Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of February 20

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Sharing trail access can bring new positive relationships

Twenty years ago, a group of trail advocates began a campaign of planning and instigating a network of mainly flatland trails in the Pemberton Valley with the funding and planning needs provided by local government and a newly formed PVTA (Pemberton Valley Trails Association).

The network quickly expanded into the backcountry to augment the historic biking and walking trails that Whistler residents are familiar with. The "Bathtub" and "Happy" trails link the valley to those trails.

The PVTA mandate became oriented to service those needs. The flatland trail development, meanwhile, was focused on the 8.5-kilometre Valley Loop. This goal was achieved slowly but with concerns from some affected residential and farming community members.

During these years, the Naylor strawberry farm was retiring operations. The farm was situated at a crucial location linking Urdal Road to the Lillooet River crossing and the back- and mid-country trails.

An unsanctioned trespass route to the trailhead on Urdal Road on the farm property, often a muddy, overgrown mess became more and more used. For several years, we considered our options and decided to offer a six-by-130-metre width of property to the [Squamish Lillooet Regional District] to become a permanent (attached to the property title), non-motorized access, public right-of-way. The result is a well-built and maintained, heavily used trail.

We were apprehensive at first, fearing possible uncomfortable conflicts with trail users. It took a couple of years to educate a few misbehaving dog owners and dirt bikers about ethical behaviour, but a wonderful outcome has been the evolving local-trail stewardship relationship that developed. There are always volunteers to help with trail maintenance. Dog doodoo or garbage does not accumulate. Cows graze undisturbed on the other side of a split-rail fence after the hay comes off. But most of all, the appreciative feedback and socializing we experience more than makes up for any modicum of inconvenience.

But our perceived altruism pales when compared to that of Newfoundland residents, which we felt on a visit a few years back. Our photo album contains memories of signs at trailheads visible from the road and accessible only by walking next to or "through" some backyards. The only inconvenience there from the trail user's perspective would be the delay of departure after having to accept a cup of tea from a landowner or a tour of their gardens.

It is too much to attempt (or unnecessary) to achieve the level of hospitality displayed by Newfoundlanders but we can, through positive communication and trail-management details, especially mitigation practices, maintain (or improve) trail user-landowner relationship experiences.

Hugh Naylor // Pemberton

Why are WB lifts experiencing so many delays?

I'm a season pass-holder who endeavours to ski 50 days a year.

The question to answer is why have lift stoppages occurred at an exponential rate since Vail Resorts took over [Whistler Blackcomb]? (No one can control nature and whether or not there's a dearth or plethora of snow, understandingly affecting lift openings/closures).

I was on the slopes with a group of local and destination skiers recently and, without over-exaggeration, every time we uploaded on to a lift, regardless [of whether it was] on Whistler or Blackcomb [mountains], the lift stopped.

Just look at the [Whistler Blackcomb's] Twitter account on a daily basis to confirm my on-the-mountain lift experience.

I was one of many on a recent Monday when Symphony opened later in the day. We got a few laps in and then we got stuck on that lift for at least 15 minutes! Unacceptable. Adding insult to injury, when I called in to guest services, I was offered an apology by both the representative and the supervisor, but expressly told, "management told us that no compensation was to be offered!"

Of course (and unfortunately), both Adam [Mercer, WB's patrol director] and Doug [MacFarlane, WB's vice president of mountain operations] are highly paid individuals who are beholden to Vail Resorts Corp. and are going to (try to) spin what message Vail Resorts tells them to say in order to keep their jobs.

As was said in the video link ("VIDEO: Whistler Blackcomb staff respond to 'Make Whistler Great Again' petition comments, piquenewsmagazine.com, Feb. 15), the guests experience is their reality and what Vail Resorts needs to do is simply admit their egregious errors/changes in operations and apologize to their local base.

In closing, I am not only a passholder, I'm also an owner of Vail Resorts stock, so I read the quarterly reports. I challenge [WB COO] Geoff Buchheister to pop his head out of his office and talk about the fact that Whistler Blackcomb is one of approximately three dozen resorts that Vail Resorts owns, where (approximately) 20 per cent of Vail Resorts' profits are generated [from], yet there's no way that 20 per cent of their operations budget goes back in to their cash cow.

Andrew Langner // Lower Mainland

Fossil fuel vodoo?

I am writing to comment on G.D. Maxwell's article on Feb. 6 ["Stop the insanity...I want to get off] in which he states, "The subsidies ladled out by Canada amount to almost $60 billion...that's over $1,600 per Canadian..."

