Under any reasonable definition of the word, Whistler is unique. No grammatically incorrect modifiers required; this place is unique. Most definitely in a Canadian sense and as far as I can tell, in North America. My spotty knowledge of the larger world keeps me from speculating whether it's unique on a global scale.
"So why is that?" I hear you ask.
At the risk of offending several long-time residents—you know who you are—and quite likely our First Nations brothers and sisters, Whistler, as we know it, simply didn't exist before the 1960s. The wee village of Alta Lake existed but even it was a creation of the early 20th century. I won't embarrass myself or piss off those who came before speculating about the pre-European history, rich though I've been assured it is.
While I pay homage to the Alta Lake pioneers and recognize the establishment of the Philips' Rainbow Lodge as the beginning of what was to come—a tourism-based economy—Whistler's history prior to 1960 was primarily one of resource extraction. Trappers, loggers, prospectors, miners and misfits pretty much had the place to themselves. Life was hard but the livin' was easy ... if you don't count the lack of a road to the place and the total absence of what we like to think of as modern conveniences, e.g., running water, sewers, electricity and such.
It wasn't until the 1960s, that those things began to appear, spurred on by the crazy dream of a handful of Vancouver businessfolk smitten by the Quixotic idea of hosting the Winter Olympics.
Even as late as the early 1980s, the population of little Whistler—having become the first Resort Municipality in 1975—hadn't cracked 1,500. And if it hadn't been for the roll of the dice the NDP government took at that time, bailing the town out of its dance with the event horizon of bankruptcy, it would not be the very buoyant, crabby town of nearly 12,000 it is today. As a sidenote, governments today might want to consider what a great return that deal turned out to be, with nearly $1.5 million tax dollars being Brinked down the highway each and every day.
I feel safe in saying Whistler, going from next to nothing to whatever it is today in the span of, say, 58 years, qualifies as unique. QED.
Of course, that spectacular growth and success has not come without attendant problems, many of which are simply beyond the town's power to control, being as it is the most junior level of government in a top-heavy political structure. Our corporate overlords are but one of several that view Tiny Town as a cash cow. Industrial-strength milkers also run directly to Victoria and Ottawa.
While this transfer of wealth is not entirely without its benefits, the Never-Ending Party has been on record and reiterates, as promised two weeks ago, the position that Whistler—as well as both British Columbia and Canada—would benefit greatly by Whistler becoming the world's newest principality. A sovereign state wholly within and maintaining the closest of ties to both the province and the country.
And following on the theme of being unique, we'd do it without an extant royal presence. While adopting the principality as a thematic form, there would be no prince nor princess as the head of state. We would continue to elect our head, though, I'd go so far as to say the honorific mayor probably wouldn't cut it anymore.
"That's just crazy!" I hear you exclaim.
Perhaps. But name-calling isn't going to help. And historically, this town was founded on crazy and has enjoyed its greatest successes in crazy.
What's crazy is to continue to be a cash cow for others while we argue over pay parking, property taxes and the pittance we get back from the province in our beggar's bowl of Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding that comes with a spiderweb of strings attached.
Consider for a moment the fabulous, and unlikely success of the world's other recognized principalities.
Top of the list, little Monaco. Monaco is a speck on the map of France, occupying a mere 2.02 square kilometres, hardly bigger than Whistler Village alone. Resources? None. Wealth? Off the scale. Economy? Tourism, including a wildly profitable casino, which, like the Bahamas, bars citizens of the country from entering unless they work there, thus avoiding the social costs of resident compulsive gamblers.
Being sovereign, the principality's other main source of revenue comes from being a tax haven, something wealthy Canadians clearly need. Personal income taxes in Monaco are zero and it enjoys the second highest per capita GDP in the world!
And the French are totally smitten having little Monaco within, but independent from, the country.
Sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, much larger Liechtenstein—160 square kilometres—is landlocked and has little in the way of natural resources. Its economy is a robust, free-enterprise (read tax-friendly) zone that's home to more companies than citizens and is a powerhouse in international finance. It has a complex, working union with Switzerland and the highest per capita GDP.
Finally, Andorra, perched on the Iberian peninsula between France and Spain, is the big daddy of principalities with an area of 468 square kilometres. While not nearly as wealthy as the others, it, perhaps, most closely resembles Whistler with tourism and ski resorts driving the economy. And, of course, it is a tax haven.
All three principalities have mutually beneficial relationships with the countries bordering them. They use currencies not their own and have little or no national defence. They are models for what the Resort Principality of Whistler could be ... if it wasn't such a crazy idea.
As we discover virtually every season of the year now, people love to come to Whistler. They love our natural beauty, they love our sports-obsessed lifestyle, they love our quaint, ersatz village. And I have no doubt they'd love it even more if we were Canada's—and North America's—only sovereign principality.
Details? Lots, but none that can't be worked out and none for which there isn't a current model.
And so, the Campagne de Fous hammers another plank into the platform. Be it resolved Whistler should immediately open negotiations with British Columbia and Canada and the rest of the world to be recognized as the newest, and only, Resort Principality. We already deliver a quality experience on, let's be honest, a shoestring budget. Imagine what we could do on our own.