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Bennett throws hat into mayoral race

Concern for Olympics, government spending, state of local democracy

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Shane Bennett does not think Whistler has been treated fairly, or that governments are being honest with its residents.

In the run-up to the 2002 municipal election, where Bennett ran for a spot on council, he was calling for a referendum on the Olympic bid. He also voiced concerns that council was too dependent on consultants, that Whistler is a one-company town under Intrawest, and that too many important deals and decisions were being made behind closed doors.

He has the same concerns in 2005, which is why he’s running for mayor.

"I’m running because I believe I’m the best man for the job," he said.

"There are fundamental things that are wrong with this community, when it comes to Intrawest, the Olympics, and we need someone to go in there and kick some butt. People will be fired and people will go to jail if I get in for mayor.

"The town needs a total cleansing, and I believe I’m probably the only one pissed off enough to get the job done right."

Bennett would introduce several new laws and policies designed to make Whistler more democratic, and he intends to introduce a new democratic system that would give voters three votes for every candidate – one economic, one social and one environmental – before calling another election.

"You might vote for one candidate who is an environmental genius, but if they’re an economic idiot you won’t give them that vote," he said. "If people had three votes, they would think more about the people they’re voting for, and there would be less errors in voting."

Bennett would also use the same system in council to vote on municipal policy. For example, if a project makes sense economically but doesn’t make sense socially or environmentally, it likely wouldn’t get enough votes from councillors to pass.

To be truly democratic, Bennett would suggest the major players in town, such as Intrawest, run their own candidates. "People are discouraged by the whole democratic charade that goes on when it’s putting front people in for corporations or representing their own economic interest," he said.

Bennett also suggests that most of Whistler’s mayors have been more representative of Intrawest than the people of Whistler.

He also believes that Whistler is getting a bad reputation as a result of the policies of council and the major corporate interests in town, and that "people will start punishing us for that, if they aren’t already." If Whistler was more democratic, and the mayors and councilors no longer represented any corporate or personal interests, then the tourists would come back.

"Right now it just feels wrong, the system isn’t working and everybody knows it. It’s a gut feeling."

As far as representing the people of Whistler, Bennett says he’s been doing that all along.

"Over the last four years I have had more face time with federal MPs than anyone in Whistler, and 90 per cent of the time they have acted on the information I have brought up," said Bennett in a letter announcing his candidacy. For example, regarding the pine beetle infestation sweeping through the corridor, he says he spoke to MPs about the issue and they responded with $100 million in federal funding. He questioned why Whistler is cutting down infected trees when there is a possible treatment, and said one of his priorities would be to "get our parks personnel on snowshoes and start vaccinating the trees."

Regarding the arena issue, Bennett calls it a broken political promise on behalf of council, but wonders if it’s any loss if the municipality never had the funding to begin with. However, he is concerned that the local government’s tactics on this issue will result in other lost funding as well.

Bennett has set up a web log (blog website) and is encouraging people to use it to vent their frustrations with the political status quo in Whistler. The site is www.whistlerpolitics.com.

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