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B.C. business leaders in discussions with World Economic Forum



Talks underway to bring annual general meeting to Whistler in 2005

The Vancouver Board of Trade confirmed this week that it is lobbying to bring the World Economic Forum to Whistler in 2005.

"I would say there is a better than even chance that we could go for 2005," said Darcy Rezak, managing director of the board.

B.C. and Whistler are popular with the leaders of the World Economic Forum. In fact WEF founder Klaus Schwab was holidaying in the resort this week.

He declined to comment on the forum coming to Whistler when contacted at his hotel.

"I am here for holiday reasons and to enjoy the resort and see how life is here and the skiing," said Schwab.

Rezak and several other high profile B.C. business people were in Davos, Switzerland last week attending the annual meeting of the WEF.

While there were no formal discussions about hosting the 2005 meeting in Whistler, Rezak confirmed the idea was talked about.

"There were no meetings with the founder on the subject in Davos but there were casual comments and there is a healthy interest," said Rezak.

"The discussions are beginning to take place now so we will be in dialogue hopefully within a matter of a few short days to be able to say, ‘OK folks let’s pick it up a bit and where do we have to go from here.’"

However, said Rezak, world events, particularly in Iraq, may overtake the discussions.

All this was news to Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

"I have not been directly involved in any way," he said.

"But I think we sent a pretty clear message that the forum would be invited if they considered hosting it at an alternate time."

Emotions ran high in Whistler last spring as the community learned that council was considering hosting the annual general of the WEF.

This meeting is traditionally held in January, prime ski season in Whistler. Since the World Economic Forum attracts heads of state, leaders of major international corporations and religious and political leaders, security is extremely high and protests follow. It was believed by many, including the operators of Whistler-Blackcomb, that the security and protests would have a severe and negative impact on business .

A petition was circulated last spring and thousands signed to oppose hosting the event. Hundreds of others turned out for a council meeting hosted in Millennium Place to voice support and opposition.

The result was an invitation with strings attached.