Opinion » Maxed Out

A councillor is not Pharaoh

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So, why do you live here? Why'd you come here? What keeps you in town? Questions, questions, questions.

I've just driven from Whistler to St. John's, Newfoundland and back. Along the way, I more or less slept through the prairies — surely the best way to see them — ran the gauntlet of construction in northern Ontario, gazed in awe at the changes and sprawl wrought in Toronto in the 25 years since I left there, drove most of the roads in New Brunswick, all the roads in Prince Edward Island and quite a few of the pathetic strips of broken asphalt that pass for roads in Newfoundland. And for good measure, traversed the eastern coast of Labrador with stops in a number of communities along the way.

Just for fun, I've kept asking myself the same question wherever I've been: Could I imagine living here? If so, would I seriously consider moving?

I won't keep you in suspense — you're not getting rid of me any time soon. There still exists a very good probability they'll carry me out of Whistler boots first — ski boots.

Having said that, there were one or two places that were quite stunning, places where I could imagine living. But I wouldn't seriously consider moving there. No skiing, too remote.

But it's always a fun game and I remember the first time I visited Whistler. I took me about two days to decide I could imagine living there. True, I was living in Toronto at the time and that was just a few steps above any of Dante's rings of Hell and true, it had great skiing, but as places go, it was geographic love at first sight.

Having been burned on the whole love at first sight thing before — which is actually how I ended up in Canada in the first place — I decided to move to Whistler for the winter and see if I could discover a community lying beneath the resort, an interesting community, a welcoming community, a community I might fit into better than others I'd square-pegged into their round hole. I didn't have to scratch too far below the surface before I found one and the one I found was weird enough for me, peopled with dreamers and doers, all of whom had come from someplace else and all of whom had decided this was the place for them. I was hooked.

Rash decision? Probably. Good decision? Better than I ever imagined. Perfect community? Let's not get silly. Whistler is far from a perfect community. But it's closer than I've ever come anywhere else. And I continue to live in hope we can all help make it better and ever closer to whatever perfection is.

We have one of those opportunities in a little over a week, to make a small contribution to moving things along the road to better. In the cosmic scheme of things, it's the tiniest step we can take, a mere flake of our attention. We get to vote for a new councillor. It's a short-term, part-time job but it seems like all the candidates are interested in running for a full term a year from now. So, for that reason, it's an important step.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it's a call on our time many of us won't bother to take. The reasons for not voting are legion compared to the reasons to vote. Laziness tops the list, followed closely by cynicism, fatalism, nihilism and ignorance.

Quite a few people bemoan the relative small voter turnout. Some want to make voting mandatory. I take the contrarian road on this one. Frankly, if you're too lazy to vote, don't. What am I thinking? If you're too lazy to vote, you're surely not reading this piffle. But if you're too much of any of those other things, don't vote. Just keep bitching on Facebook about what a shitty deal you or someone else is getting or how someone who someone you know knows is ginning the system and doing something that pisses you off. Don't vote; you'll just be disappointed or worse, wind up electing someone like the Clown President.

Having been in the land of zero connectivity for an extended period, I've rediscovered the bliss of ignorance. Or perhaps that's just the bliss of bliss. Clicking briefly into social media upon my re-entry, I've rediscovered the absurdity of ignorance, the shrill voice of self-interest, the righteous indignation of entitlement and the deep, deep pool of loud people who don't seem to have a clue about how this town works, the contributions made by those who have come before and the utter lack of interest in trying to find the facts that undermine their specious arguments. To all of you, please don't vote.

As for the rest of you, let's consider the attributes we'd like to see in our upcoming, pinch-hitter councillor. High on my list is someone who doesn't believe in magical thinking. There seem to be some candidates who do. Some who think the office they're running for is Pharaoh, a job where they can wave their hand, say, "Make it so," and move on to solving the next problem. If they're elected, they're in for a major disappointment. So are we.

It would be nice to elect someone who has some sense — either through direct experience or expending the energy to find out for themselves — of how this town works, how it came to be in the state it's in, a bit of its history and struggles and the actual role of municipal government. I get a bit squirrelly when people who want to hold office don't understand the actual, as opposed to their wishful, role of, say, the Whistler Housing Authority or council itself.

And very high on the list, it would be good for all of us to elect someone who can play well with others. Councillor is but one voice, one vote and one opinion. We've suffered through hotheaded councillors in the past, councillors for whom the concept of compromise is confused with the notion of unconditional surrender, and councillors who believe the only real interest is self-interest. It was always messy and never constructive.

Finally, we don't need a councillor who hews to a litmus test issue. Lines in the sand are rarely static and never leave any room for strategic withdrawal. Open minds pave the way for better decisions.

By this time next week, those of us who are going to vote should have a much better basis upon which to choose among the candidates. I'm sure I will. And I'm pretty sure I'll let you know, for whatever that's worth.

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