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Andrews courting blue-collar vote in byelection bid

Long-time local basing platform around housing and government transparency

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Voters will have another name on the ballot when they head to the polls on Oct. 18 for Whistler's byelection: long-time local Steve Andrews.

If elected, the 34-year-old freelance content creator wants to speak for a subset of the resort community he feels is woefully underrepresented at the council table.

"The current makeup on council is lacking someone who is struggling to make a life for themselves in Whistler, someone who is working on building a career, getting established and eventually putting down the foundation to have a family here and build a life," he said.

A resort resident since 2004*, Andrews first ran for council back in 2011. And although his bid came up short, the North Vancouver native feels it's high time to bring a fresh perspective to municipal hall that reflects the needs of Whistler's young, working class.

"(I'm) seeing this element of greed take over," he said. "It's pushing people out and making it harder and harder to make a true living as a local.

"Whistler is in danger of losing a big part of its soul."

Having a government in place that puts the needs of the community over business interests is key to preserving that spirit, Andrews believes.

"Tourism is great and it's obviously what we survive on, but at the same time, attracting people won't be a problem if we have a strong, vibrant community," he noted.

Fostering a strong community is impossible without sufficient affordable accommodation, which is why Andrews wants to see the municipality take a different approach to housing.

"I think there's a lot more creativity we can use to try and address the housing situation," he noted, pointing to "21st-century microcommunities" that are growing in popularity globally and utilize shared living space as one way to tackle Whistler's housing crisis.

"In a place like Whistler where there's limited (developable) land, that's the best option," added Andrews. "It's obvious we need more housing, but we don't want to overbuild."

That speaks to another key point of Andrews' platform: Land use; specifically, the hectares of land leased to Whistler Blackcomb by the province.

"I basically want to work with the provincial government to change the land-use agreement so it's not just one company that gets full reign over Crown land, but also independent operators so there's more competition... and more opportunity for businesses to flourish without having to go through Vail (Resorts)," he explained.

Improving communication between municipal hall and the local population is another campaign promise of Andrews', who feels the RMOW could make better use of digital tools to engage with the public.

"There's so many online resources and tools now we can use. People can't always make a 4 o'clock meeting on a Tuesday."

Nominations are being accepted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Sept. 22, after which all successful candidates will be posted to www.whistler.ca/candidates.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Andrews has been living in Whistler since 2006. He has been a resort resident since 2004.

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