Interest in Whistler affairs likely to increase in 2005

It may be getting a little late in January for New Year’s forecasts but that’s in keeping with a winter that has been stubbornly slow to produce snow, so let’s review the schedule for 2005.

It’s an election year, not once but twice. British Columbians go to the polls in May to vote on a provincial government and a proposed new method of electing provincial governments, and then in November they cast ballots for local government and school board representatives. Both elections will produce some new faces and both will affect the political landscape in Whistler.

Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said last week he expects the long-promised financial tools to finally be sorted out following the provincial election. Financial tools were one of the benefits Whistler expected to receive from the provincial government as part of the deal for co-hosting the 2010 Olympics. Financial tools have never been defined beyond Whistler’s argument that a resort municipality needs additional sources of revenue in order to pay for the infrastructure and services that a resort municipality must provide. However, last fall the province brought in legislation that gives Tourism Vancouver the authority to impose a tax where it sees fit. It could be on taxis, on hotels or something else. Tourism Vancouver has yet to make use of its new financial tool but the mechanism may be the foundation for a something similar in Whistler.

Whistler also has to adopt its new five-year financial plan by the middle of May, after a brief period for public input. That’s right about the same time as the provincial election, so if the Liberals are still in a position to consider financial tools for Whistler they likely won’t be reflected in this year’s financial plan. But they could surface right about the time of the municipal election.

May is a busy month. Volume II of the Whistler 2020 comprehensive sustainability plan, the part that should provide strategies on how to achieve the visions, values, priorities and directions outlined in Volume I, is also scheduled to be completed by the end of May. There are currently numerous committees working on these strategies.

The spring should also see some physical work begin on the Olympic sliding centre on Blackcomb and the Nordic centre in the Callaghan Valley. As the physical work begins any remaining concerns – and there are many in the Callaghan – regarding scale of development, commercial tenures and post-Games operations should start to surface. In fact, it has already started. This week the Canadian Ski and Snowboard Association, the umbrella organization for nine ski and snowboard disciplines, accused VANOC of having no legacy funding for the Nordic jumps and suggested that the jumps would be dismantled after the Games. VANOC, which has talked about Olympic legacies from day one, hasn’t confirmed or denied the jumps will be taken down – the decision will be made in the next few weeks.

All of these decisions and events, many in the first five months of 2005, suggest it will be a lively year for politics in Whistler, with the standing of the Liberal party after the May election perhaps one of the larger variables in the political landscape.

And while Whistler has been preparing for this year for some time, doing all kinds of work on its CSP and what it wants to achieve through the Olympics, lots of other people have an interest in what happens here too. When the people of Whistler look at what they want from each of these decisions they should keep in mind that the provincial government, VANOC, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Intrawest, other resorts in B.C., First Nations and the federal government may also have an interest. As one person involved in the Olympic bid process said a few years ago, "the only thing the province wants from Whistler is more."

So while some Whistlerites may be getting a little tired of strategic plans, CSP committees and other opportunities for input, as other groups’ interest in Whistler increases in 2005 residents’ input may be more important than ever. Everyone else has an idea of what they want from Whistler; Whistlerites should make sure do too.


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