Mr. Maxwell has advised me that these figures were provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in their working paper Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Remain Large: An Update Based on Country-Level Estimates. The IMF calculated the "subsidy" by determining the gap between existing and efficient prices (i.e., prices warranted by supply costs, environmental costs, and revenue considerations and a misuse of the term "efficient pricing").

It would seem that the IMF added some calculated environmental costs and other factors to their idea of warranted prices, subtracted the actual price of the fuel and multiplied this gap times the fuel consumed during the period.

One can only guess at the voodoo economics that went into the creation of the environmental costs.

The definition of subsidy is, "a sum of money granted by the government or public body to assist an industry or business so that the price of a commodity or service may remain low or competitive."

No money changed hands in the IMF's scenario, and certainly no Canadian paid $1,600, therefore this is not a subsidy. In addition, if one were to accept the notion that some consideration accrued to someone due to fossil fuel being consumed, shouldn't the recipient of the benefit be the consumer of the fuel, not the manufacturer? And finally, if we are going to add environmental costs into some equation, should we not also subtract the value of the benefits created by the use of the fuel?

Don't we like having our Whistler roads being plowed in the winter, the runs groomed, our homes heated, and so on?

I find it morally reprehensible that the promoters of various agendas manipulate us with confusing and unsupportable facts, but hey, Mr. Maxwell, and I suppose many others, got their headline, which I suppose was the point of all of this in the first place.

David Anderson // Delta

Condo insurance crisis no surprise

The escalating condominium insurance crisis in our province has eerie similarities to the insurance crisis local governments in B.C. faced in the wake of the 1984 precedent-setting Supreme Court judgement against Kamloops for negligent building inspection.

The case involved a house where insufficient foundations were discovered by city building inspectors. A stop-work order was posted but not enforced. The house was later sold to the Nielsens. On discovering the construction deficiencies, the Nielsens successfully sued Kamloops for negligent building inspection in what was to become the first successful lawsuit of its kind in Canada.

Alleged negligent building inspection was not something new for local governments in B.C. Nielsen was simply the first party to successfully hold a local government in B.C. accountable for negligent building inspection.

After the Supreme Court judgement, municipal lawyers sounded alarm bells. They saw the bold-face writing on the wall of the implications of the Supreme Court judgement on municipal liability.

A significant source of exposure to liability they flagged was building inspections, especially liability created by the wording of building bylaws that suggested to the public and the courts that the inspection process amounted to a guarantee of compliance with codes.

Accordingly, municipal lawyers advised their clients to amend their building bylaws immediately or face the consequences. Few local governments heeded this warning. A tsunami of litigation ensued.

In response to an increasing inability of local governments to obtain adequate insurance, the Municipal Insurance Association (MIA) was founded in 1987 by 144 local governments in B.C. to provide financial security and stable insurance costs. But even with the MIA in place, some local governments continued with business as usual. In the early '90s, systematic leaks began to appear in the hull of the local building-inspection system with the emergence of the leaky condo crisis.

After I was promoted to the senior building inspector for the RMOW in 1992, I initiated a corroborative effort with a senior partner of the municipal law firm to review a representative number of building bylaws of local governments in B.C. and draft a new building bylaw with the objective of reducing RMOW exposure to liability. In 1995, I took the bylaw before council for adoption.

But even as lawsuits for alleged negligent building inspections continued to mount, some local governments still continued with business as usual.

Instead of introducing the Local Government Accountability Act, in 1998, the province introduced the Homeowner Protection Act.

Conspicuously absent from the conversation was the fact that provincial legislation enables, but does not compel, local governments to regulate construction. Local governments who cannot manage the associated liability, or that do not wish to be exposed to liability, have the option to choose to not enact building regulation bylaws or to rescind existing bylaws.

By the turn of the last century, the MIA was facing insolvency due to the volume of pending litigation. This served as the impetus for them to undertake a building bylaw project in 2002 that resulted in a standardized core bylaw with a recommendation that local governments adopt it in order to reduce their exposure to liability.

I took the core bylaw before council for adoption in 2002.

The solution to the insurance crisis offered by the province was not to make local governments more responsible and accountable, but instead to make it more difficult for the public to hold local governments accountable.

This was accomplished by severely limiting the timeframe in which to properly research alleged negligent inspections and file a lawsuit.

The result is that local governments in B.C more than simply being above the law, have literally become the law.

That we now have a condominium insurance crisis in B.C. should come as no surprise.

