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Johnson honoured by province

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Chester Johnson of Garibaldi Highlands was one of 16 people who received the Order of British Columbia from Lieutenant Governor Garde Gardom and Premier Gordon Campbell on June 20 in Victoria.

Johnson has filled many roles for the province over the last 40 years, including serving as director of B.C. Place Corporation, chairing the Vancouver International Airport Authority and chairing B.C. Hydro.

In 1983 Johnson was asked by then-premier Bill Bennett to chair WLC Developments, the Crown corporation which was created to take over the Whistler Village Land Company. The recession had hit the fledgling resort of Whistler hard, and development parcels in the new village were not selling. Moreover, the municipality’s Whistler Village Land Company was on the verge of bankruptcy. One of its few "assets" was the partially finished ice rink in the village.

WLC Developments received $21 million from the provincial government to stabilize the situation, maintaining the village design and concept at a time when private developers were looking to scoop up the whole area for pennies on the dollar. Johnson also oversaw the redesign the ice rink, which became the Whistler Conference Centre, and the completion of the Whistler Golf Club.

"We either turned the corner or Whistler would have been toast. That’s what it amounted to," Johnson said in an interview last year.

For his efforts, Johnson was made a Free Man of the Resort Municipality of Whistler. Among his other honours are the Order of Canada, recognition by his peers as a Fellow of the Instituted of Chartered Accountants and a Canada 125 medal.

Johnson, who started his business career in the forestry industry, is currently chairman of the Transportation Committee for the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympic bid.

"The Order of British Columbia recognizes excellence that serves as an inspiration to all of us," Gardom said of British Columbia’s highest honour.

The other OBC recipients for 2001 are Robert Bateman of Saltspring Island, artist and naturalist; Raffi Cavoukian of Vancouver, entertainer, songwriter, and children's advocate; Simon Charlie of Duncan, aboriginal elder and master carver; Judith Forst of Port Moody, opera singer; Dr. Chan Gunn of Vancouver, founder of pain treatment centre; Sarah McLachlan of Vancouver, singer and songwriter; Beverly Nann of Burnaby, multicultural community leader; Myfanwy Pavelic of Sidney, artist and philanthropist; Dr. Leonel Perra of Castlegar, education leader; Dr. R. Hayward Rogers of Vancouver, alternative cancer therapy pioneer; Sarah-Spring Stump of Williams Lake, supporter of the poor and homeless; Mervyn Wilkinson of Ladysmith, eco forester; Ken and Jan Willoughby of Victoria, founders of prostate cancer support groups; and, Dr. Yosef Wosk of Vancouver, philanthropist and academic.

This year's recipients were chosen by an independent advisory council chaired by former chief justice Allan McEachern. Since the Order of British Columbia was introduced in 1989, 179 people have received the honour.

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