Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to Editor for the week of March 24th


The funny thing about Whistler's new coat of arms

Hilarious! (Whistler's recently unveiled coat of arms has) got to be the best joke ever pulled off in our town. To quote John McEnroe, former world No. 1 professional tennis player addressing a Wimbledon Grand Slam tennis tournament referee: "You can't be serious!" Regrettably, Whistler's new coat of arms may not be a spoof, and if not, once again, truth seems stranger than fiction.

Let's start with the highly questionable premise that Whistler needs ceremonial trappings, including a coat of arms, accompanied by elected officials strutting around in ceremonial regalia, including a mayor with an official Chain of Office worn at official proclamations and formal ceremonies.  This is about as silly in the 21st century as ceremonial white wigs worn by senior male and female members of the British Judiciary, or retired British Royal Navy admirals attending the Queen's garden party at Buck House wearing ceremonial swords!

This officialdom nonsense is about as far from Whistler's culture as north is from south. Get a grip! Who wants this crap?  Maybe one or two elected officials who are frustrated they can't wear their Halloween costume year-round. Certainly not anybody I know, and I've been around this valley for a long time. Everybody I know wants elected officials to provide value for tax dollars spent, and we want them to focus on running a responsible and efficient local government, not waste tax dollars on pompous fripperies.

We want our officials to show up at community events wearing what the rest of us wear: ski clothing, jeans, bike shorts, whatever... and not ceremonial trappings. After all, they are supposed to be our representatives, not members of some local high officialdom. We respect them for what they do and say, for running an efficient local government, providing real value for tax money spent, and not for what they wear in terms of chains and insignia around their necks.

According to our local press, Whistler's new official coat of arms has been adopted and approved by RMOW's elected council and supported by our mayor. It's simply hard to believe! Is there any taxpayer in our community who seriously supports spending money on this ceremonial absurdity? How much more money is going to be wasted by having this design translated into reality, adorning the walls of committee rooms in our municipal hall and elsewhere? No doubt a flag of this design will be fluttering locally one day soon! (The expected budget for the entire coat of arms project is $8,500.)

What did we get for our money? As reported by the Pique, a seven-person committee of diverse backgrounds spent two years beavering away on this creation, and what is the result of their efforts? Well, not surprisingly, we got something that looks like it was designed by a committee, with every committee member getting his or her way!

It's an absurd hodgepodge. A thoughtful article by the Pique explains that a central shield with wiggly lines is apparently supposed to represent Whistler and Blackcomb mountains with ski runs. Otherwise, how would we would know? One mountain in blue, the other in green. Why not orange and turquoise? When did the design committee last see a mountain? It's almost impossible to imagine that this silly shield actually represents two mountains with ski runs. Let's give this to a test group and see if anybody can associate this design with mountains. A two-year old might provide a better rendering of two mountains.

This shield is flanked by a pair of the most unlikely looking wooden skis imaginable  — something last seen in the Austrian and Swiss alps over 100 years ago, and not since. Is there anyone alive who has seen such absurd skis in this part of the world? When Whistler was in its infancy as a ski area in the 1960s, people were skiing on metal and composite skis which never looked like those wooden boards depicted in this coat of arms.

Well, on to the animals: A silly looking black bear (Ursus Americanus) on one side, obviously suffering from advanced malnutrition. And what is that ridiculous looking animal facing the bear on the other side of the shield? At first I thought it might be a giant beaver on growth hormones, the same size as the bear it faces, but without a tail. However, upon reading the helpful Pique article, I am informed that it is actually supposed to be a hoary marmot (a.k.a. Whistler or Marmota caligata). To be a member of this species, it must have silvery-grey fur on its head and back, like the animal living in the alpine regions of our area. An animal, with a maximum weight of 15 kilograms, being the same size as a full grown bear it faces on the other side of the central shield?  Give me a break! It appears that the committee has never gone on a hike above the treeline in Whistler and seen a real hoary marmot. The committee should have Googled "hoary marmot" to get a picture of what a marmot looks like. The animal portrayed in the coat of arms looks about as much like a hoary marmot as it does my friend's mother-in-law.  

Well then, you might have missed the rainbow trout under the shield; how many people have ever seen a rainbow trout in Whistler? Not one person in a thousand would associate a rainbow trout with Whistler. A Whiskey Jack (Gray Jay or Perisoreus canadensis) sits on top of the shield, pecking away at a lupin flower in bloom. The only Whiskey Jacks we have seen in Whistler do not inhabit marshy low-valley bottom areas where lupins grow in the spring. Rather, they seem to only inhabit alpine lift lines, eating only human provided tidbits. . . without a lupin in sight.

