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Letters to the Editor for the week of November 1

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Authors in the Schools program reaches 1,300 kids

Reading develops a child's imagination and empathy, encourages a thirst for knowledge and also exercises their brains! This fall, the brains of over 1,300 Sea to Sky corridor children and youth got an extra workout through the Authors in the Schools (AITS) program.   

The program brought four award-winning authors to the corridor to present their newest books to students from 16 schools in Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Mount Currie. Author Penny Draper mesmerized students with her presentation of the story of a young hero struggling in an historical flood in her book Red River Raging to Grade 5 and 6 students. Brothers Darren Groth and Simon Groth, authors of Infinite Blue, showed Grade 8 and 9 students how much fun you can have writing a book with someone else. And Eden Robinson lit up Whistler Secondary School with her amazing laugh and storytelling from her book Son of a Trickster

Four-hundred-and-thirty copies of the authors' books in total were purchased from our program supporter Armchair Books and given to classrooms up and down the corridor for schools to read, study, and keep as a legacy for the future. 

I would like to thank volunteers Stella Harvey, founder and artistic director of AITS, and Libby McKeever for their assistance throughout the program, and Julia Montague who helped with driving the authors. The program is organized by The Whistler Writing Society, and generously funded by the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, Province of British Columbia, Community Foundation of Whistler, Libby McKeever, Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium and the Whistler Public Library.

Our hope is that students who get to meet the award-winning, Canadian and Indigenous writers of the books they're reading will not only be inspired to read and write more, but to tell their own stories. 

Rebecca Wood Barrett, program manager
Authors in the Schools
The Whistler Writing Society

Election gratitude

Wow, Whistler! 600 votes! I'm flabbergasted! I am delighted and especially grateful for all your trust and belief in me. I feel absolutely blessed for all the support and encouragement I received. It was a privilege to run for council in the past municipal election.

For those of you who are out of the loop, I achieved ninth place, 213 votes away from getting elected to council. I made new friends and challenged my boundaries. I got to develop my communication skills and interpersonal skills, while testing my capacity for patience, energy and time management.

I was interviewed on a podcast and was featured several times in the Pique. Here's the best quote by Brené Brown that sums up my entire campaign journey; "Vulnerability is the most accurate measurement of courage."I wanted to acknowledge a few people who had a huge impact on the success of my results. To Sue Maxwell and Ken Melamed for nominating me and encouraging me to run. (I have) so much appreciation for Andy MacKinnon's delightful words of encouragement at UBCM and during Fungus Among Us, reassuring me that I had the potential. Thanks for being a part of Whistler politics despite living in Metchosin.

To Sara Jennings for turning up the heat at the first All Candidates Meeting, by asking me what must have been the hardest question of the night, as well as enhancing my knowledge on Indigenous reconciliation.

To Ange Mellor for lending me a computer and posting a "Vote for Melanie Tardif" sign in her front yard. To Dawn Titus for showing me the "ropes," collaborating and also endorsing me to all her constituency. Special thanks to Stu Munro and G.D. Maxwell for your endorsements: "game changer."

Much gratitude to all the beautiful beings who donated to my GoFundMe campaign. To all the individuals who shared their kind words. You all boosted my confidence and fed my ego; it proves to me how exceptional our community is.

Many of you have asked me if I'll stay engaged and try again in four years' time. The answer is hell yes! That was so fun and in hindsight kind of easy.

Furthermore, I will continue to advocate for the environment and remain a watchdog on behalf of Mother Nature. I'll stay engaged with municipal affairs by attending council meetings, etc. It all continues with more political matters with regards to the upcoming provincial referendum on proportional representation, please look out for your ballots in the mail and vote! (This is probably our last chance.)

I will be leading a discussion on ProRep at Blacks Pub during the next Green Drinks meet-up on Nov. 7, 7 to 9 p.m.Whistler, THANK YOU, and thanks for voting.