David MacPhail // Whistler

Ride-share impact

Once again, I am protecting my livelihood in order to live in such a beautiful [place] like Whistler.

I'm talking about the new ride-share that has started up in the last week.

I'm here to represent the Whistler taxi drivers, as we are out here 24/7 working hard to provide the service this town needs.

And when it's busy, it gets crazy busy, and the reality is you have to wait for a taxi. You have to wait in line at the bank, grocery store, morning coffee shop and so on and they all have peak times, too.

I just think society needs to be more patient with everything we do.

The two taxi companies in town are under new ownership and working together to provide the service the customer expects. We are not Vancouver, Toronto or Los Angeles—this is Whistler, a town of 12,000 that has limited housing options right now and we are doing the best we can to help you get from A to B in this town.

I want to commend the NDP government for protecting the taxi industry and keeping ride-share drivers on the same page with us by making it so you need a Class 4 licence.

I understand that ride-share costs more, so if you want to use it, you will have to pay for the service, and with the cost of living in town, our taxi rates are very fair compared to ride sharing.

And, one last thing from a driver's perspective, when calling a taxi, be ready no matter what the wait time is; this way, the wait time is shorter for everyone.

Doug Ryan // Whistler

A big shout-out to Whistler bus drivers

I boarded the bus with my $2.50 prepaid ticket.

The driver refused to take my ticket and instructed me to pass it to the young man in the next seat. This newcomer to Whistler—as evidenced by his yet-to-be-removed flight tag on his luggage—had just paid a $5 note but Whistler Transit buses do not give change.

Upon disembarking, I approached the driver to thank him for his kindness to this new traveller to "even out the fare," and the driver replied, "We really try hard to be fair."

I think this is awesome. So give your bus driver some love. They're a great bunch!

Dave bus-a-lot Milligan // Whistler

In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road needs help

(Editor's note: This letter was sent to the Ministry of Forests and Lands and shared with Pique.):

I am a long-time resident (20 years) on the In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road (FSR).

I'm writing to ask if you are aware of the condition of the road?

When I moved to the area, I had the privilege of driving on a fairly decent and safe gravel road. With increased traffic, due largely to increased recreational activity in this area (thanks to social-media sharing), and an increase in population, the gravel is non-existent.

This renders any road grading ineffective after a very short period of time and, almost immediately after it rains.

When the road iced over this winter, it became extremely dangerous to navigate the multitude of potholes that litter the road.

I am also concerned that if any of our population requires emergency services, that travel-time delays could prove fatal.

Please advise what steps can be taken to secure funding for a new gravel surface, road grading and other regular maintenance for a FSR with a healthy population.

Many of us have seen other FSRs in B.C. that look like highways, which have little or no residences on them.

This has been the state of affairs all this winter.

Diane Zaste // Lillooet Lake Estates

Time to support free contraception

I am writing to publically support the work of AccessBC and to provide a perspective from my nursing career that may add a human face to this issue. The economic benefit of funding free contraception is unequivocal.

The AccessBC website contains the most up-to-date research on this and it is very compelling.

I graduated from nursing school 33 years ago.I have worked in Squamish,Ontario, Zimbabwe, England, Guatemala and completed my career here in B.C. I have witnessed first hand the impact that health inequalities have on maternal child health.

In B.C., I have worked in a health-care system that has failed young women. It was deeply troubling to see the barriers that young women had trying to navigate the system to obtain contraception.

I have also seen first hand the consequences of unplanned pregnancies. I am thinking now specifically of a 16-year-old that I had the privilege to work with 19 years ago. Her mother was a teen mother and now she herself was pregnant. This was a high-risk pregnancy that she carried with tremendous courage. Can you imagine helping a 16-year-old figure out breast feeding and then helping her figure out the social-service system she now found herself in?

This was all under the constant fear of Child Protection social workers threatening to take her baby away. It was a daily stress that altered the trajectory of her life irreversibly. This same system has not changed for her daughter who would now be 19-years-old. At least three generations have been ill served with our health-care system at tremendous human cost and cost to society. This scenario is completely preventable.

Nothing in the 33 years since I left nursing school will interrupt this cycle of poverty than having barrier-free access to contraception. Nothing!

I am so encouraged to read about the efforts of AccessBC. I feel for the first time, this B.C. government is signalling they are willing to change this system.

It will constitute a paradigm shift in women's health and improve the lives of the women in B.C. and allow them to live the life of their choice.

Joan Cubbon

Vancouver