Columnist reports team lobbying WEF to come to Whistler 

A team of British Columbians was in Davos, Switzerland this week hoping to convince the organizers of the World Economic Forum to bring their annual meeting to Whistler in 2005, according to Financial Post columnist Diane Francis.

Among those in Davos were Peter Legge, chairman of the Vancouver Board of Trade and Graham Clark of the Vancouver Airport Authority.

Francis, writing in the Jan. 23 Financial Post, reported: "(WEF) Founder Klaus Schwab tentatively approved the ski resort as a venue after a visit there last year and ranking members of British Columbia’s business community are here in full force to close the deal."

The Financial Post reported one lobbyist as saying, "It’s 75 per cent a done deal."

Legge could not be reached by press time to confirm or deny the report.

Darcy Rezak, managing director of the Vancouver Board of Trade was also in Davos. However, the board regularly sends representatives to the WEF annual meeting.

Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly was in Europe last week, at the same time as the WEF meeting, but he was there at the invitation of the Val d’Isere Tourism Bureau to speak at the bureau’s annual general meeting.

The presence of a B.C. lobby group in Davos was news to acting mayor Kristi Wells.

"I am a little surprised," said Wells.

"No one internally knows and certainly no one has communicated that to me.

"But it doesn’t go against what was put out there a year ago."

However, added Wells, it would have been nice to be informed of the trip.

"That would have been polite as far as keeping lines of communication open. Given that we have heard nothing for eight months on the issue it may be appropriate to let someone here know."

Part of Wells’ concerns about being kept in the loop currently was the obvious community concern over hosting the event last year.

Last April, after heated community debate, the municipality invited the WEF to come here as early as next year, provided several conditions were met. Those conditions included: maintaining the safety of the community without interfering too much in the operation of the resort, shifting the meeting from peak-season in January to one of the shoulder seasons, making sure the federal government pays for and organizes security and insurance, ensuring recommendations to incorporate sustainability are part of the agenda, and the completion of the second phase of the Whistler Conference Centre.

Hundreds packed Millennium Place last spring to voice their views on the WEF coming to town and a petition against the event was signed by thousands.

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