Thanks to the 4,000 residents and visitors of Whistler that came out to celebrate diversity in the corridor on Main Street (this week was the first annual Whistler Multicultural Celebration).
With the support of RMOW, Main Street was able to be a Main Street!
The quality of the food, music, dancing, arts and participating kiosks made it a celebration that will be remembered by all attending. As Mayor (Ken) Melamed mentioned in his opening remarks, "Whistler has a new face" and everyone out was proud to see the cultures come forward. The Filipino community demonstrated their leadership and multiple talents, and will inspire many other cultures in the community to mobilize for next year.
The event wouldn't have been possible without the hundreds of passionate volunteers, team leaders and partners who believed in this innovative project since the start.
Chair of the Whistler Multicultural Celebration Organizing Committee
Cultures learning from each other
To the more than 2,000 locals and visitors alike from around the world who joined in beyond all expectations for our first Multicultural Festival on Main Street Monday evening, many thanks.
Growing up, I always felt proud that, unlike the homogenizing melting pot of our neighbours to the south, we Canadians celebrate a mosaic of cultures. True, it may be a vertical mosaic, as sociologist John Porter argued, from rich to poor. But on Main Street Monday, we were all enriched by the languages, food, dance, music, dress and health of more than 30 cultures learning from each other.
Thankfully we were able to secure small grants from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and Canadian Heritage for our Canadian Multiculturalism Day festivities. It was great to have Mayor Ken (Melamed) come to our Filipino Forum Sunday night and with Councillor Tom Thomson, pitch in and help out throughout the festival Monday. John Rae, Christa Vandeberg and others at muni hall helped us in arranging the road closure and other details.
As a community and grassroots endeavour on a shoestring budget and a prayer, thanks mostly to Nicole Guertin, her diverse LOKL.com connections, and close to 100 volunteers including Caterina Alberti, Hailey Guille and Steve Clark. Working through several planning meetings and until 1 a.m. on the clean up, we were well served by dedication and fun together.
To all the restaurateurs, merchants and residents along Main Street, who went out of their way to serve the long line-ups, we should declare this to be Whistler's international zone. And to all the stage performers, street dancers and others who entertained from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., what colour creativity and talent you showcased from the treasures of our wider human family.
Multiculturalism is under attack in Europe and there is growing intolerance in certain lands. They should read the latest Harvard Business Review study by Roy Chua, on how those with multicultural networks are more creative, innovative and better problem-solvers. And they should come to our Multicultural Festival for an authentic experience of the way the world should work - and learn how diversity thrives prosperously on Main Street far from Bay or Wall Street.
The Whistler Forum is also grateful for all those who supported our Leadership Sea to Sky Celebration with Cohort VII and Trevor Linden a week ago. It was remarkable to hear that from his outstanding hockey career, Trevor found most gratifying dealing with the complex challenges as leader of the NHL players union. Even through the 2004/2005 lockout, they were able, unlike the postal workers recently, to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the majority better off and collective good well served.
So whether it is through collective leadership or through collective cultures in dialogue and working together, we know how to bring out the best in each other. Thanks to all. With and for our kids, we will continue to find ways to celebrate and add value to our multicultural mosaic. More to come.
President, the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue
Economic reality check
The very sensible comments in last week's Pique (June 23, 2011) from Messrs. (Bruce E.) Thom and (Paul) Mathews are not voices in the wilderness. In recent months a number of citizen initiative groups have been actively decrying, among other things, RMOW management of the asphalt situation, pay parking and the general disregard for the current economic reality.
While acknowledging the fact that municipal employees are remunerated at levels exceeding comparable private sector salaries, our mayor continues to chime that these levels must be maintained (and increased as per the recent across the board pay raise) in order to compete for competent staff.
There is a large pool of employees in the private sector that you can draw from to fill most municipal positions at substantial savings.
The RMOW should be competing with the private sector employee pools and not the overpaid employees of other municipalities, most of whom are unionized. There are very few positions in the RMOW that require specific previous municipal employment skills and (it is not like) these skills are unavailable in the private sector.
Unions need to deliver new benefits with each new contract and the compounding effect of these benefits often results in unsustainable situations such as currently exist in Greece where public sector employees retire at age 53 with a pension for life at 80 per cent of their working salaries.
In Canada, postal employees are balking at a reduction for new hires in annual paid vacations from the current seven weeks.
The hiring of the new CAO is an excellent opportunity for the current council to ensure that the unsustainable direction of the past administration is curtailed.
