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Growing Up Whistler

Whistler may be the ultimate playground for the rich and famous, but at the heart of the community can oftentimes be found in the sand and on the slide at the real playgrounds

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"There's no symphony in Whistler," says Reid. "There's no chamber music group. There's just teaching." So the travel will continue. Maddie hopes to head to Europe, where the arts are subsidized to a greater extent than they are in North America, and attend a conservatory.

Wherever Reid chooses to settle, there will always be a home in Whistler.

"We hope our kids will always come here for holidays. After all, it is a great place to come back to," says Reid.

Short of an orchestra starting in Whistler, there wasn't much that could have helped Maddie follow her path in Whistler.

 

Keeping families here

 

Her love of music couldn't keep Maddie here, but another issue that forces families, and others, away is affordability.

Just as it is in many other Canadian towns, childcare is an issue in Whistler.

According to Councillor Ralph Forsyth, the preschool years are a critical time for families.

"That's when we see people leave Whistler," he says. "[A couple] has kids, takes the year of maternity leave and then realizes how expensive it is to pay for childcare."

Forsyth thinks there are steps the municipality can take to help families out.

The first is to put childcare in the Official Community Plan by stating that there should be a daycare at Maurice Young Millennium Place. Daycare was one of the original uses that MY Place was to include and the Teddy Bear Daycare operates out of the space today.

"You should have to amend the OCP to remove the daycare," he says.

Childcare doesn't fall under the mandate of local governments. However, Forsyth thinks it is important for council to bring up issues with our federal representatives such as wage subsidies for childcare workers and increasing the universal child care benefit. He believes that making infant/toddler training a mandatory part of the Early Childhood Educator program would increase the number of qualified instructors in Whistler.

Beyond childcare, there are other measures that the municipality is taking, or could take, to keep families in Whistler and improve the quality of life for those who stay. The Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) provides the opportunity for families to afford housing, whether they rent or own.

Keeping free programming in an expensive town - the parks, the Valley Trail, beaches, the library, and programs like the parent-tot drop-in - helps too. The municipality also hands out grants through the Community Enrichment Program (just over $140,000 in 2011) to community groups. Two examples are the grant to the Whistler Childcare Centre, and to WORCA (Whistler Off Road Cycling Association) to subsidize the youth bike camps.