Melanie Tardif
Whistler

Proportional representation puts direct accountability at play

Accountable direct local representation is a hallmark of our current first-past-the-post electoral system, a system where constituents know their Member of the Legislative Assembly and the MLA is responsible for the needs of the communities he or she serves.

With proportional representation, we would be moving away from this direct voter relationship to a vague party-driven system where your representative could very well live in some other part of the province.

I've been involved in municipal, regional and provincial government for at least the last 15 years and have come to be certain of the value of knowledgeable, local and direct representation.

In 2004 and 2005, I followed with interest the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, a non-partisan review and recommendation process that unlike today was populated by and driven by citizens, not politicians. After nearly two years, the assembly delivered a report to the BC Legislature recommending a system called BC-STV. Accompanied by a hard-to-argue-with tagline of "make every vote count," in 2005, I was swayed and voted in favour of proportional representation (PR), at the time not really appreciating the potential implications. Regardless, that referendum failed.

But in 2005, I also became the Mayor of Pemberton and over the course of the next four years, I learned how very important it is to have a local elected provincial representative who is uniquely accountable to my community. It became very clear to me that the issues that are important to the Pemberton Valley, the Sea to Sky corridor or any community of interest outside the big metropolitan areas, are by nature more regionally and locally specific.

Special projects, transportation, local health care and education issues, economic development priorities and more are better managed and monitored when you have an accountable politician.

In 2009, there was a second vote on proportional representation. This time, the number of MLAs per riding, and maps for the proposed riding boundaries were published. This new information confirmed in my mind that the Sea to Sky's influence would be diminished if we went to a PR system. Our voice would be overwhelmed by super-sized ridings, little or no MLA accountability and conflicting priorities. We would be absorbed within Metro Vancouver and move from a riding of 50,000 people to 250,000 people.

With a total population of 35,000 people, the Sea to Sky would become a rounding error with a little voice. In the second referendum, lack of local representation and accountability was a showstopper for me and so I voted in opposition to PR and to this day I haven't changed my mind.

Be it Mixed Member, Dual Member or Rural-Urban, by the very nature of PR, ridings must get bigger in order to create space for the proportionality and reflect the five per cent of the vote threshold that gets the parties appointed MLAs.

Under what is currently being proposed, to suggest knowledge of a particular view of the future political landscape is disingenuous. To believe that special-interest advocacies won't meet that five per cent threshold needed to elect members is naïve and is certainly not the experience in other jurisdictions.

Here in B.C., where in 2001 the Marijuana Party received 3.2 per cent of the vote without any hope of electing a member, we should recognize that a five per cent threshold is quite doable. Depending on how many votes you are entitled to cast per election (this will be decided by the NDP and Greens at a later date), throwing one vote to a special interest is predictable.

Imagine you rely on BC Ferries and are provided an opportunity to give a "BC Free Ferry Party" your vote and perhaps the balance of power. The five-per-cent threshold to elect MLAs is then a pretty low bar.

I hear the Greens and the NDP going on about a more cooperative approach. Well we are currently living one version of our future and the Greens and the NDP show no sign of governing in a more cooperative manner.

Amendments to bills are rejected not because they are not thoughtful but because they are generated by the Opposition. Committees are formed such as the Rental Taskforce and the Opposition is excluded. Conferences are held and the Opposition is denied access. This isn't a cooperative government; this is a government that with their minority Green partners simply seeks to keep their grip on power.

At the end of the day the "Art of the Deal" will dominate, the makeup of the government will be decided behind closed doors by backroom power brokers. It will be high-stakes poker, with your government at play. As the Green Party leader Andrew Weaver famously said, election promises are "irrelevant" and with proportional representation, truer words were never said. By the time coalition negotiations are complete, all accountability will be buried, your MLA may be party appointed and the neverending struggle to maintain the tenuous grip on power will dominate.

This is not fearmongering, this is the future as I see it.

