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Last mayoral debate turns personal as sparks fly

Polls now open at the conference centre



Hours before the election polls opened Whistler's top mayoral contenders traded jabs in a feisty last debate to win votes.

Roughly 200 community members turned out to the Conference Centre Friday night and watched as the sparks flew primarily between Mayor Ken Melamed and mayoral candidate Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

The two candidates, friends once in earlier times, could at times barely conceal their disdain, calling each other out on their past records.

Meanwhile, the other candidates Ralph Forsyth, Brent McIvor and Shane Bennett, provided a levity to the evening as the countdown to end campaigning began.

When the discussion turned to the $54,000 municipal budget shortfall that ultimately led to the closure of the library on Sunday, Wilhelm-Morden said she thought former CAO Bill Barratt could have found the $54,000 in loose change in his desk drawer.

The comment drew laughter from the audience but as soon as he had the chance, the mayor defended Barratt's work.

"That was brutal, that attack on Bill," he said, highlighting his 30 years in service and the fact that through Barratt's negotiations with the province millions has flowed into the municipality.

He called for respect from the audience when members began to boo.

As for the budget and cutting services the mayor went on to say:

"Sometimes hard decisions and hard choices have to be made."

Wilhelm-Morden set the tone early on when she took the mayor to task over the question: what is the biggest flip-flop you've ever made?

His answer was the proposed privatization of the wastewater treatment plant.

When it was Wilhelm-Morden's turn to speak she answered that she changed her mind on pay parking (she was initially in favour) and then went on to say:

"I have to address the flip-flops of the mayor."

She listed the asphalt plant, the proposed Whistler University and fiscal responsibility - all as issues on which, she said, he's changed his tune.

"We've got to be clear at what we stand for," she said.

The mayor responding to the claim that he has changed his tune said:

"Nothing could be further from the truth.

"I guess we could go back and forth on this all night Nancy."

He only had time to defend his position on the university project. He said he's always been concerned about the protection of the Alpha Creek wetlands, the area of the proposed development. But if an application came into the hall he said it would get a fair shot.

"That's not a flip-flop," said Melamed. "I've been doing that since day one."

It's up to the voters to decide now. Polls are open for 12 hours today until 8 p.m. at the conference centre.

Pique will be covering the election tonight bringing users results and comment.

Read more on the election results in this week's Pique as well.