Opinion » Editorial


Power and influence



You can take the blue pill and wake up at home, safe in bed with the illusion that democracy works, or you can take the red pill and find out just how deep the rabbit hole – in this case a network of power and influence in this province – really goes.

Regardless of how you really feel about the Nita Lake Lodge process or the legal challenge into the process launched by millionaire Keith Lambert, you can’t deny how strange it was for the provincial government to get involved and circumvent the B.C. Supreme Court decision on the issue with a rarely used piece of legislation.

Last time I checked the courts were the third branch of Canada’s Parliamentary system behind the executive and the legislative. Although they are not fallible, they do provide a necessary check and balance to governments, which are also fallible, as well as test the validity of our laws. Somewhere between these three branches of government a balance is supposed to be struck.

Provincial governments are just miniature versions of our federal system, and are expected to function in much the same way.

The little-used Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act utilized by the province this week to overrule a court decision in Mr. Lambert’s favour and allow construction to continue on Nita Lake Lodge is clearly a violation of this. Apparently it’s not that unusual to use this law to resolve issues that crop up under the Municipal Act, which is what happened with Nita Lake, but this is more than a procedural issue and the Supreme Court had already spoken.

The courts are there for our protection after all, not only against each other but against governments and government agencies, corporations, and systems that are in place. It’s the one place where an individual can stand up and fight for their rights against power and influence on even ground.

I don’t expect people to cry a river for Mr. Lambert and the view from his balcony, but I would hope that people would see the dangerous precedent that was set last week.

If the government, on the side of developers and local government, can overrule a court decision in favour of a private citizen once, then they can do it again. Individuals and non-government organizations could lose the right to challenge companies and the government, to stand up for forests and waterways, for unions, for human rights, or for other values that may run contrary to the interests of governments, companies or the monied class.

Mr. Lambert summed it up nicely when he said "We think it’s highly irregular… for any western government to overturn its own Supreme Court."

The one thing that this whole fiasco has demonstrated is just how much power and influence that Whistler and many of our citizens enjoys in the province.

Part of the reason is the fact that we do generate over a billion dollars every year for the provincial coffers through tourism, as well as billions more indirectly. We have national and international standing, so much so that when teens tamper with a survey on drug use or someone gets hit in the face with a snowball on New Year’s Eve it makes national news.

Of course the province had to worry about what kind of precedent Mr. Lambert’s legal challenge would set, and the impact that it would have on community development and ‘investment’ – the Liberals’ favourite ‘i’ word – in the province.

But it feels like there is a lot more at work here. Power and influence, maybe. Carefully cultivated relationships. Business circles. Friends of friends. Connections.

The municipality was already appealing the Supreme Court’s decision through legal channels, and could probably have won. Still, the province thought it was necessary to take the courts out of the picture with an obscure piece of legislation to get a controversial development – I have a gift for understatement – back on track.

Right or wrong that’s a tough pill to swallow.