The last of the local races
On June 22, Citta held the 20th annual Citta Challenge. Judging by the 21 teams' response it was another success.
I would like to thank all the Whistler businesses that donated so many great prizes. There are too many to thank individually, however I must single out Whistler Audio and Video. Upon hearing about the Citta Challenge, they came forward with a 52-inch, Sharp LCD TV. At that time we decided to raffle the TV off and donate the proceeds to WAG.
I'm glad to say we raised $1,200.
I would also like to thank all the volunteers, Toadhall, W.E.T. and the Citta staff for all their support. I'm looking forward to continuing the Citta Challenge as we are the last of the local races.
Scott Gadsby, Citta general manager
Line in the road?
I am appalled at what has been happening about the asphalt plant and the apparent lack of any ability to do anything about stopping its operations until after a court hearing.
The answer is simple - there is a road to the plant, which is presumably maintained by the RMOW. Dig a ruddy great hole in it about six feet wide and six-feet deep and put cones and warning signs around it (not dissimilar to the digging up of Blackcomb Way).
If Alpine's trucks cannot get in and out then there is no reason for the plant to operate.
An unfair advantage?
I could not believe what I was reading in last week's article by Alison Taylor about the new Cheakamus Crossing restaurant ( Pique June 23, 2011).
I was disgusted to learn that the RMOW is now dishing out $300,000 in tax money as a tenant inducement!! For a start, aren't they on a slippery slope getting into the business of commercial landlords?
You've got to hand it to them though, as they are definitely trying to please their tenants, offering them an amount that is 400 per cent larger than any inducement that the long-time landlord and real estate agent that I spoke with have ever heard of.
And when do we get to know what sort of sweetheart deal the rent will be???
Obviously this deal puts the new restaurant in direct competition with restaurants in Function Junction and Creekside, which would be fair enough if the RMOW weren't throwing vast amounts of money at the Cheakamus restaurant, thus creating a very unfair advantage for the new businesses.
With so many restaurateurs shying away from the original deal, does this not mean that a restaurant of this size and in this area is not a very viable option? Or does it mean you start throwing unlimited amounts of tax money at it to try and make it work?!!
How much tax money will be spent to try and fill up the remaining four commercial spaces, and does the RMOW care if these new businesses will directly compete with other existing local businesses that pay large sums of tax to the RMOW?
Is it so difficult to see what is wrong with this whole picture? I'm not even going to get into all the rumours I've heard about yet another tender process that smells a bit like a week old mackerel.
Time to re-think Cheakamus space?
I have read the article on page 18 of the June 23, 2011 issue (of the Pique ) regarding a $300,000 gift to the proposed owner/operator of the restaurant at Cheakamus Crossing.
The Legacies Society is offering a further $400,000. This $700,000 "gift" is the equivalent of all the taxes paid this year by 100 homes in Whistler Cay Heights.
All of the $700,000 is taxpayers' money and it has been squandered unnecessarily. One councillor said, "We had to do it, nobody else would open a restaurant in that location." A very good point - after one year no one wanted to do it. I wonder why?? It is because it's a dumb idea!
A knowledgeable restaurant operator knows that a food and beverage business could not survive in that location without "dipping their nose in the public trough."
It is amazing that the mayor and the majority of council don't have the business acumen to understand.
That is the good part - now for the bad. The mayor and the majority of council have spent $700,000 to create additional competition for the other tax-paying food and beverage businesses in Whistler.
What a disgrace! I am stunned that Pat Kelly gave his support (in a half-hearted way) to this abuse.
One councillor asked, "what else could we do with this space?" A suggestion - since a food outlet is not viable why not advertise for business proposals for other business ideas? Pick one that makes sense, sign a lease, and save $700,000.
Amateur hour continues in City Hall without restraint.
Thanks from the grad classes of 2011
Whistler's Grade 7 classes have celebrated in style this year thanks to all the support from the community. We all had a fantastic outdoor party at the Edgewater last Sunday and the Myrtle Philip Grade 7s had another gathering at the Whistler Youth Centre on Tuesday after our bittersweet grad ceremony.
We'd like to thank Whistler Eco-Tours, IGA, Village Grocery Store, Creekside Market, Ingrid's Village Cafe and Slope Side Supply for making our grad celebration last Sunday a success. We would like to add a special thank you to the Edgewater for allowing us to use their terrific park. We all had an amazing time and are very grateful. Finally, we really appreciate the hard work and commitment that volunteers of Myrtle Philip and Spring Creek PACs put into this event.
