Letters to the Editor for the week of July 25 

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Whistler's OCP and conflict of interest

At the Whistler municipal council's Official Community Plan's (OCP) public hearing [in] April, I addressed the conflict of interest apparent with having three Vail Resorts employees as council members overseeing the development and implementation of our OCP.

In Schedule 9-10, this OCP clearly supports further Whistler Blackcomb (WB) development while the entire document is beneficial to WB's larger revenue sharing partners, those First Nation groups listed in the OCP: the Lil'wat Nation and the Squamish Nation.

To any outsider, it looks too much like one hand is washing the other. I have nothing against any of these council members individually, but it is the obvious, yet unaddressed, conflict of interest that concerns me.

What not everyone may know about our OCP is that it is very different from any other community plan in the province and very different from any previous OCPs we have experienced here in Whistler. As such, it deserves our greatest attention. To call this document an OCP [may] be somewhat deceptive, as it moves way outside of what the Local Government Act (LGA) allows under Section 473(g) and Section 474 (2). This current OCP appears to be a reconciliation statement with the First Nations, involving land and development rights. If it were called a treaty settlement, more may have taken notice, but to refer to this document simply as an OCP is downplaying its role.

As a point of interest, [there is the] lease arrangement between the Province of British Columbia and WB. Monies collected by the province from WB for its lease of Crown land, see portions of that revenue turned over to those same First Nations. For those concerned about pressures from growth, it may be worth noting that [the province provides] 37 per cent of incremental revenues [it receives from WB for the Crown land lease] to those First Nations. In addition to this payout, there is yet another separate agreement between WB and the First Nations for further payments. While knowledge of this agreement's existence is widely known, the details are kept confidential. The monetary value of these two transactions are [likely] significant.

So, since conflict of interest can be seen as an issue, why haven't the Vail Resorts-employed council members recused themselves from these proceedings?

Had they stepped out, the council could still function as a quorum. Section 100 of the Community Charter directs councillors, wherever a potential conflict, real or perceived, may be applicable, that they are to acknowledge this, remove themselves, seek legal advice and if that legal advice justifies their return to the proceedings in question, they are allowed to do so. This occurrence is to be timely, noted in the minutes and not only when conveniently brought to light.  

I know there are many forces of interest and persons hopping no one would notice and it would pass without controversy. Once you give something away, it's hard to take back.  

Lance Bright // Whistler

(Editor's note: The OCP in Appendix A, item 3 states: A submission ... raised legal concerns about its scope and content.

Staff Review: Legal counsel has been engaged throughout the development of the OCP to ensure that the OCP content and process undertaken comply with legislated requirements. Further, a legal opinion has been obtained that has concluded that the cited members of Council have no conflict of interest with respect to the adoption of the new OCP, by virtue of their employment by Vail Resorts, Inc.)

Let's get out of our cars

Rather than merely protesting high fuel prices, I invite Whistler motorists to go one step further and boycott the oil industry altogether.

If we wish to avoid worst-case projections regarding global warming, we all must immediately reduce personal hydrocarbon combustion by a drastic margin, regardless of the cost of gas.

Clare Ogilvie (in "Opening Remarks," Pique, July 18) suggests considering the purchase of an electric car, but its manufacture entails huge inputs of energy and material, and regardless of its source of propulsion, personal motor transport invariably contributes to noise, congestion, parking issues, inefficient land use patterns, consumer culture, road fatalities and the propagation of diseases of sedentary living.

Walking, cycling and transit are all superior alternatives and so is Linda McGaw's proposal (that appears on the page after Clare's editorial in the "Letters to the Editor" section): e-bikes. Even in a ski resort like Whistler, I believe that electric-assist pedal vehicles could safely and conveniently replace a significant proportion of local car trips on most days of the year.

Dr. Tom DeMarco // Whistler

A different perspective on cannabis legalization

Dear people of Whistler and Pemberton, I am writing on behalf of myself and my four-legged friends to offer a new perspective on the legalization of that particularly aromatic herb some of you enjoy.

Albeit my perspective is small ... er ... short as a doxie-cross dog, it is informed by my exceptionally adept nose and highly active observation skills.

You see, my sister Sky (retriever mix) and I work hard to keep the forest floor clear from your food crumbs and other items and usually don't mind hoovering up smelly items you leave behind. Recently, however, my faithful friend and protector Sky suffered a great Wobble, Stagger and Flinch that had me and our owner greatly concerned because Sky is of advanced age.

We were terrified to see that she couldn't trust her back legs to stand upright, didn't let us comfort her furry brow and suffered a great sleepiness for many hours. We thought her time was drawing near and our owner raced to speak with the dog doctors and other friends to find out what might be happening.

To discover that this was caused by one of the aforementioned aromatic herbal tidbits that Sky seems to have vacuumed up on our travels was surprising, but to find out how common this is for four-legged folk like us was even more shocking.

The dog doctors say this happens quite frequently and some animals suffer even more than we observed at our house. Some require careful monitoring and care to recover from consumption of these substances.

As a dog, I am not familiar with all these substances that we canines shouldn't consume and unfortunately, we take our ground management jobs very seriously.

Rest assured my owner is doing her best to prevent us from eating this stuff, but Sky is sneaky—as am I.

