Tough topic needs to be tackled
I am writing in response to the letter from Michele Roblin of the STSTA in last week's paper (Pique, Feb.11) regarding "unhappiness" about Pro-D Days.
Ms. Roblin gave an overview of the history of Pro-D Days, but only touched upon the issue of the school calendar. As the former Chair of the District Parent Advisory Council, I sat on the District School Calendar Committee and was deeply disappointed when the School Board voted to extend the spring break to two weeks.
Parents aren't grumbling about teachers having professional development opportunities, they are grumbling about the fact that their lives don't have the flexibility to change their work schedule to match the school calendar. Please don't roll your eyes and say that school is not daycare — we know!
Daycares have the hours and days of operation that reflect the reality of the workers. The problem is they don't have the space, staff or flexibility to match the vagaries of the school calendar. The school calendar is based on old societal norms and does not match the current norm. The explosive cost of housing means that both parents work in most families.
Most parents in Whistler can't get time off for Christmas or spring break, let alone take statutory holidays off like Good Friday and even, believe it or not, Christmas Day.
I have heard that parents are being judged on their availability in salaried managerial jobs when they can't support front line jobs for full holiday periods. Most workers get two to four weeks off a year for holidays. With schools in session for 180 days or so, another 104 taken up by weekends, let's say 21 days of vacation — we'll round off and say that parents have to cover 145 working days of parental responsibility while they are working when school is not is session.
Education is about the quality of learning. Let's talk about vulnerable students — both socio-economically and those with learning challenges. Studies have proven that consistent attendance and access to schools helps the most needy students. The parents of these children, in many cases, are earning close to minimum wage and can't afford, or find, available childcare during Pro-D Days, Christmas, spring breaks and especially the two-plus months of summer "vacation."
Schools now find themselves held responsible for everything from ensuring students are fed, properly dressed for the environment and having access to a broad spectrum of programs as the percentage of students with identified special needs climbs. Teachers are also exhausted — additional issues of changing family and societal dynamics (and media) are taking away focus from teaching traditional subjects to ensuring that their students have the tools to function socially.
In summary, 1972 was a different era and so was 1950. Our education system needs more than just a new curriculum – it needs a new school calendar and a new way to staff schools to reflect students' needs, societal norms and to prevent teacher burnout.
This is a hard topic for both teachers and parents to talk about, but the conversation is needed and I challenge current education advocates to get started.
Time for action on climate is now
I am writing this letter to encourage, urge and support (the current council and mayor) in taking bolder actions toward climate change. I feel very strongly that Whistler, being an international mecca for outdoor recreation, has a responsibility to be a leader in sustainability.
It has become common knowledge that human-induced climate change is indeed a reality of our current situation on this earth. Elizabeth May recently told a packed theatre that we are now facing a very real potential of runaway feedback loops, in which case we could do nothing to avoid massive disaster scenarios.
The situation is quite serious; our species is facing the risk of extinction (much sooner than would naturally occur).
Instead of the old attitude of "Whistler's ahead of the pack, we're doing better and more than most places," it's now time to adopt the mindset of "what else can we do?" and "how could we do this even better?" Time is of the essence and it feels quite frustrating that our leaders seem afraid to take action for fear it will upset people.
I think it would be wise to undergo some slight adjustments to our behaviours, which may come with some mild discomforts, in order to avoid "survival of the fittest" type situations.
Is the desire for re-election really worth risking our collective future?
This message comes with some suggestions for solutions. By now, we hopefully can understand that the way of the future is one of sustainability. Why not get ahead of the game and start marketing Whistler as a low-footprint vacation destination?
This would require bold action on council's part but the benefits are manyfold. To start with, I suggest taking care of "low hanging fruit" by banning plastic bags and single-use plastic water bottles. Other tourist destinations and cities have done it, we're kind of behind on the times with these two issues.
Another suggestion would be encouraging all eateries to offer at least one plant based option on their menu (as a vegan diet greatly reduces an individual's environmental footprint).
Why not have a bylaw that states that all businesses practicing motorized activities must have carbon offset packages available to their guests? How about a bylaw requiring that all takeout containers be compostable? And what can we do about all the plastic straws? If we put our minds to it, we could surely come up with all kinds of low-footprint options and solutions.
The tourists of the future will be looking for a vacation they can feel good about and we can offer this. As a bonus, they will get informed and maybe take their new habits home to educate others.
Some may fear that these actions could affect Whistler's economy and council's "open for business" mantra.
Let us remember the renowned economist, Michael Shuman, who came for a visit about two years ago. After taking in the facts and observing Whistler, he warned us that we must behave as though we are in a time of surplus because we are mostly dependent on high volumes of visitors. Since we rely on enjoyable weather for our important tourism economy, wouldn't it be prudent and wise to do everything in our power to start changing our ways?
We can also think about the laws of attraction. We need to "let go" of this idea that we might upset our guests and they won't want to visit us. By building a Whistler that is sustainable and doing everything in our power to stop climate change, we will create a community of people who can feel proud of the actions we are taking. This in turn will attract tourists who also want to do whatever they can to reduce their environmental impact.
As more information gets out to the masses, more individuals will feel encouraged, excited and proud to do their part.
The "business as usual" attitude will not get us through our massive climate problem, but taking bold actions that can spread to an international crowd just might.
In my opinion, we have a responsibility to at least try.
In closing, I once again urge you to make bolder and timelier climate action decisions.
It's evident that humans need to start living with nature instead of trying to dominate and control it. Please help us create an enjoyable future for our descendants, one they can live to experience and feel proud of.
