Letters to the Editor for the week of September 6 

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Locals should speak up about labour woes

Is the shortage of employees the real reason businesses are having such a hard time retaining staff? Or is it that Whistler has become so busy that it can no longer house the amount of people required to have Whistler run smoothly?

The growth of the business levels is not sustainable in comparison to housing/affordability and that is why there is a shortage of employees. Until that fact is realized, acknowledged and addressed head on, this problem will never go away. Thus the reason why 22 years after I moved here, housing/affordability is still a huge issue. Amending the temporary foreign worker program (TFWP) is only a band-aid and an easy way out.

I can understand how some might perceive me as being completely against the TFWP but that isn't the case at all. What I want is for us, the locals that have put their blood, sweat and tears into this area to become the No. 1 answer to this problem and for the powers that be to give us the tools we need to fix this situation.

In Melissa Pace's (Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO) letter to Patty Hajdu, she mentions there are several options in resolving this issue but only mentions the options that pertain to the TFWP as solutions. As a Canadian, I find it frustrating to see how much focus is being directed towards amending the TFWP and the lack of focus on implementing real solutions here at home that will help fellow Canadians fill these positions.

It's a no-brainer that a more efficient transit service could have a profound impact on the employee shortage but nobody seems to be talking about that.

Greyhound closes its doors next month— what's going to happen then? The Pemberton Commuter might become so busy that everyone won't be able to fit on the bus to be able to go to and from work.

Obstacles are constantly being thrown in the locals' direction and nothing is being done or addressed in regards to finding real and immediate solutions. However, people are bending over backwards to try to fill these positions by people who don't have housing, who can't tell you the elevation of Whistler Mountain, who haven't grown up here and have no idea that trying to approach a black bear for a selfie is not a great idea.

It's fantastic to talk about building new employee housing, but until that actually starts to happen, you might as well try to sell me a bridge with unicorns and rainbows.

You have businesses trying to build their own staff housing and they are being rejected. On one hand, you say the housing issue is being addressed and then on the other hand, businesses are being turned down when they try to address the issue. The message that the housing issue is being addressed becomes very blurry and the credibility of the municipality becomes less and less.

It has been great to see hourly wages raised, more incentives to retain staff and so on and so forth. However, if employees received this kind of treatment further out maybe business wouldn't be in the situation that they are in now.

A few weeks ago in Pique, the mayor had mentioned that in 2015 she felt the housing situation was not a huge factor and then out of nowhere, Whistler's business levels exploded and they were left with their pants down (probably not the actual wording). You have got to be kidding me—the housing issue came out of nowhere?

I am no one in the large spectrum of things, but I could have told the powers that be in 1996 that housing and affordability is going to be the root of the problem.

Prior to writing this, I took a look at some available housing on Craigslist, and I see one-bedrooms starting out at around $2,300. A mid-level employee cannot afford this. This is probably too much for most executives.

I would love for the chamber to explain to me how a foreign worker brought into Whistler that will work an entry-level to mid-level position can afford to live based on these rental prices. If you think employees are burnt out now, wait until they have to work 80 hours a week to afford a roof over their head.

I encourage anyone who feels the way I do or for anyone that would like to express their own thoughts on the matter to write Patty Hajdu a letter. Express why we the locals should be the solution to the problem and the tools we require to make it happen. 

Paul Rowe

Pay local workers a living wage

I have just finished reading the article from last week's Pique, "Chamber appeals to feds for help with labour," and I'm frankly amused that all these businesses are screaming out for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to be extended.

The reason people won't move here, and the reason why the workers here are getting burned out, depressed and leaving simple—people are sick of forking over huge proportions of their wages for appallingly bad housing conditions, and getting ripped off on everything from groceries to gas. Getting more foreign workers isn't going to change that. 

There are two solutions that I can see to improve this: 

1) Pay a living wage ($26.88 as of 2017 according to the muni). Well paid, happy people don't leave jobs, and recommend their employers to friends. I've not seen or heard of any business owners willing to cut their margins to achieve this.

