Maxed Out 

The nature of the beast

By G.D. Maxwell

"I'd call him a sadistic, hippophilic necrophile, but that would be beating a dead horse." - Woody Allen

At the risk of beating yet another dead horse, I feel obliged to spend one last week noodling about the World Economic Forum before moving on to a cute story about Zippy the Dog. For those of you who could care less about the subject – and I fear that is a staggering percentage of the population – my apology. Whipping this beast yet again undoubtedly breaches some intrinsic agreement we have about not dwelling too long on political topics.

On the other hand, I’m compelled by those who ask, "What’s the big deal?" to at least touch on the pros and cons of inviting the WEF to come share our little slice of heaven. "An informed rabble is an aroused rabble." I don’t know who said that; maybe I did.

Make no mistake, this is a big deal. We aren’t inviting the Rotary Club to hold their annual meeting here or the Chicken Farmers of North America or some other prosaic group. This is one of a kind and it comes with lots of baggage, some of it good, some of it bad.

The World Economic Forum could be a profound blessing for our town. It will expose us to several thousand very influential people, their families, entourage and bodyguards, who will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, who will tell their friends what a great place this is. Some of these people will want to bring other conferences to our town; some might even come back to ski. Some will be so smitten with us they’ll buy a big house on the hill, pay taxes on it and use it a couple of weeks each year.

A couple of thousand journalists will come with them. They come not because of anything intrinsically interesting about the WEF. Indeed, for most of its existence, the WEF laboured in relative obscurity. Navelgazing conferences tend not to draw journalists. The ink-stained wretches come for the car crashes, the protests, the hope of bloody violence. That’s their nature. It’s also their nature to file some story, any story to justify their trip. Barring bloody violence, some of those stories will cast Whistler in a very positive light, after all, this is one great place.

A large number of security forces will round out the immediate WEF family. They will not likely be moved by the beauty of our town, the quality of our snow or our overall friendliness. They will be the same people with the same fire extinguisher size pepper spray canisters who greeted peaceful protesters in Vancouver at the OPEC summit. And at the G8 meeting in Quebec. You either love ’em or hate ’em.

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