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In the next week, as we enter the period when candidates for council and school trustee positions must officially register (Oct. 5-15), more names will come forward to challenge the incumbents in Whistler. But it has been particularly quiet to date, particularly for a council which seems to have upset so many people with decisions such as the 19 Mile Creek employee housing project, the tourist accommodation issue and the Emerald Forest deal. Perhaps there is some sort of gentlemen’s agreement that no one will get too excited until after the present council has dealt with Intrawest’s Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy (which is on the agenda for the Oct. 4 council meeting), but by this time three years ago there were already four candidates for mayor and five candidates for council. When the campaigning really does begin in earnest — and it will happen soon enough — some challenger seems likely to use the above trio of issues as a platform to try and rally disaffected voters. But finding common ground among Alpine Meadows property owners, prospective chalet operators and Benchlands condo owners — other than a dislike of the present council policies — may be difficult. If an election is, at least in part, a referendum on the performance of the incumbent councillors a cursory tally of the issues (as opposed to individual projects) might include passing marks on employee housing, taking steps to protect the environment, initiating long-term financial plans for the municipality and initiating a long-term "vision" for Whistler — although the Whistler 2002 document is still only in draft form and the next council will have completed its mandate in 2002. For all their success with employee housing, this council would have to be given failing grades on the tourist accommodation issue. Several councillors are talking about re-opening the issue to see if a solution can’t be found. Keeping a lid on development was the other big issue three years ago. The Emerald Forest deal has clearly violated the cap on development, but whether it is a "good" deal or not is a matter of personal interpretation and values. Many of these issues, and others, such as the Olympic bid, will be part of this fall’s campaign. But the issue which may generate the most ink between now and Nov. 20 is the proposed Stoltmann National Park — even if it is the One Whistler group leading the charge rather than the municipality. The study of the economic value such a national park would have for Whistler is expected by the end of October, right in the middle of the campaign. It has the potential to divide communities in the corridor. Exactly how the so-called Stoltmann became a Whistler issue is a text book example of the art of marketing. The Western Canada Wilderness Committee, without any political support for preserving the area, called it "Whistler’s Wilderness" and "Canada’s foremost national park candidate" and suddenly Whistler was giving the park proposal serious consideration. There is still no support for a national park from the federal or provincial governments, from MP John Reynolds or MLA Ted Nebbeling, or from local governments in Squamish, Pemberton or the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. All of which is moot if one feels strongly — as many in Whistler and across the country do — that the area should not be logged. But from a purely political perspective the Stoltmann National Park is a time bomb. The next Whistler council will be seeking support from Squamish and Pemberton for the 2010 Olympic bid, as well as for tax reform measures that would see Squamish pay for a greater percentage of health care and school costs while the tax burden on Whistler property owners is reduced. Finding such support after endorsing the national park proposal — if indeed that is what Whistler does — would truly be a political feat.

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