Education task force report going public 

Opportunities identified for council going forward

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The fate of Whistler's proposed university may be a little clearer next week when council considers the long-awaited report from the Learning and Education Task Force.

The report, the culmination of nine months work, will be public Thursday, June 27, with council reviewing it at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, July 2, and then again at the evening meeting.

Municipal CAO Mike Furey, who has been a part of the task force, explained the background of the report this week.

"The task force identifies the opportunities for consideration and looks at the framework for considering those," he said.

"It does encourage council to look at exploring opportunities, drawing from all the information in the report."

It is not clear this week if one of those opportunities is rezoning land to allow Whistler International Campus.

Dr. Doug Player, the spokesperson for the proposed university campus, was not aware that the report would be public at the next council meeting.

"We had no idea," said Player, adding that they have been waiting to see the contents of this report for several months now.

"I'm fairly skeptical of staff's approach," added Player, given that they were consulted very little in the process.

"I'm hopeful of council's approach and I certainly would like to think Whistler sees a real opportunity here."

Furey said that bringing a report to council on the university lands proposal is one of staffs' priorities now that the task force has completed its work.

"It's a priority for us," he confirmed.

The mandate of the task force was to develop recommendations for a strategic framework for the municipality to advance and evaluate education opportunities for the benefit of the resort community.

Furey said it was an important exercise.

"I'm really pleased that council directed us to undertake this work because it allowed the task force on council's behalf to step back from any one initiative and look at the spectrum of opportunities... Emily Carr, Vancouver Symphony, the sports opportunities," said Furey.

"So, it's a diverse question and I think it was important for the task force to take a broader look and provide council with a range of considerations and a framework that would utilize the principles, goals and objectives in terms of going forward around considering educational opportunities."

Strengthening relationship with First Nations in face of tough issues

Whistler's recent luncheon with Squamish Nation was just what Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden hoped for.

"This was the first strictly social get together that we've had," said the mayor, of the meeting, designed to keep the relationship between the two governments strong.

This, despite a lawsuit now underway in the B.C. Supreme Court where Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations are looking to have the provincial approval of Whistler's Official Community Plan quashed.

Issues like the lawsuit were not part of the hour and a half luncheon, which included members of both governments.

"We talked about some of the important issues facing the band," said Wilhelm-Morden.

"It was a wide-ranging, freewheeling conversation."

A second luncheon is planned this summer with members of Lil'wat Nation.

Lake clean up date set

As the debate on plastic bags took centre stage at council last week, Councillor Roger McCarthy announced a community lake clean up day on Saturday, August 3.

The grassroots initiative has gained ground in recent weeks as community members work together to keep Whistler's lakes looking resort-ready.

McCarthy told the Grade Six students, who presented their plan for a plastic bag reduction to council, that their presentation was very good.

More work is now planned to tackle the garbage on the bottom of the lakes.

McCarthy said: "We'll see how much plastic we can pick up."

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