The Myrtle Philip Grade 7s would like to thank the Whistler Youth Centre, Creekbread Restaurant, Local Automotive and the Myrtle Philip PAC for their support of our graduation evening. This was a special night for us and thanks to these community-minded businesses, we can proudly say our graduation was a success. Also, a big thank you to Toad Hall Studios for our fabulous T-shirts.
Myrtle Philip Class of 2011 on behalf of all Grade 7s
Think more broadly and longer term
I have been monitoring the local newspapers fairly closely the last few weeks to see what kind of HST messages are out there. My impression is that there are more people willing to come out and say negative things about the HST, while supporters are not being vocal enough. And worse, I am concerned that those who want to eliminate HST and revert back to our prior PST system are going to be more motivated to vote than those who support HST.
I think if everyone could view the HST from a broad tax policy perspective, and how it can positively affect the B.C. economy over the longer term, we would all support it. In fact, I suggest that it is everyone's responsibility to think more broadly about it. As citizens of our province, we all have a vested interest in how our province performs. I think it is safe to assume we all want a province that is economically strong, growing, and productive. That strength and productivity will increase demand for goods and services, increase the number of new businesses and jobs out there, and expand the province's revenues through taxation -which will help us pay for health care, school systems and other infrastructure that we need - including infrastructure that can support tourism. So as citizens, when we are given the privilege of voting on something as important as tax policy, we have a responsibility to think about it affects the "greater good" and not get caught up in "how it affects me right now."
Unfortunately, most of the messaging in the papers right now is concern about how HST might negatively affect tourism-based economies like Whistler, or very specific businesses, like the bicycle retail industry. Or about how some people don't like how some goods or services are more expensive now. Certainly there are challenges for some types of businesses and for some consumers - there is no doubt. Any service industry that was not previously subject to PST (like my own) has had to ask their clients to pay the extra seven per cent tax on their services. There is also no doubt that as a consumer based tax, that now covers services, consumers are "visibly" paying more tax at the cash register on some things. But I still support the HST, and at a lower rate of 10 per cent in two years, with rebates to some families to help offset the higher cost until we get to that lower 10 per cent rate, it should be a slam dunk decision to keep the HST.
First of all, we have to understand that PST is just simply a BAD tax. It is a tax that the consumer is only exposed to on some goods, but behind the scenes, businesses pay PST on many goods, such as machinery and equipment, and this can drive up the price of products to consumers. And PST has odd rules that result in some unfair results for certain industries. For example, legal fees are subject to PST but accounting fees are not. But most importantly, the PST is a deterrent for business growth. It adds complexity and cost to our tax system and makes it less attractive to invest in small business. This means that a company looking to locate a plant in North America is less likely to choose B.C., if it can go to another province or country that has better tax policy for business. Likewise, existing businesses may be less inclined to reinvest profits and grow. And this is critical for B.C. over the long term if we want to increase our productivity and grow economically. Certainly many provinces cross Canada have adopted HST, including Ontario, who compete with us to retain and gain business. And across the world, many countries have moved to a value-added tax system, as it is viewed as better tax policy.
The importance of productivity to our economy should not be understated. When I attended the Economic Symposium in Whistler on June 6, I was shocked to learn that B.C. is one of the most unproductive provinces in Canada, currently only ahead of the maritime provinces, and worse, Canada is one of the least productive of all the G20 countries. The only way we are going to improve our productivity is if we get creative, innovative and invest in technology and efficiencies. And businesses will only do that if they have cash flow and profits to invest. Improving business cash flow is the best thing we can do to drive our economic growth. I know that isn't what people want to hear - but it is true. There seems to be a misconception out there that businesses benefit at the expense of individual taxpayers, but that is just not true. We need business to exist and profit so that they can employ us, so that we can earn income for ourselves, our families, etc. And if the economy is strong, the government has more money, and we all benefit because we get better services and/or pay less tax.
