Opinion » Editorial


Opening remarks Media, political images of Whistler out of date The image of Whistler as a playground for the idle rich is surfacing again in the media and among politicians who can use that perception for political gain. It’s getting tiring. Even though a number of members of the Vancouver media own places in Whistler or visit Whistler regularly, it’s still easier and makes a better story if Whistler is portrayed as an exclusive country club, where only the fabulously wealthy go, to be waited on by people who must live in vans or tents. Over the years the Province newspaper has done its version of investigative reporting and come up with a few alternatives to this stereotype of Whistler. "Sin City" or "Whistler snowed under with drugs," are a couple of the 30-second portraits the Province has supplied. A couple of weeks ago it happened again, on CBC’s Morningside. Jamie Lamb and Carol Taylor were doing the B.C. roundup for Peter Gzowski and discussing Whistler’s new bylaw prohibiting profanity in public. Before discussing the bylaw Lamb set the scene: "For those who don’t know, Whistler is a glossy, flossy ski resort..." Co-panelist and part-time Whistler resident Taylor quickly disagreed, saying Whistler was a wonderful wilderness area where grizzly bears walked through her back yard. As always, the truth lay battered and wounded somewhere in between Lamb’s Bright Lights/Big City and Taylor’s Walden. Both are good journalists, but I don’t think I’ll ask them for directions. If it’s not the media it’s the politicians trying to pigeon-hole Whistler. Last week NDP caucus chair Ujjal Dosanjh went on the offensive when the City of Vancouver said the NDP’s request for information on Gordon Campbell’s dealings with consultant Jim Moodie during Campbell’s time as mayor was so broad it would cost taxpayers $20,000 to collect all the information. "We’re not asking for the map to Mr. Moodie’s condo at Whistler, or all the Christmas cards," the Vancouver Sun quoted Dosanjh as saying. Dosanjh’s inference, that Whistler is a wealthy capitalists retreat and a bit too hoity-toity for the caucus chair and his NDP colleagues to bother with, is ironic. Premier Mike Harcourt is a regular visitor to Whistler, both in winter and summer. It’s also worth remembering that it was former NDP cabinet minister and current party power broker Bob Williams who played perhaps the most significant role of any politician in the development of Whistler. Williams was responsible for placing a freeze on commercial development in the valley until a village could be located and construction started. He also transferred logging rights from the side of Blackcomb Mountain to the Pemberton Valley so that the ski area could be developed and supported the idea that Whistler should have its own government, which led to the unique resort municipality status. For his role in helping Whistler become such a success (and it wouldn’t have happened without the village, Blackcomb and the resort designation) Williams was honoured by the community two years ago at the first Whistler Symposium. There is no question Whistler is associated with free enterprise politics. Mayor Ted Nebbeling is the Liberal party candidate for West Vancouver-Garibaldi, a Social Credit leadership convention was held here in the mid-80s, and the Social Credit government of the early ’80s stepped in with the Whistler Land Company when development of the village was in jeopardy. But the fundamental reason Whistler is alive today is not because of its political leanings or its appeal to wealthy visitors. It’s because of the efforts and work by individuals. Count the number of people who came here to ski, eventually started businesses, started families and now don’t have time to ski. Or round up the people who come through with contributions whenever there is someone in need. Look at the volunteers who have built the community infrastructure. There is some truth in all the media and political portrayals of Whistler, but those portraits don’t show the heart of the community. Remember that heart at Christmas. – Bob Barnett For the Toronto media Whistler is British Columbia incarnate — a place full of aging hippies and new-age fitness freaks who don’t work, spend their winter days skiing and their summers at the beach.

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