Ted Nebbeling passes away 

Former Whistler mayor, MLA fought colon cancer


The group that brought the 2010 Olympics to B.C. lost a second member in less than a week when former Whistler mayor and MLA Ted Nebbeling passed away Wednesday morning.

Nebbeling, 65, was diagnosed with colon cancer about a year and a half ago. He was released from hospital last week and died at his home in Vancouver.

Nebbeling is survived by his partner of 38 years, Jan Holmberg.

Originally from Amsterdam and Sweden respectively, Nebbeling and Holmberg immigrated to Canada in 1977. After establishing the Scanwich restaurant, catering to business executives in downtown Vancouver, they were persuaded by Peter Alder to move to Whistler. They sold the Scanwich to their staff and moved north in the late '70s, opening a variety of retail stores in the fledgling Whistler Village. Their first Whistler business was the Gourmet Bakery and Fine Foods, in the location now occupied by Gone Bakery. Forget Me Nots, Chef and Baker, and a series of clothing stores - Whistler Tops, Ruggers, Berg & Berg and Mucho Macho - followed.

In the mid-80s Nebbeling became interested in municipal politics because he was concerned Whistler had only a five-month economy. He began his political career in 1986 when he was elected to Whistler council. He was re-elected as a councillor in 1988 and in 1990 won a close race for mayor, edging Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. He also chaired the Sea to Sky Economic Development Commission and was a director of the Whistler Resort Association (now Tourism Whistler).

In 1993 Nebbeling was re-elected mayor and served his full second term, to 1996. That year he also won election to the provincial legislature as Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Garibaldi.

In opposition Nebbeling served as critic for municipal affairs, forests, and employment and investment. He sat on the Select Standing Committees on Finance and Crown Corporations, and on Economic Development, Science, Labour, Training and Technology, as well as the Official Opposition Caucus Committee on Health.

He was re-elected in 2001 as the Liberals swept to power, claiming 77 of 79 seats in the legislature. Nebbeling served as Minister of State for Community Charter and Minister of State for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

On Nov. 15, 2003, a few months after a B.C. Court of Appeal ruling essentially legalized same-sex marriage, Nebbeling and Holmberg were married at their Coal Harbour apartment. At the time, Nebbeling was believed to be the most senior politician in a same-sex marriage.

That status ended a day later when Premier Gordon Campbell shuffled his cabinet and Nebbeling was left without portfolio. The government stated that the timing was coincidental and that there was no prejudicial motive behind the move.

Prior to the cabinet shuffle Nebbeling had already decided not to seek re-election and had informed Campbell of his decision. In an interview with Pique after his marriage announcement and the cabinet shuffle Nebbeling said: "...quite frankly I have known (Campbell) now for over 20 years and I consider him a personal friend and he feels the same about us, so I know 100 per cent that that would never enter his mind."

Nebbeling left provincial politics following the election in May of 2005. He and Holmberg planned to travel more, including to Mexico where they own a vacation home. But politics, and the state of business in Whistler, drew him in once again. He launched a third bid for mayor in August 2005.

"I really had no intention of running but I also quickly realized once I was back that I had far too much energy and ideas," he told Pique.

"Today we see an economy booming, we're the number one economy in Canada as a province, we are the largest job creator in Canada and at the same time I see Whistler going exactly the opposite way. And I just ask myself, why is this happening? And I can only look at the leadership.

"That is really the reason I decided, after talking to a lot of people, to throw in my hat and enter the race for mayor."

However, the campaign was unsuccessful, as Nebbeling ran second to Ken Melamed.

In recent years Nebbeling and Holmberg had traveled extensively, sometimes timing their trips between chemotherapy sessions.

Funeral service announcements are pending.


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