2) Increase the quality and reduce the relative cost of available housing—not necessarily bed unit increases, but increasing the utilization of properties that sit empty for 51 weeks of the year (i.e. tax vacant holiday homes significantly more, and offer tax breaks to primary residences and rented homes).

Until drastic action is taken, we will see more and more experienced long-term residents leaving, and businesses and the town will continue to suffer. Don't roll out the carpet for newcomers; look after the people you've got.

Ed Davies

Thank you, Creekside

On behalf of the Whistler Film Festival, we would like to thank the residents and merchants of Whistler Creekside Village for supporting our second annual outdoor Summer Cinema Series each Monday night from Aug. 13 to Sept. 3.

Throughout the four evenings, we hosted over 1,600 people who brought chairs, blankets, Explorer 200s and a variety of other seating choices to enjoy The Breakfast Club, The Sandlot, Back to the Future, and our final screening, Almost Famous!

These free, family-friendly community events would not be possible without the support of our partners including Creekside Village, Creekside Dental, Creekside Market, Dusty's Bar & BBQ, Lodging Ovations, MacDonald Realty, Get The Goods Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb.

Thank you as well to all the Creekside residents who welcomed us into the plaza. And a heartfelt thanks to Lee Sargent of Sargent Poppers for the popcorn! We hope you enjoyed the shows!

Shauna Hardy Mishaw
Executive Director, Whistler Film Festival

Yes to the passenger train

Yes, please, I'd love to see passenger rail service from North Van to Whistler, but suspect that it would initially only work in conjunction with a Squamish to North Van commuter service, as the province would like to avoid hefty subsidies. (The previous service was stopped because, as a stand-alone train, the support needed was $1 million a year.)Comfort aside, I like the train because it's so "green"—only bikes and ski-lifts are more efficient.

One letter writer said buses can be profitable with as few as 10 passengers—if so, why is Greyhound giving up?

Even my friends in the bus industry admit that people would really rather go by train if possible.

Andrew Preddy

Proportional representation

After reading the article regarding proportional representation last week I thought, that as a former MLA, I should add my voice and experience to the discussion. 

Everything I have been reading regarding proportional representation appears to focus on how members will vote in the legislature. As a private member or back bencher I can tell you that, because the house sits for just a few months per year, the work performed in the legislature forms only a small portion of the total workload of an MLA.

When not in the house, your MLA is working hard in your community addressing the concerns of the constituents and solving problems that may have nothing to do with Victoria or politics in general. These concerns can range from providing assistance to WCB claimants to highway safety issues and everything in between. All the MLAs I know, regardless of their political affiliation, work extremely hard in their communities. 

In most cases, the MLA lives in the riding he or she serves and therefore has a vested interest in bettering their community. Under our current system, MLAs feel a strong obligation towards their constituents because they feel honoured to have been elected by them and realize that, if they wish to continue to serve their riding through re-election, they must act in the best interest of their constituents.Proportional representation (PR) will destroy this. PR becomes a very complicated numbers game as to who will become the second MLA in a riding that, in most cases, will be double the size of the current riding. Because the details of PR will be determined by the government after the referendum, I can only assume that the second MLA will be appointed by the party leader. (Editor's note: this is not the case for all three types of PR for which British Columbians will have an option to vote.)  

This means second MLAs will be answerable to the leader who appointed them and not necessarily to the constituents they are meant to represent. The appointed MLA may not live in the community and in some cases, may not be concerned at all about the constituents. The sole purpose of the appointed MLA may be to tout the party line for his or her leader, not only in the legislature but in the constituency as well.  With larger ridings, the elected MLA will not be able to service the needs of his or her constituents, will lose the ability to know the riding intimately and ultimately may be required to get "political" in order to combat the party line espoused by the appointed MLA.

All MLAs representing a community should be elected by the people living in the community and should be accountable to the persons who elected them. An appointed MLA will not be accountable because their appointment to continue to serve does not rest on their work performed in the community but only how well they serve the person who appointed them.For this reason, I ask you to look beyond the work performed in the legislature and focus on how your community will be affected by ridings being doubled in size with the second MLA being appointed rather than being elected. It is because of this loss of representation in my community that I will be voting no to proportional representation in the upcoming referendum.

Brian Kerr

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