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Whistler in the mood for political change

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With less than 12 days left until British Columbians decide who will form the next provincial government, you might expect to see the flutter of election bunting from every corner and the sound of pontificating politicians everywhere.

Yet as Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly points out, there is a considerable lack of election evidence around town. West Vancouver-Garibaldi incumbent MLA Ted Nebbeling of the Liberals has his signs up and Peter Tatroff’s B.C Green Party posters are dotted around the place, but the party in power appears to have given up before the battle has even begun. The NDP’s candidate for the riding, Barrie MacLeod, is nowhere to be seen.

"It’s like everyone has just assumed it’s a foregone conclusion and that Ted Nebbeling will just slam-dunk his way in," O’Reilly says.

Not that O’Reilly or anyone else in town interviewed by Pique believes that is a bad thing. In fact, the overriding message from locals is that the NDP had their chance and they blew it. Twice.

"It would be an embarrassment to elect an NDP candidate after going through two terms of absolutely tough times in B.C," says Michael D’Artois, broker-owner of Re/Max of Whistler. "Alberta and Ontario have prospered while we have stagnated due to the mismanagement of government and I would be happy to see them (NDP) wiped out completely in B.C."

D’Artois reflects the view of many in the business community. The president of the Whistler Food and Beverage Association, Dale Schweighardt, says the NDP has made it difficult for both "big business and the little guys" to survive. "Restrictive policies have basically handcuffed what businesses can do," Schweighardt says. "We need an open-face, free enterprise (government)."

Schweighardt believes business confidence will improve under the more "hands-off" Liberal approach, but says: "Whether the party has moved too far across remains to be seen." He adds that the current process of easing the province’s restrictive liquor laws would be unlikely to speed up under a different leadership. "These things move slowly regardless of who is in power."

Pat Kelly, the president of the Whistler Real Estate Company, predicts Nebbeling will win by a landslide, as will his Liberal party.

"The only real issue in this election is to get rid of the NDP because they have been bad guys for too long." Asked in what way, Kelly said: "Bad for the economy and business, the environment and the health sector, because why else would all the doctors and nurses be upset? The NDP has been financially irresponsible and dishonest in trying to hide that fact – it’s time for a change."

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