Now there is another benefit to increased productivity, which is the potential for lower prices (or limiting price increases when inflation increases). In fact I think there is more potential to see price decreases due to productivity gains than there is an automatic reduction simply due to the elimination of PST. There is a theory that HST will reduce prices compared to PST because businesses will get back any HST they pay whereas the PST paid represents a non-refundable additional cost that the business must pay and recoup from customers. There is some truth to the theory that prices will decline with HST, but it really depends on the business involved. For example, in my business of providing accounting and tax services, most of our costs are salary driven and are therefore not subject to PST, so we are not experiencing any real cost savings that we can pass on to clients. Many tourism businesses in Whistler would be impacted the same way. But in a manufacturing business that is capital and purchase intensive, there certainly should be some level of cost savings that a business could pass on to its consumers, although it would never match the tax increase because there has to be some expenses like labour that were never subject to PST. But if businesses invest their PST savings into productivity gaining measures, businesses in that industry are more likely to become price competitive to drive sales and profits and we will all benefit from that.
The challenge is that whenever you transition away from a bad tax, like PST, to something different, there are always growing pains. And unfortunately there will always be an example of something or someone who is "worse off" at the time of the change. But to avoid moving forward with a better tax system because it might negatively affect a subset of the population in the short-term is foolish. We simply have to make progressive decisions if we want progressive results. And the good news is that BC has a very real, strong economic outlook over the long term. The growth in population and standard of living in many Asia Pacific countries, particularly China and India, create a great opportunity for BC to grow and thrive economically. So our need for progressive tax policy is very real if we want to leverage our growth opportunity.
The bottom line is that economies are very complex and there are many interwoven factors that affect economic strength such as the value of the Canadian dollar, inflation, taxes and discretionary spending, government spending, and many more. We need to let our government choose policies that will drive the best economic growth for the global economy, not our micro economy. And so far they have a pretty good track record, because in the last 10 years, the B.C. government has adopted several policy changes to make investment in BC more attractive for business. For example, the capital tax, which simply taxed corporations for owning assets in excess of certain thresholds, was eliminated a few years ago. In addition, with the combined federal and provincial corporate tax rate cuts, B.C. now has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in Canada. And if that track record does not convince you, then consider that the HST has the support of the Smart Tax Alliance, which is made up of over 40 business sectors in the province that believe HST is better for business. In addition, the Fraser Institute, who measures and studies the impact of competitive markets and government interventions on individuals and society, favours the HST as the right-move for B.C. because it will boost investment, productivity and wages in our province. The evidence in favour of HST is overwhelming strong, if people are willing to think more broadly about the long-term benefits for our economy. I am not an economist, but I know enough to trust the experts when it comes to choosing tax policy that is best for province and country.
Finally, I think the current pain some are feeling with HST is short-term, particularly because tourism has been hit hard as discretionary spending tends to decline in tough economic times. But on the flipside, tourism and discretionary spending tend to increase in strong economic times. So if the economy grows, and there are more jobs, and more disposable income, more people will travel and that includes the destination travel. And generally, people are less likely to be as price sensitive when there is more money to go around. So I believe that a strong B.C. is likely better for tourism and Whistler in the long run. We know that Whistler is currently affected by global economic issues such as the U.S. dollar, the U.S. economy, so surely it must also impacted by the strength of our provincial economy.
If we believe that there are disadvantages to Whistler or certain industries from the HST that remain, then those should be dealt with separately, through lobbying efforts to get relief where it makes sense to. For tourism, we would need to identify the real impact to our visitors. Some costs have actually gone down with HST, such as hotel rooms, while restaurant bills and most tourist activities will likely go up in price. At a minimum, it might change the way we market ourselves in the international / national marketplace. And if we can quantify that we are worse off in some way, then we can go to the government and request relief. For example, perhaps we can bring back the rebate program for foreign travelers to Canada, and hopefully in a way that is more streamlined than the old rebate program. And if I were in the biking industry, I would consider lobbying the federal government to make bicycles "zero rated" supplies for HST purposes. If it was good policy for the province to forego tax on this "clean" form of transportation then it should be good policy for the feds too!
So please, get informed, think broadly and vote NO to extinguish the HST and revert back to the PST system. We cannot afford to take a step backwards to PST!
Theresa Walterhouse, CA
I will be voting "YES" to get rid of the HST in the current referendum. The Liberals have piled lies on top of lies. They lied when they said the HST wasn't on their radar screen before the last election. They lied when they claimed it would be revenue neutral. And they lied when they said it would create 100,000 jobs.
The government's current $5 MILLION advertising campaign continues to lie by claiming the choice is between a 10 per cent HST or a 12 per cent PST.
The HST is 12 per cent. The promise to lower it to 10 per cent is nothing more than a bribe.
In order to collect on the bribe first we have to vote to keep the current 12 per cent HST then we have to re-elect the Liberals in a general election.
