Opinion » Editorial


Lessons from 2001


In the last 12 months the country has gone to war, the economy has nose-dived, the provincial government has announced massive layoffs and huge cutbacks in services, and the worst storm in years has paralyzed the Lower Mainland. So far this winter the highway between Squamish and Whistler has been closed three times already and last week we found out Whistler’s name is no longer part of the official bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

But things could be worse. At least we’ve had snow falling on our mountains, rather than bombs. Looking back on 2001 we see again that most of the world would gladly exchange their problems for ours.

There were several disappointments – the World Cup mountain bike events that moved from Whistler to Grouse and the announcement of the Olympic name change come to mind. The cancellation of the mountain bike event was particularly acrimonious, and led to an attempted fire-bombing.

But there were also many promising developments. The freestyle world championships, which came off without a hitch, were a positive counterpoint to the World Cup mountain bike cancellation.

Whistler reaching out and starting to connect with Mount Currie on a number of fronts is another positive for 2001. One sign of the relationship that began a couple of years ago is that Whistler and Mount Currie are now connected by a bus service, through Pemberton. That opens up opportunities for employment, for a stable, local employee base, and for a little more wealth in the Mount Currie community. A learning centre is also in the works for Mount Currie and the band is planning to build a traditional long house in Whistler.

Whistler’s sustainability efforts are another positive initiative in 2001, even though it may be some time before people see the tangible results of this effort.

And within the machinations of local politics and Whistler’s development, there were some things that just seemed to happen. The little-understood provision in the Local Government Act that allowed the Houghton brothers to "buy" zoning was one of those things. The Houghtons provided $300,000 for community amenities – $250,000 for the Spring Creek day care and $50,000 for Millennium Place – in return for a "bonus density," which allows them to build larger houses than their Taluswood neighbourhood was zoned for. The much-needed Spring Creek day care will open next week, because the funds were available to complete the project. The irony, Councillor Ken Melamed said when the bonus density was approved, is that "day cares may become redundant if we allow this continued gentrification."

Ongoing debates that will continue in 2002 include the fate of John Zen’s lands and that of the parcel of land that would connect Millar’s Pond and Spring Creek. Satiating the demand for employee housing is another ongoing issue.

A little further out of town, Nan and Dianne Hartwick’s plans for developing Powder Mountain appear to have finally been put to rest by the courts. Whether Wolfgang Richter’s plans for the Garibaldi at Squamish resort have any chance of becoming a reality is a question that should be answered early in 2002.

The past year has not been without its losses. Former councillor Max Kirkpatrick, businessman Tony Tyler and, just last week, Pemberton Secondary teacher Al Grey were among the people we mourned in 2001.

The single most important event of 2001, of course, was the Sept. 11 attacks. The year – in many respects history – was cleaved into pre- and post-Sept. 11 periods by the terrorist attacks. Airline travel, the tourism industry, the insurance industry, national security, civil liberties have all changed tremendously as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. The economy in Europe, Asia and North America was already declining prior to Sept. 11, but the decline has since been hastened by the uncertainty the attacks generated.

Whistler, as we said at the beginning, is far better off than most of the world, but we are not isolated from the world’s problems. The PNWER protests last summer offered a glimpse of that. Whistler was also considered as a host for the World Economic Forum and, briefly, for next year’s G8 summit. The Olympic bid will bring further international attention to Whistler in 2002.

The lessons of 2001 are not new but they are worth remembering:

Life is short

Be thankful for what you have

The world is a small place

We’re all in this together.