Smashing the slate 

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You wrote on my slate, I love you so....(sic). —Will Cobb & Gus Edwards

The lyrics to that century-old, nostalgic song aren't entirely accurate, but they may reflect the current state of municipal politicking.

Power likes nothing more than a chorus in tune, a chorus all singing from the same page, all nodding their heads in the same direction at the same time to the same tune.

But is what's good for a chorus—or a mayor's council—good for a town? More to the point, is it good for this town?

Well, if we were all the same heterogeneous, like-minded, Stepfordesque people, the answer might be yes. But we're not. Whistler is composed of a wildly diverse group of people who increasingly share less and less in common.

Gone are the days when the main schism in town was between the hippie-jocks and the old-school, property-owing, upstanding, clean cut citizens.

Now we have the aging hippie-jocks, many of whom have morphed into old-school, property-owing—albeit house-rich/cash-poor—kinda upstanding but still a bit shaggy citizens. We have shoulder-to-the-wheel, nose-to-the-grindstone corporate ladder climbers. We have retired fun seekers. We have more than our share of one-percenters. We have chronically underhoused, overworked, disaffected young people. We have property investors whose only real connection to the town is a line on their balance sheet. We have an increasing ethnic mix. We have successful, if harried, entrepreneurs. And we have others who don't fit neatly into any category.

Heck, we even have people with zero interest in sliding down snowy slopes!

So the last thing this town needs is anything resembling a slate of like-minded candidates for council and the second-last thing we need is anyone with eyes on the mayor's chair who would believe that's exactly what we need.

What we do need is an active, vocal, open, transparent, community-minded council that looks like, well, like us. We need people who are living the dream but can't necessarily be sure it hasn't morphed into a nightmare. We need young people who will age into wiser councillors with a bit of seasoning and be well-positioned to take the reins of power in the near future. We need long-time people who have been active in this town for years. We need people who are living with retirement and what it means to age in Whistler. We need people with vision and a willingness to take some risks. We need people who aren't afraid to speak their mind and whose minds have been made up by listening to the people who elect them, not by an ironclad ideology or a misconception that they already have all the answers.

I'm not entirely sure what happens to strong-minded people who rise to the position of mayor in this town but it's been a puzzle for some time now. Having been elected through the force of their personality and, sometimes, their good ideas, they want a council that values harmony over debate. They want to present a united front in any decisions once those decisions reach the public stage. They want to hash out their differences in closed-door meetings and let this town of disparate, strong-minded people believe they all support the same decision, all think the same way, all gather 'round the campfire and sing "Kumbaya"... in seven-part harmony.

But we all know life ain't like that. And certainly it ain't like that in this town. More to the point, we don't deserve that facade of fellowship and groupthink. It only leads to apathy... and this is the town that put the pathetic in apathetic. It robs us of at least the illusion of having real people with real ideas running this place, not robots that think alike.

So what's this screed got to do with next month's election? Maybe plenty. Maybe not. But too many people have been collared by too many candidates who seem to be encouraging them to support other candidates they'd like to see elected, candidates they think they can work with in the next council, candidates they believe think the way they do and will vote the way they vote. In other words, candidates who are either easily manipulated and controlled or those who simply share the same agenda.

I don't know about you but I'm pretty certain I don't share a strong desire to see everything the way you do. And if you're smart, you certainly don't want to see everything the way I do. It's what makes us individuals and it's what makes us, and this town, vital, vibrant and interesting.

So, as a friendly shot across the bow, here's some useful advice from the Never-Ending Party. Don't even think of keeping this nonsense up. If you do, you'll be called out. You'll be exposed. You'll be excoriated. You'll be stripped naked and shown for the manipulative ward boss you want to be in your dreams and if I understand anything about the people who live here, you'll be beaten at the polls. We don't like that kind of politics and we won't tolerate 'em.

And now, a brief word about long-term thinking. None of the problems we're grappling with as a town are going to be fixed by the next council. Nor the one after that. If we're fortunate, progress will be made in mitigating them. But solved? No chance.

In a report issued last week by the Business Development Bank of Canada, they termed the shortage of workers, especially in small and medium-size businesses the "new norm." They suggested it is a problem likely to persist for a decade or more. Who's to blame? Well, if you want to actually blame someone, blame the post-war parents who spawned the Baby Boom. The supply of young workers simply can't keep up with the number of us geezers retiring. Couple that with a relatively booming economy and you get what we have in Whistler and virtually every place else in the country. Worker shortages.

There is no magic bullet.

But there is a need to work on efforts to ease the situation. And that's where long-term thinking comes in. That's why we need a council of people who aren't all going to retire in four years, who will provide the continuity the council elected in 2022 will need instead of toddling off to the golf course.

We need to elect good people, certainly, but we need to elect people who will be the ones with experience next time around, not the ones who will disappear. We need some fresh ideas, not retreads, not groupthink, not a slate or anything that looks like one.

So when you're thinking about candidates, or thinking about running, or thinking about the questions you want to ask on the 26th at the all-candidates' meeting, think long term and think independence.



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