I thought, however, it might be important to share with you that these many substances, some even stronger than this "eed" I've heard about, can be very hard on our little bodies and should be disposed of responsibly and carefully.

Thank you for listening!

The Pique is my favourite newspaper to lie on and "read" and I hope its other readers will help spread the word.

Pickle (and Sky) Reynolds // Pemberton

Celebrating Apollo 11

Fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 project landed the first humans on the moon and returned them safely to Earth, arguably the greatest human achievement since we first walked upright.

Having watched the two-hour CNN film a week ago commemorating this historic event, as well a other programming on PBS (KVOS), together with various print media articles, I was expecting a superb article in the online edition of America's "newspaper of record," The New York Times.

I was not to be disappointed.

During my three years as a resident of Manhattan, I read The New York Times print edition daily, and I have subscribed to the daily online version ever since. An online photo article on Saturday entitled "Apollo 11, As they Shot It" tells an amazingly complete story in photographs and is a brilliant piece of photo journalism, far outshining the efforts of CNN and other media.  

Go and enjoy this excellent piece of journalism, which, in my opinion, is deserving of a Pulitzer Prize.

Doug Garnett // Whistler

Pedestrian vs cyclist vs vehicle

A lot of discussion has been happening around e-bikes lately. Most recently regarding them on the Valley Trail. I have a hard time with the belief that they shouldn't be allowed there. I agree, it's a delicate balance, but the Valley Trail was constructed as a shared trail. In fact, most trails in the valley are technically shared. The big difference is that being paved it automatically becomes a highway for bicycles.

First of all, the Valley Trail truly has been designed to keep speed down. Life can easily flash before your eyes if you simply look off the side once in a while or forget how sharp that upcoming corner is. Speed limits are nice, mostly unspoken, but mostly unenforced. I weigh over 200 pounds (91 kilograms), so if I crash it's going to hurt me and anything else I hit whether or not I add another 20 or 60 pounds of bike. It's going to hurt whether I'm going 10 km/h or 30 km/h. But in any case, there's a good chance I won't kill you.

A car, however, will probably kill me if it hits me at the speed most of them travel compared to the speed I'm usually travelling on my bike while being comparatively unprotected.

Being a person who is keen on reducing his carbon footprint, I'm in the market for an e-bike. I wish to reduce the trips made in my gas-guzzling van that I use for work and as a vacation home. I want to ride an e-bike to the hill and the grocery store instead of having to worry about $1.80/L gasoline. If I commuted everyday in it, I would be even more motivated.

I don't, however, want to worry so much about dying on these trips. The Valley Trail has existed as a shared trail for almost four decades. During which I'm sure millions of commuter trips have been made by bike and by foot without fatality. Don't think for a second that there haven't already been thousands of type-A, in-a-hurry cyclists that try to put a 30km/h speed limit to shame. There obviously must be a way to share this trail safely otherwise there most likely would have already been more accidents and fatalities.

Think of the relationship between car and cyclist. If you have driven either, you know there is friction. Cyclists ignoring rules of the road, drivers not giving any space. Both sides not paying attention. A quick Google of the phrase 'Cyclist killed by car' yields about 6,330,000 results and a news story that happened in Canada within the hour pops up first. Google the phrase 'Pedestrian killed by cyclist' and only 797,000 results pop up with a fatality happening not so long ago in Calgary. Much closer than the example given in Joel Barde's column of a fatality involving an e-bike in London. Point is, people are already dying.

So what's the takeaway here? Perhaps it is that all of these relationships are dangerous and we have to choose the best of two evils? It should be obvious that the relationship between pedestrian and cyclist is much safer than vehicle and cyclist. But still a question of safety remains.

How about educating all users of the Valley Trail in proper etiquette? What would you think if you found a gaggle of cyclists pedalling up the middle of the highway looking at the birds and enjoying their morning latte with kids in tow? What might happen if that driver had an L or an N on the back of their vehicle and were fiddling with their playlist?

Similar situations ring true on the Valley Trail between cyclists and pedestrians. A group of cycling tourists cruising around excited to look off the side at all the beautiful vistas doesn't sound much different. Also, pedestrians need to be aware that they are on a multi-use trail and the whole trail on a blind corner isn't a safe place to be sipping your latte looking at the birds. Maybe earphones aren't the best idea if your head isn't on a swivel? Maybe the best place to be walking on the trail is on the shoulder? Perhaps painting a shoulder or a walking lane would be a good idea? And, just how cyclists hunt out smaller, lesser used roads, there are literally hundreds of other trails in the valley pedestrians can use without worrying about dying while enjoying your latte, probably a hundred plus better views, too.

On the other side, cyclists should be using bells if you're commuting regularly. I personally love riding with playing cards in my spokes as people hear me and turn around to look from miles away. Making people aware of your presence is key to avoiding collisions. Slowing down to pass should also be a common courtesy. A certain code of responsiblity comes to mind. 'On your left' is also easy enough to shout out.

So instead of being the pedestrian who hates cyclists or the cyclist who hates pedestrians, we should all be aware of the fact that the world isn't getting any smaller and we are all going to have to find a way to share space. Hopefully in a respectful and courteous manner.

And for many different reasons, like it or not, a critical mass is coming of people who want to add another vowel to their bikes.

Jon Parris // Whistler

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