And even then we have to wait three full years. The B.C. Liberal government has done nothing but lie through every term in office.
They promised not to privatize BC Rail then did just that with a foul smelling deal that saw six million (dollars) in taxpayers money used to cover legal fees for a couple of criminals.
They promised to keep BC Hydro public and then set out an energy policy that forces Hydro to pay for private power that we don't need at more than double the market cost.
The B.C. Liberal record includes tearing up health care contracts, hospital bed closures, broken teacher contracts on class size and composition and corporate tax cuts following the 2001 / 2005 / 2009 elections with no mention of those cuts during the election.
The list goes on. I don't trust this government.
If voters foolishly vote to keep the HST, I predict that the Premier will call a snap election. And should they win - all bets/promises are off. Let's not be fooled again.
Vote "YES" to scrap the HST.
It was a really Fun Day
Spring Creek Community School and Ecole La Passerelle had their Fun Day on Friday, June 10. I want to acknowledge all our staff, parents, students, and community members for the help and support they contributed.
Thanks to Gerri Galloway, Jacqui Tyler and the staff at the schools for organizing the students and reinforcing such a sense of fun, friendly competition, and respect throughout the fun day preparation and the events.
Thank you to Tim at IGA, Rob at The Grocery Store and Bruce at Nesters for donating such great food. Thank you to the Haasen and Freniere families at Dairy Queen for donating coupons for delicious Blizzards. Thank you also to Home Hardware for the combination locks they donated to us. A huge thank you to the Canadian National Luge team for doing such a wonderful presentation and getting our kids excited about the fun opportunity "right in our backyard."
Finally, thank you to the huge number of volunteers who came out to cheer on the kids, cut watermelon, supervise, give high fives, play hockey, throw water balloons and laugh. A special thanks to Laurie, Kathleen, Andrea, Marnie and Tracy who assisted right from the beginning and contributed their creativity, organizational skills, feedback and hard work throughout. Having worked and volunteered in a number of other school districts, I can honestly say I have never seen a whole community contribute so willingly to the enjoyment and well-being of its children. I feel lucky to be a part of such a special community.
Vicki Swan 2011 Fun Day coordinator
Legal opinion final say?
In Whistler, I guess the written legal opinion has the final say in everything council does. Council awarded Alpine Paving this year's municipal asphalt contract based on the legal opinion that Alpine Paving doesn't actually operate the asphalt plant, Whistler Aggregates does. Alpine Paving isn't operating contrary to municipal by-laws, Whistler Aggregates is, or so the argument goes. This is notwithstanding that the two companies share the same owner, that Alpine Paving's own web page stated that they own and operate the Whistler asphalt plant (Alpine Paving changed their web page after that news broke on the Cheakamus Crossing Facebook page, but not before someone was able to get a screen shot), and that the environmental tests for the plant list Alpine Paving as the owner.
Even if the plant is being run by Whistler Aggregates, Alpine Paving is still a party to the illegal asphalt operation for buying it from Whistler Aggregates.
In giving Alpine Paving the asphalt contract, council gave away all the RMOW's leverage to get a negotiated settlement with Alpine Paving, basically ensuring that the matter will go to court in the fall.
That's not to say that council didn't face severe pressure to take the lowest bid, despite any legal peccadilloes the plant owners might be committing.
That's all good, except for one small, forgotten detail. Buried deep in last Tuesday's council package were the audited financial reports for the Whistler 2020 Development Corp., the RMOW-owned company that developed Cheakamus Crossing.
With the market units being adjacent to a large, smoky, smelly, asphalt plant, they've only been able to sell two units, even with deep discounts of up to 18 per cent. Even after the sale of all the price restricted housing, Whistler 2020 is still running an almost $9.7 million financial deficit. To put that into some perspective, if you were to take the budget short falls in the transit system, the revenue short falls in the pay parking lots, municipal staff wage increases, the library budget short fall, and added them all up, it wouldn't come to half the Whistler 2020 financial deficit.
It gets better from there. The low interest development loan that the RMOW has with the Municipal Finance Authority comes due in November 2011.
At the moment, with the low interest loan, the annual interest payment on the unsold units is about $160,000 per year, well above any savings from Alpine Paving's low asphalt bid. If the units won't sell because of the asphalt plant, then they're not much good as loan security either, and if the RMOW has to refinance at a commercial interest rate with questionable security, the interest payments will jump to anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000 per year.