Opinion » Maxed Out

How do you balance a white elephant?



A fine balance indeed. The kind of balance a blind, one-legged man suffering an attack of hiccups would need to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. Good luck, Roger.

Roger Soane, lately of Nita Lake Lodge and more lately still of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, has taken the symbolic reins of Whistler Sport Legacies, abbreviated WSL and frequently pronounced weasel, as though someone had thoughtfully inserted the missing vowels. Symbolic because notwithstanding the titles of president and CEO, the position Mr. Soane assumes, aside from operational management, consists largely of doing what the board and governing sport bodies demand.

To that end, Roger, I'd like to offer a very robust set of gel-reinforced, memory foam knee pads. Since your search for the fine balance will inevitably lead you to various levels of government where, like young Oliver, you'll be required to say, "Please, Sir, I want some more," it would all seem more fitting were you on bended knee.

Frankly, I have to say there are a number of us who, while personally admiring you, can't believe you're likely to last very long in your new job. Notwithstanding your professed love of sport, you seem to be more a man of the private sector, level playing field, sink or swim, dare I say, business vein. I'm not sure how you're going to take to the dark side of a perennially money-losing, government welfare case, lost cause sort of enterprise. But then, that's why Maalox comes in large bottles, eh?

On the other hand, maybe after years in the trenches of private enterprise you might find it refreshing to run an organization whose survival doesn't depend on turning a profit or even being particularly well managed.Since there seems to be an endless supply of funding, what does it matter? More of everything!

One request though, Roger. You've been quoted as saying, "One of the biggest issues facing the future of WSL is sustainable funding." Just between you and me, don't you think the "sustainable" word has already suffered enough humiliation around this town? Let's face it, in the last decade we've pretty much single-handedly stripped it of any meaning it ever had. Why beat it to death?

You're right, of course. WSL, if it is to survive intact, is going to need continued financial support from every level of government for, well, ever. Kind of like schools. And hospitals. All those vital social services only governments can effectively provide.

That begs the question of what vital service WSL provides society? The answer to that question is, I guess, national pride. Wow, now I think I may finally understand that pride goeth before destruction Proverb. But I digress.

I think you're setting yourself up for some very Quixotic episodes, Roger. You say you want to find a way WSL can move forward as a business, or at least reduce the amount of government subsidy. At the same time, the feedback you've received from your board is that "... their goal is to produce world-class athletes for Canada and they see that as being their number one priority."