Opinion » Editorial


Preparing for change



In November there will be civic elections across B.C., and a presidential election in the United States. Next May there will be a provincial election in B.C. Between now and then there may well be a federal election.

How much any of those elections will change things remains to be seen, but the world around us is changing.

Canada could well end up with another Conservative minority government, which would certainly lead to a leadership convention for the Liberals, but it wouldn’t appreciably change the present Conservative government, except to embolden it further.

The latest polls suggest — as does the inconsequential impact of Carol James and whoever is leading the Green and other parties in B.C. — that Gordon Campbell’s Liberals will form another majority provincial government next spring. Indeed, Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson suggested last weekend that with the carbon tax and other efforts to reduce carbon emissions Campbell is the leader that politicians across North America should be emulating.

In the Sea to Sky corridor, there have been the usual grumblings that accompany the third year of any council, but there has yet to be even a solid rumour about anyone challenging any of the incumbent mayors. No doubt there will be some serious contenders for positions on the various councils, but there aren’t any indications yet that there will be major turnover on Pemberton, Whistler or Squamish councils.

Just as importantly, it seems unlikely there will be major changes in senior administrative staff in the corridor in the next few years.

Only in Washington, where the constitution guarantees that there will be a new president, are we certain to see change in the next 12 months. Logic dictates that the next president of the United States will be a woman or a black man, either one a first for the most powerful nation in history. But one person’s logic can spark another person’s worst fears — one of the freedoms that may be openly expressed in a democracy — and by the time November comes around 72-year-old John McCain may be much closer to the White House than now seems possible.

All of which suggests that things are pretty good on this side of the 49 th Parallel. And, looking south, we should be thankful for our current state of affairs.

But smug as we may feel, that doesn’t mean we are prepared for the world ahead. In fact, one could argue that such enormous problems as the mortgage crisis, the economic recession, the wars in the Middle East, dependence on foreign oil, massive trade deficits and eroded international credibility are forcing American leaders to prepare for the second decade of the 21 st century.

There is little evidence that Canadian leaders in Ottawa are preparing for anything other than the status quo — and dreaming of forming a majority government.

The Conservatives have made some modest efforts to address the shortage of labour that has impacted Western Canada, and will eventually be a problem for all of North America. But Canada is no better prepared for other major issues — climate change, dependence on oil, the price of food, the growing disparity between developed and developing nations, the increasing interconnectedness of the world, relations with aboriginal peoples — than it was five years ago.

In our own little corner of the world, the price of oil, the recession in the U.S. and other things beyond our control will, of course, have an impact on us. But there are other, subtler signs of change here too. Whistler and Pemberton are building seniors housing; Squamish is working to make affordable housing a reality. There’s a possibility that after the 2010 Olympics and the Rainbow housing project are done, and the demand for imported construction workers drops, Whistler may have enough affordable housing to create a stable year-round labour force. What opportunities would that bring?

And while there has been a lot of focus, and some frustration, in preparing for the Olympics, the Games will also leave Whistler and the corridor with some expensive infrastructure that will serve us well in the years ahead. Affordable housing is one piece, but the upgraded highway, additional high-speed telecommunications connections, a new hydro substation, and the Nordic centre give Whistler capacity for years to come.

And relations with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations are changing significantly. The First Nations’ cultural centre in Whistler will be the focal point, but it’s only the most visible piece of the relationship. The Squamish and Lil’wat will be developing real estate throughout the corridor, at the same time their history and culture will become more visible throughout the area. The First Nations have also undergone skills training and created new companies to service some of these developments. In short, they are participating in the affairs and the economy of the corridor.

On a local level and on a global level, substantive changes are taking place. How prepared we and our political leaders are for those changes is an open question.