Maxed Out 

The nature of the beast

Page 2 of 3

The WEF will bring $15 million in provincial and federal money for renovations to our conference centre. We will be left with a world class, environmentally friendly building. Its revenues still won’t cover its operating costs but such is the nature of the beast.

If the WEF comes to town, it will alter the nature of Whistler’s relationship with its senior levels of government. It has already altered that relationship and it’s impossible to consider the potential positive aspects of that change without gazing at the mirror image, negative aspects.

Gordon Campbell has already invited the WEF to come. If Whistler pulls the plug on the WEF, Gordo is going to look like a fool – yes, I know what you’re going to say; don’t bother. If Whistler makes Gordo look foolish, it’s hard to imagine him feeling particularly warm and fuzzy about moving his government any closer to granting us the "financial tools" we desperately need to sustain what we’ve built without inflating property taxes to the point where none of us can afford to stick around to see what happens next.

And don’t believe for a moment the Little Guy from Shawinigan doesn’t have some ego tied up in the idea of having the world’s movers and shakers adopt Canada as one of its home bases. Life is much easier on the Friends of Jean list than it is on the Enemies of Jean list.

So snubbing the WEF will mean more than just not getting what one writer so aptly termed a "boob job" for the conference centre. We will be pissing on some big dogs.

Unlike most cost/benefit analyses – where the costs are easily quantifiable but the benefits are speculative – the costs of hosting the WEF are more difficult to assess. They embrace risks and changes that may or may not occur to greater or lesser degrees.

The risk of violence is, perhaps, the most profound risk. Whistler is a playground. It is quintessentially frivolous. People come here to escape the real world, leave their worries and woes behind them and immerse themselves in sport, nature, indulgence and, yes, even decadence.

Whistler is the last place in the world they want to see on their evening news. Images of protest and violence are not Whistler. The taint left behind by the kinds of images that came out of Seattle, Genoa, Quebec City, would be more damaging to our town than it was to those cities. Our only reason for being is to cater to the holiday fantasies of the hundreds of thousands of people who come here every year. Those fantasies do not embrace violence and protest.

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