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Forsyth looks to be ‘positive force’ on council

Enhancing tourism, retaining families and entrepreneurs among key campaign issues

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Ralph Forsyth hasn’t been able to go completely paperless yet, but the few notes he brought with him to announce his 2005 candidacy for Whistler Council were printed in the smallest font he could still read – single spaced and with wide margins. He’s close, he says, to reaching that goal.

"I’ve always been a goal guy – I set goals for myself and I don’t stop until I reach them," he explained. Whether that goal is to quit smoking, lose weight, start a family and business in Whistler, or to go completely paperless, Forsyth lives to reach his goals.

Forsyth’s next goal is to get elected to Whistler Council, where he feels his skills and experience can be an asset to the community.

Forsyth has been in this position before. In 2002 he ran for Whistler Council with a campaign based on taking a positive, proactive approach to government, rather than taking specific stands on the various issues of the day. His message served him well, but with 18 candidates running for six seats, including six strong incumbents, challengers in 2005 mostly split the votes evenly amongst themselves.

A little older and wiser, the 35-year-old Forsyth plans to stick to the same approach.

"I believe when a campaign is on issues it becomes divisive, it has a polarizing influence, and it becomes negative," he said.

"I have opinions on everything and anything, and I will get into some specifics on my website and during the campaign, but that’s not the point of my campaign. The point of me running is to offer a new voice for Whistler.

"You need some people to have their eye on the ball, the issues of the day, which is a good thing, but you also need someone with some perspective, and has their eye on the end zone."

If elected, Forsyth says his top three priorities are rebuilding Whistler’s tourism economy, retaining young families, and providing more support for small businesses. With a voice on council Forsyth says there are opportunities for council to help create an environment that encourages investment and entrepreneurship, while helping families to lay down roots in Whistler.

"We really need to focus on supporting small business owners and entrepreneurs, because that’s really the best way to keep young families from leaving and to stimulate our economy," he said. "We’re losing people all the time, and we need to address that and make sure that we create an environment where opportunities still exist to own your own home, build a business, and raise a family."

Forsyth believes the current council is doing all it can to address issues, and recognizes that the position of councillor can sometimes be a thankless job. At the same time, he feels council needs new perspectives and new approaches, and a new focus on setting and reaching goals.

"I’m not running for council out of anger or cynicism, and getting upset at what other people do or didn’t do is not helpful," he said. "I’m running because I feel there’s a need for someone to represent families and entrepreneurs in a positive way, and who has an understanding of the tourism economy and what’s needed to stimulate business."

Some of his more specific ideas include subsidies for daycare; creating a tax deferral program for locals that would allow them to pay school taxes after they sell their homes; organizing small businesses into units so they can share resources and increase buying power; creating a customer service training strategy for the resort with training programs in the off-season; making himself and council more available to the public; encouraging more involvement by mayor and council in local organizations; and creating a youth advisory committee with representatives from council and the municipality, as well as students at Whistler Secondary.

Forsyth supports the Olympics, although he noted that the "bloom is off the rose" for Whistler, given the often secretive way that Olympic planning is progressing.

"We got the Games because of our bid… because we said we were going to host a green games, a transparent games. We have to really focus on that and make sure our priorities come through in a positive way… because when you look at it, it really is all positive – I truly believe we’re going to host the best Games ever."

The current council is often criticized for being divisive, and unable to reach resolutions on key issues. Forsyth says it’s important for Whistler to have a council that can reach compromises and make timely decisions, and notes that he has taken several leadership courses, as well as positions that emphasize teamwork. He has been involved in the RMOW Advisory Planning Commission, the Whistler 2020 Advisory Committee, the Parish Finance Committee for Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, and is the vice president of public relations for the Whistler Toastmasters Club.

In Whistler since 1991, Forsyth works as a ski instructor during the winter, and year-round runs Green Monkey Consulting. Among other services, Green Monkey offers training workshops and programs, as well as keynote speakers and presentations for businesses.

With an 18-year-old and five-year-old at home, Liam and Jack, he wasn’t able to play rugby this season, but he still considers himself a member of the Hoary Marmots RFC.

His website, www.ralphforsyth.com, should be up later this week. His official campaign launch is on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church. All are welcome.

The deadline for nominations is Oct. 14. To date just four other candidates have declared their intent to run for the six councillor seats: incumbents Marianne Wade and Gordon McKeever, and Tim Wake and Bob Lorriman.