanks to you, the people of Whistler, particularly the staff at MY Millennium Place.
Our community theatre group, the Sunshine Coast Driftwood Players, was received like royalty when we recently performed Ken Ludwig's classic farce Lend Me a Tenor in Whistler. Without the hard work and dedication of Dennis Marriot, Morgan Montgomery, Jason and Lyn Mathews of MY Millennium Place, John Hewson of Peak One Consulting, and our own supportive theatre community, this endeavor would have never been possible.
From the beautiful, complimentary accommodations provided by Resort Quest and Betty McWhinnie, and the generous event coverage by your local media, to the enthusiastic response from our audiences, we were made to feel honoured and welcomed.
We look forward to a mutually supportive, joyful and ongoing exchange of entertainment and appreciation.
Thanks again, "wilds of Whistler!"
President, Sunshine Coast Driftwood Players and the cast and crew of Lend Me a Tenor, Whistler
Another view on Silverthorne
This letter is in response to the May 11
letter from Pemberton Chamber of Commerce President Paul Selina.
We read with interest your open letter to the Village of Pemberton’s Council, staff, SLRD Director Gimse and staff.
We take issue with some of your statements, both in fact and in spirit. Some of your statements are disingenuous at worst or ill-informed at best.
But firstly, let’s talk about democracy. The constituents of the Pemberton region voted for this particular council based on each individual’s vision of the future and for their election promises on certain issues. This council was not elected by the Chamber of Commerce, by special interest groups or their lobbyists.
Please allow us to take a look at some of your statements and refute them.
“We understand that a few community owners
who own property adjacent to the Silverthorne parcel object to the development,
despite the fact that it was slated for development long before they purchased
This is patently incorrect. As original purchasers in the Meadowlanes complex, we were told at the time of purchase that the BCR lands would be vacant in perpetuity. Based on this information, we purchased the unit we did, for our retirement. We were shocked in 1998 when BCR made application to develop this property. There was huge resistance to that application; a significant compromise was reached and it was re-zoned instead for one large “estate lot”. End of story, or so we thought. Again in 2003-04 BCR tried to have the property further re-zoned for multiple residential. Community resistance was huge (45 very passionate people attended the public meeting regarding that application, a large turn out for a town the size of Pemberton), again BCR’s application was rightly denied by the council of the day. End of story again, or so we thought.
One can assume you are primarily referring to
Silverthorne when you state:
“Projects with obvious or substantive reasons
for rejection should be terminated at earlier stages in the approval process to
avoid unnecessary expense to both business people and taxpayers
Silverthorne is a developer, they know the expense — the risks — the process, as does every developer. Did they do their due-diligence? This land has been in dispute for eight years. Certainly Michael Rosen (whom we know and respect) was intimately involved with the last rejected application by BCR. It taxes one’s belief that Cam McIvor could have worked closely with Michael Rosen on this application and remained blissfully ignorant of the contentious issues surrounding this parcel. Rather, one gets the sense that they thought they had an inside track; the scuttlebutt around town a month or more before the vote was that this development was a “done deal”. What a shock it must have been when democracy actually worked and some of those council people had the courage and personal integrity to vote according to their constituents’ wishes.
“As for the value of other properties: The
Chamber strongly believes that if the community doesn’t stimulate some growth
soon, then the present decline in value will only continue
This is a rather simplistic approach to an economic problem that primarily plagues Whistler at this time. And Whistler is the engine that drives growth in Pemberton. Our property values are down due to an overall downturn in Whistler’s economy (a huge and complex situation which is an issue which cannot be discussed in this space), but also due to the over building of the recent past in Pemberton. Adding new product to an already saturated market is hardly logical. It is a band-aid solution to create short term jobs while the rental and real estate markets go into further decline.
At this point we would like to tell you a little about ourselves. We live and work in North Vancouver during the week. In 1994 we bought properties in the newly built Meadowlanes Townhomes. We had to mortgage ourselves to the hilt, we took a huge and scary risk because we believed in the beauty and future of this town. While others enjoy weekends and holidays, we work on our properties. We are hands-on landlords and have had great tenants over the years and made many friends. In 2004 we bought a suite at the Pemberton Valley Lodge (when our properties are rented we had nowhere to stay when we came up to work). Again, mortgaged to the hilt, but with the financial projections that PVL anticipated, we thought we could do it.
Where do we stand today? We get less for rent than we did in 1994, The Pemberton Valley Lodge has not yet come close to anticipated revenue. Our properties are all down in value. Are we hurting? You bet we are. We’ve had to bump our retirement plans several years up. After all these years we run at a loss. But would we sell out to the “Surreyization” of Pemberton to line our pockets? No, we won’t. And we are proud of our council members who wouldn’t either.
Randy and Susan Morris
A May Fair to remember
The winds howled, the rains came down, and even the sun made a special guest appearance; shining down on the May pole dancers to let us know that spring was finally here!
The Alta Lake School would like to sincerely thank everyone who made this year’s May Fair such a fantastic day! We especially want to recognize Bruce and his great staff at Nesters for (yet again) donating all of the BBQ treats and the apples for the apple lathe, (Grandpa) Allan Christian from Aphrodite’s Organic Café for donating the yummy pie, quiche and salad, The Whistler Roasting Company for supplying the delicious warm and foamy organic lattes, and Senka for donating the beautiful flowers that were fashioned to adorn the children’s heads.
Many parents, teachers and children spent time baking, cutting wood shapes for the woodworking table as well as setting up, manning craft tables and cleaning up this fun event. Superdad, Stephen Vogler did an amazing job enchanting children and parents alike with his fairy forest stories. All in all, it was a fantastic day, very evident by the smiles on both the children’s and parent’s faces.
Thank you everyone for coming, see you next year.
The Alta Lake School