Oh yes, don't forget the local flora represented in the coat of arms, including skunk cabbages, dogwood flowers (never seen in the Whistler area), and something that could be berries or some unidentifiable poisonous red plant that one should know better than to touch.

The designers of this overcharged nightmare apparently have never heard of the expression "less is more." Since we're at it, why not complete this latter-day Noah's Ark by adding a couple of kangaroos around the edges, representing our residents from Oz, and where are the snowboards? Bobsleds? Mountain bikes? Beer bottles? Marijuana leaves?  Perhaps our coat of arms could consist of an eight-person gondola cabin with all these items depicted inside, plus some Olympic rings on the outside, just for good measure.

Some of us might be excused for wondering who came up with the idea that we should add one more item: a scroll containing the words "Valley of Dreams." Seriously? Have you ever heard of this motto used to describe Whistler?  What a farce!

It's simply too much to believe that this is a serious proposal that has been adopted by our mayor and council. If we really need an official Whistler coat of arms  — which I doubt  — shouldn't it be a simple design representing our magnificent mountains? Full stop.

Recently our New Zealand cousins have been consulted on proposals for a new national flag. A simple silver fern on a black background seems to be the popular choice. Shouldn't the residents of Whistler have some say in whether or not we need a coat of arms, and if so, what it should consist of? This is what happened in 1965, when after years of consultation and input from across the country, Canada adopted its maple-leaf flag. Most Canadians appear to be pretty happy with the choice.  

A non-representative sample of my friends agree with me: junk this ridiculous coat of arms design, fire the committee who came up with it, and poll the inhabitants of this valley to see if they want to have local government waste time and money on a silly coat of arms.

Doug Garnett

LNG decision disappointing

We regret (the) federal government's decision to grant environmental approval to the Woodfibre LNG project.

The decision is a snub to the 3,000-plus people who objected in the Public Comment periods of the Environmental Assessment (EA), the almost 9,000 people who signed the Save Howe Sound Declaration and the 800-plus people who gave voice to their dissent in three recent town hall meetings with their Member of Parliament. It ignores the resolutions and objections of elected councils all around Howe Sound.

We at My Sea to Sky have strongly opposed this unsustainable project as being unsuitable for Howe Sound. Our reasons, based on what we have learned of this fossil-fuel industry, the project, and the proponent, include:

• We fail to see how ignoring the plant's direct and upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — almost 1 million tonnes a year — is consistent with B.C.'s legislated GHG reduction targets and with Canada's recent commitments at COP21 in Paris;

• Banned in California and elsewhere, the plant's once-through cooling system will destroy the recovering marine life of the sound;

• This dangerous plant, and LNG tankers, pose a significant risk to human populations throughout the sound — but especially to West Vancouver and Bowen Island;

• Generally, the conditions outlined in the approval are weak, qualitative, and insufficient to protect Howe Sound's environment from rapid degradation. Equally, they do nothing to restrict the future expansion of the plant or its pipeline;

• The alleged "benefits" of the plant — employment, property and royalty taxes — are grossly overstated. Profits will go to Singapore, not B.C. or Canada. That is also insufficient compensation for the damage to our environment and the expanding tourism economy of the Whistler corridor;

• The LNG industry is founded on fracking, a destructive and dangerous technique that is permanently polluting the water tables and aquifers of our province;

• The project is seriously out of line with Squamish's vision for its future. Rather, it is a step backward to an earlier industrial age that our people — young and old — have no desire to revisit. Our gift to our children should be a SuperNatural, not SuperIndustrial B.C.;

• The community consultation commissioned by the District of Squamish highlighted many areas where the proponent failed to assuage community concerns about the environmental, economic and social consequences of the project;

• We reject the specious argument that China will use exported B.C. gas to clean up its toxic air. Recent peer-reviewed science has shown that, end to end, there is no significant difference in GHG emissions between coal and LNG;

• There has been no attempt to estimate the cumulative impacts of the LNG plant, the associated FortisBC pipeline and compressor station and the BC Hydro power lines;

• The decision fails utterly to recognize the years of cooperative effort by local communities to plan a better future for Howe Sound;

• The financial and environmental reputation of the proponent is shocking and unworthy of doing business here. This shabby record does not provide the basis of a productive partnership with a young, dynamic, educated community;

• The many failings of the BC Environmental Assessment process — government as industry cheerleader, proponent-supplied "science," no cross-examination of evidence, disdain for local input and consultation, inadequate notice and short response periods — fell seriously short of a fair and balanced EA approach.

We had been very hopeful that the Prime Minister's words, "even though governments grant permits, only communities grant permission," would carry the day. Obviously, we were wrong.

