Editorial 

Completing circles

The national and provincial media were all atwitter Monday with the news that Ted Nebbeling was the highest ranking politician known to have married his same-sex partner.

Hours after that story broke Premier Gordon Campbell announced he'd shuffled his cabinet and, from a local perspective, the more surprising news might have been that Whistler had lost the only cabinet minister this community has ever produced.

That's not to downplay the significance of Nebbeling's marriage to long-time partner Jan Holmberg - it may have had something to do with his removal from cabinet, although more likely it was based on Nebbeling's decision not to run in the next election and the fact that his two primary areas of responsibility as a cabinet minister had come to an end - but where it ranks as a measure of social change will have to be judged by history.

Nebbeling's impact as a cabinet minister will also be judged by history, but looking back at Whistler's history and where the province is going there is a sense one circle has been completed while another is just starting to be drawn. And Nebbeling has played a significant role in drawing both circles.

Whistler's origins as a ski area, of course, date back to 1960 and the first attempts to bring the Winter Olympics to this region. As a political entity, Whistler was created by the NDP, nurtured by the Socreds, and now the Liberals want to replicate the resort's success across the province - thus the creation of a new Minister of State for Resort Development.

Involvement by senior levels of government was crucial in the early days, when the foundations for Whistler's success were poured, even though the design was created locally. There was also a tacit understanding, according to people involved in the early days, that Whistler would be a template for future resort development in B.C.

Nebbeling and Holmberg weren't part of the team that designed Whistler, but they understood what was happening and recognized the opportunities that were taking shape.

This was the context Nebbeling came from when he moved into politics. And throughout his political evolution - from alderman to mayor of Whistler, then jumping to the provincial level and being elected MLA for the region before finally becoming the cabinet minister responsible for the 2010 Olympic bid - Whistler's evolution has influenced his views.

As Whistler was a political creation, Nebbeling - politically - is a creation of Whistler. Now, with the 2010 Olympics secured, the lessons and experiences of Whistler are being used in resort development across the province.

Certainly, resort development in B.C. has been taking place for several years prior to the awarding of the 2010 Games and Monday's announcement of the creation of a Minister of State for Resort Development. Tod Mountain became Sun Peaks, Fernie has emerged, a local ski area that only operated three days a week has become Kicking Horse, and now with new ownership Red Mountain at Rossland seems poised for a significant step forward. But in the wake of last year's challenge by Campbell to double tourism in the next decade, the provincial government appears prepared to do its part. How significant a role the new ministry will play will become more evident next month when the resort task force presents its preliminary findings and the minister, Sandy Santori, is given a budget.

Meanwhile, responsibility for the Olympics and for tourism and the resort industry (as opposed to resort development) falls to John Les, the new minister of Small Business and Economic Development.

British Columbia appears poised to take advantage of tourism opportunities. Whistler, and Nebbeling, have helped show the province the way.

  

Last week in this space I referred to the "rumoured $2.4 million price tag on Whistler's OCP."

The price tag is considerably less. According to Mike Vance, general manager of community initiatives for the municipality, the total cost will be approximately $1.5 million. That price includes the cost of all consultants, staff time and implementation of the CSP.

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