New council ‘engaged, committed, excited’ 

Team building first task

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Relations between VANOC and Whistler’s council have been good over the years, she said adding: "We look forward to working with a creative and enthusiastic team at the RMOW."

Whistler-Blackcomb expressed the same desire to work with a new council as the Games approach.

"There is a lot of hard work to do," said Dave Brownlie, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Whistler-Blackcomb.

The Games brings with it not just the event but legacies in the form of a new ice arena for the Paralympics, a world-class Nordic centre, an athlete’s centre, a bob-sled luge run and media exposure Whistler couldn’t afford to buy.

The council must also address the serious issue of the economy in Whistler, which has been battered in recent years with, amongst other things a strong Canadian dollar, fewer U.S. travellers, high gas prices and a freaky rainstorm last season, which spooked skiers.

"It is absolutely essential that mayor and council be proactive in terms of the tourism economy," said Brownlie. "It needs to be open and responsive to new approaches."

A new idea put forward during the last council term was a regional airport. Despite several heated debates council would not fund a $20,000 study to investigate the possibility further. In the end the study was funded by Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb.

"(Tourism Whistler) believes a regional airport is critical for the resort’s success," said the organization’s President Barrett Fisher, adding that data shows Whistler could grow new visitors by 30 per cent.

"Whether it is Whistler or whether it is Pemberton we just believe that the opportunity to be more competitive and to bring incremental traffic would certainly be a positive push for Whistler’s economy."

Tourism Whistler is also hoping for more funding to expand marketing, as competition for the visitor gets more and more intense.

"We do have a funding stream for marketing and sales but when times are tough and we need to increase that funding we certainly would hope that the municipality would potentially look at increasing their investment in marketing and sales," said Fisher.

And it is looking for a council that understands that the Olympics are critical to the resort’s future.

The past council was also roundly criticized in the community for failing to come through on more resident restricted housing. Resort partners are looking for the new council to deliver on housing commitments.

"Employee housing is a must for us," said Brownlie. "At the end of the day the people that make Whistler work are not just the rich and famous they are really those who love to live and play here."

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