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Sustainability centre under attack at AWARE all candidates’ meeting

Mayoral candidates on the hot-seat, snapshot view of 20 out of 25 council contenders

Pique Nov.3,2011

That the community cares about the environment is clear but what voters really want to know is what their council candidates will do when the rubber hits the green road.

How do you feel about the flagship environmental organization, the Whistler Centre for Sustainability? What about the university proposal on the Zen wetlands? What about the asphalt plant operating next to Cheakamus Crossing?

Council contenders were on the hot seat for environmental issues at the two-hour environmental all candidates meeting on Wednesday Nov. 2 hosted, by the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), with the heavy hitting questions going to Mayor Ken Melamed, councillor Ralph Forsyth, and former councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, the three frontrunners in the race for the mayor's chair.

"I thought it was an improper use of taxpayers money," said Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, explaining why when she was on council from 2005-08 she voted against plans to give the Whistler Centre for Sustainability $120,000 in provincial grant money over four years for seed funding.

She went on to say that her contenders would likely not call the seed funding taxpayers' money because it came from the province.

"(But) tax monies are tax monies are tax monies," she said.

Mayor Ken Melamed, who is seeking re-election jumped on that when it was his time to espouse on the centre.
"It's that kind of misunderstanding of the RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative funding) that risks us losing it," he said, of the $7.5 million annual grant, which has not yet been approved for the coming years.

"It (the Centre) is absolutely a phenomenal organization," he added.

"It is doing work for the province because they love it and so do I."

Councillor Ralph Forsyth also fielded the question saying he stuck his neck out for the Centre back in the day on the premise it was going to make local government money and generate money for the resort.

"I'm the kind of person who stirs the pot and takes chances," he said.

He added that there is no more municipal financing going to the Centre after this year.

Wilhelm-Morden also said it "seems crazy" that the Centre has a $190,000 municipal contract to look after the municipality's long-term plan - Whistler2020.

The meeting offered a snapshot view of 20 of the 25 candidates for council and all six candidates for mayor. Some only got a chance to give a one and a half minute introduction, others fielded questions from the audience.

For more information on where the candidates stand on the environment, check out their responses on AWARE's questionnaire at

Stay tuned to next week's Pique for candidates' answers on the university proposal, the asphalt plant and more.