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Councillors concerned about Bill 75

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Resort in a tough position as Olympic partner with the province

"How far do you go to let a partner stick a knife between your ribs before you complain?" asked Councillor Nick Davies at Monday's council meeting.

The knife Davies is referring to is known as Bill 75, or the Significant Projects Streamlining Act. The partner who Davies said is sticking it to municipalities across B.C. is the provincial Liberal party.

Bill 75, which was introduced in November and proclaimed the following month, allows the provincial government to overrule any local government laws if they are seen as being "constraints" on development of "provincially significant" projects.

Though Whistler councillors are all alarmed at the legislation, there was debate at the council table on how Whistler should position itself against the new Act.

"I think that we are at specific risks," said Councillor Kristi Wells.

"We've got to protect certain areas of our own jurisdiction right now."

As such she proposed that Whistler should ask the government to exempt any Olympic decisions from Bill 75.

Mayor Hugh O'Reilly said this would go against the good faith of the Multi-Party Agreement that was signed by Whistler, Vancouver, the federal and provincial governments, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

"We negotiated to work with the framework and we expect them to do the same," he said.

"We have a good relationship (with the provincial government). We've worked very hard on that. If we do our job, we should never see Bill 75, as far as Olympics go."

Though he was hesitant to speculate about specific projects, the Minister of State for Deregulation, Kevin Falcon, who introduced Bill 75, said most likely the Act could not be evoked for something like the location of the Olympic athletes village in Whistler.

"A little thing like where you locate a building is very - almost impossibly - unlikely to meet the task of being provincially significant," he said.

"We work co-operatively with local governments. We intend to continue working co-operatively with local governments. It is only when the provincial government is being egregiously unreasonable or a local government is being egregiously unreasonable and we are unable to solve that problem together as common sense folks would, that we would even consider having to use Bill 75," he said.

Falcon echoed O'Reilly's sentiments about the good working relationship between the province and Whistler.

"We would be absolutely loath to do anything to cause a problem in our relationship," said Falcon.

He also pointed out that Bill 75 works both ways and in fact Whistler itself may choose to use it to speed up Olympic decisions.

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