The people and the communities of Squamish, West Vancouver, Bowen Island, Gibsons, Lions Bay, the Regional Districts of Powell River and the Sunshine Coast, plus the Islands Trust Council, have spoken and will continue to do so.

Our trust in the ability and desire of government institutions to safeguard our environment is severely shaken. We will continue to oppose this ill-advised project. Squamish and the communities of Howe Sound deserve, and expect, better.

Melyssa Desilles
My Sea to Sky, Howe Sound

Bald is still beautiful

The Whistler Friends Society held the annual Whistler Balding for Dollars event on Saturday, March 19 at the GLC and the Whistler community once again came out to show their support for kids with cancer at the BC Children's Hospital. Twenty-four people found themselves under the clippers and are now sporting flashy new shiny heads for a good cause. Balding for Dollars is a province-wide fundraiser in support of kids with cancer at the BC Children's Hospital. Since 2002, once a year Whistlerites make a commitment to enhance the lives of kids suffering from cancer by collecting pledges to have their heads shaved in front of a loud and encouraging crowd at the GLC. This year that group of participants included six young boys and two ladies who believe in helping others, often people they don't even know.  

The event raised $20,136 through online and in-person fundraising efforts, and a silent auction at the event. This year is the 14th year of holding Balding for Dollars here in Whistler and since that first year we have now raised over $266,000! Over a quarter-million dollars — unbelievable! Well done, Whistler. 

Of course, this event would never happen without the ongoing support of our sponsors who donate a variety of things to make it a success. To each of them we say a huge THANK YOU: Garibaldi Lift Co., Blackcomb Barber Shop, Mountain FM, Whistler Question, Crystal Lodge and Suites, Walsh Restoration, and all the businesses that donated items for the silent auction.

We look forward to huge head shaving event for our 15th edition  in 2017 when we will be shaving a bunch more heads and raising tons of cash for kids with cancer!

Wendy and Dave Clark
Founders, Whistler Friends Society

Big gratitude for 'The Little 4'

Ten years ago while in Africa I thought up a scheme to keep the trinket sellers somewhat at bay. Everywhere we went they were selling "Big 5" carvings, cups and paintings... anything "Big 5" you wanted (referring to what's considered the five most difficult African game to hunt on foot: the lion, the elephant, the cape buffalo, the leopard and the rhinoceros). To these endless sales pitches I started asking if they had anything "Little 5" — the often- overlooked-but-still-important jackal, serval cat, meercat, wild dog and hyena. To this they would give me an incredulous headshake and walk off muttering about the crazy Mzungu. (The Bantu term for people of European descent.) Mission accomplished!

Reading this week about "Women Who Rock Whistler" (Pique, March 17), and hot off the heels of International Women's Day, I was reminded of my African experience. Kudos to Nancy, Sue, Barrett and Mo — "The Big 4," so to speak. You guys are all so awesome and have been so inspirational not only to women but the community as a whole. But reading the article it instantly got me thinking of my "Little 4" — four women who I think make Whistler equally amazing but perhaps don't get the attention or limelight they deserve. So here goes:

First off I want to recognize Kelsey Rose of the Howe Sound Women's Centre. I am constantly blown away by what you go through on a daily basis helping women in Whistler who are in crisis. On top of that you did such an impressive job organizing the open mic extravaganza at Dusty's for International Women's Day last week. If you could bottle the energy that was in the room that night the world would be a way better place!

Next up I'd like to give a shout out to Christine Burns (CK) who I have had the pleasure of organizing the Father Daughter Dance with for the last six years. CK's effort in ensuring that the dance is a magical, positive experience for the daughters (and future women) of Whistler and their dads never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes I feel like I get all the credit (maybe because I'm a man) and she does all the work! So here's to you CK!

Everywhere you look these days it seems like the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation is helping make the Sea to Sky even more out of this world. And it's never small potatoes. It's always Close Encounters of the Third Kind-like massive mountains of potatoes. And to this we owe a huge thanks to Mei McCurdy...you are beyond awesome!

Lastly and probably closest to my heart, I'd like to recognize my wife Kathryn Shepherd, an amazing mother, kickass entrepreneur (best gelato ever!), ski patroller extraordinaire, a rock of a friend and the most amazing wife someone like me could ask for. Your strength, grace and humour through adversity will always inspire me. Love you babe!

There you go, my "Little 4": four more amazing "Whistler Women Who Rock" whose amazingness is in no way "little" and who do not always get the spotlight they deserve. And here's a challenge: who are your "Little 4"? Let's recognize as many of the amazing women in the valley as we can...they deserve it!

Tony Horn