In praise of our Whistler Health Care Centre
What an efficient, well-run medical clinic we have!
Due to some stress, I had to check myself into the Whistler Health Care Centre the other day.
From the front desk staff, the nurses, the doctors, the various technicians, the orderlies — the clinic runs like a well-organized machine. Everyone is helpful and knows their tasks.
During the few hours I spent there, many other patients came and went.
Each member can be proud to be a part of such a team.
Thank you all.
Imbalance can go both ways
It is great to see Whistler Blackcomb stepping up to get in line with contemporary strategies of a more balanced gender equation in upper management.
I hope this move and the associated attention also shed some light on some other organizations in Whistler that are out of proportion when it comes to gender equality.
Two in particular should get with the times and step up to bat as well, especially since significant amounts of their budgets come from public money: Tourism Whistler and the Whistler Arts Council.
Both organizations have a disproportionate number of women at the helm. I am a firm believer in equality; however, in these two instances it seems the pendulum has swung too far toward being overly female dominant.
I hope that continuing conversations can explore situations where there is no gender imbalance period, not just in favour of one particular gender or the other. After all, it's 2016.
Fishing rules need scrutiny
Rules on fishing with rod and line are strangely restrictive. Don't catch too many or else you might need to put a few in the freezer to eat another day.
Don't use barbed hooks for they might not shake off your bait and get away with only a small injury. The purpose of fishing is to catch fish and eat them.
There is a need to let enough fish escape to spawning providing future generations.
By comparison with the commercial fishing allowance last summer of 25,000, which turned out to be an extreme overfishing catch of 138,000, the pittance caught or even allowed by local rod and line can be called a non measure.
Likewise any rule allowing or demanding catch and release is a thoughtless ruling.
The price of fish in grocery stores is said to be a reflection of scarcity, yet the fish are daily on display with extreme prices, so why are the rod-and-reel folk so unnecessarily restricted in the face of that monstrous one-day commercial wipeout in Howe Sound?
Time to stop jaywalking
A little while ago while in Vancouver, I had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing the police ticket someone jaywalking across Granville Street.
The most unfortunate part of this is trying to explain to my nine-year-old why the police did this when you can walk across Village Gate Boulevard. and Blackcomb Way without this being an issue.
In the 24 or so years that I have lived in Whistler, I have been professionally driving in one capacity or another.
I have witnessed this town grow from a sleepy little village into the mega superstar of the recreational world.
I later began to ask myself if (the difference in the treatment of jaywalking) was OK? The answer is no. Are we raising our children to think it's OK to sometimes break the law and sometimes not?
I have been in contact with the municipality on this very issue with only the slightest of interest (by it).
I won't name names but I was told something was going to be done about Lots 1, 2 and 3, with respect to the masses of people darting across into oncoming traffic all hours of the day and night in all weather and light, same goes with Village Gate Boulevard. With the traffic light not more than a stone's throw away villagers dart in and out of cars at will trying to catch the local buses with no regard to safety of themselves or others driving.
I ask you is it not time we corralled the visitors and locals into a safe reliable path by providing signage and barriers before someone gets hurt or killed?
In praise of passenger trains
If one of my dreams comes true, which is for commuter rail service between Squamish and North Vancouver, then a very good passenger train, using the commuter equipment, could also run from North Vancouver to Whistler, with low subsidy requirements.
The previous service run by BC Rail was apparently shut down to facilitate the sale of the railway to CN. That service was slow and ran at somewhat inconvenient times, but if a service could do the run in less than two hours and was timed for skiers and tourists, then we'd have a winner.
Having had experience in passenger services, I'm sure of it!
Oh, be still my beating heart!
Vegan option a positive
I am writing to thank Ciaran Keogh for bringing a much-needed and inevitable debate regarding veganism to light (Pique, Jan.21, "Letters to the Editor").
Plant-based is trending everywhere right now; from Whistler hipster Green Moustache (or "Green Mo" to the locals) branching out into cool Kitsilano to stars like Leonardo di Caprio, Pamela Anderson, Erykah Badu, Ellen DeGeneres, Ellie Goulding, Mike Tyson, Carl Lewis and even Bill Clinton advocating veganism. It seems Whistler Blackcomb keeps up with what's hot. It's about time since the Raven's Nest was a dive that nobody went to before it went vego.
Keogh inspired me to do some research, not from airy-fairy hippies making subjective documentaries, but from the UN Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (www.ipcc.ch/pdf/supporting-material/Food-EM_MeetingReport_FINAL.pdf).
Its findings conclude that animal agriculture is a carbon intensive commodity, a significant source of methane and the main reason for deforestation.
Cattle consume 16 times more grain than they produce as meat. Production of a pound of potatoes takes more than 99 per cent less water than beef and 97 per cent less than chicken. We must take drastic measures to save our future on this planet and plant-based diets are becoming a necessary reality, whether labelled "righteous indignation" or not.
Keogh's attitude towards veganism is rather dramatic: referring to Gardein meat substitutes containing "artificial flavour" when its flavourings are sourced from plants, not chemicals.
Raven's Nest does cater for all tastes by offering plant-based protein, which can almost be mistaken for meat (unbelievably, some meat eaters like it and even prefer it whilst many vegans hate anything that looks or tastes like meat!), and real meat options are only one chair lift or run away.
The tables turned and Keogh experienced what vegans do when they try dining in "reasonable" eateries: not being satisfactorily accommodated for. Who is exercising "righteous indignation" now?