Jordan Sturdy, MLA, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding

Proportional representation: voters have been given a ballot written in code. So vote "no"

British Columbians (are now able to) cast the ballots that could change how we elect our provincial leaders. We'll either keep our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system or adopt one of three new models of proportional representation (PR). The BC Chamber isn't against PR, per se—but given how unclear the referendum process has been, we urge British Columbians to vote "no."

The last referendum was held in 2009, with a 61-per-cent majority voting against PR (it was also voted down in 2005). But despite advice to abandon an ill-conceived process, the province has decided to forge ahead. The good news is that British Columbians have (another) chance to have their voices heard.

I'm always keen to debate how to make government work better for the people who power our province. But the current referendum lacks the fundamental components of democracy: clarity, transparency and legitimacy. The process hasn't been robust enough to warrant such a critical change to our electoral system, and it's not being done in a way that best serves the people of B.C.

A referendum of this magnitude needs to be simple and straightforward, and it should provide the clarity citizens need to make an informed decision about how our province elects its representatives. Unfortunately, the current electoral-reform question does anything but.

After deciding to keep the FPTP model or switch to the vague category of PR, voters must then rank three new PR models: Dual Member (DM), Mixed Member (MM), and Rural-Urban (RU). Instead of being empowered to make an easily understandable choice between FPTP and a single, well-defined PR model, voters have basically been handed a ballot written in code.

The multi-step voting process is needlessly complex and does not provide an apples-to-apples choice of which voting method is best for the province. The three PR options in question are incredibly complex and require deep understanding to make an informed decision. There hasn't been adequate education for the electorate on how each model works and what each outcome would mean for British Columbians.

All of this stems from a serious lack of transparency around what's being decided here. The current vote has the appearance of a single referendum but, because of the multi-step question, it's actually a two-in-one deal. There are two major changes on the table: the first between our current system and the broader theory of PR, and the second between three possible models.

Did I mention two of these methods have never been tested anywhere in the world? (Editor's note: While DM is a completely new system, RU is made up of two previously used systems, MM and Single Transferable Vote.) No wonder citizens and the business community are having trouble engaging with the issue, despite its importance and potential wide-reaching effects.

Even during the lead-up to the voting period, there was a concerning lack of engagement with the broader public. The 2005 referendum saw the creation of a Citizens' Assembly, which, over a few years, worked together with the public, experts, and Indigenous communities to develop a single, straightforward choice for the ballot question. The current referendum saw no such process.

This vote is at a clear disadvantage to other votes on electoral reform. The 2005 and 2009 referenda required 60-per-cent voter approval overall and a simple majority approval in 60 per cent of the electoral ridings. The current referendum drastically diverges from this standard, requiring just a "50-per-cent-plus-one" majority for success. That's setting the bar too low.

The change was made to ensure broad public support for the results and to provide legitimacy to the new system. But lowering the threshold and removing the need for a majority of electoral ridings isn't in British Columbians' best interests. It risks the creation of a new electoral system that only a slim majority of the electorate supports—and one that does not have support from the diverse corners of our province.

The mail-in ballot procedure makes the low threshold even more worrisome. During the BC Indigenous treaty referendum in 2002, only 35.8 per cent of ballots were returned. The 2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit referendum saw only 48.6 per cent. In theory, if these voter turnouts are replicated this time around, a mere 18 to 24 per cent of the electorate could dictate a change in voting systems. But remember, this is a two-step ballot—so the number of votes that would potentially choose the new system would be even smaller.

The division of the votes may further undermine the legitimacy of the final results, especially in rural and interior communities where people are concerned their voices will be silenced by larger, urban populations. The referendum has created the illusion that every person's vote counts—but perhaps this is only true if you live in the province's hot spots.

When it comes down to it, the merits and pitfalls of our electoral system are always open for discussion, but B.C.'s strong and stable democratic institutions undoubtedly give our province a competitive edge. Changing the current model will have long-term implications in every corner of B.C. It's only fair that the decision is one voters can fully understand and that the process is one they can trust. We urge you to vote "no."

Val Litwin
CEO, B.C. Chamber of Commerce

The end is nigh

Having dithered for years to resolve housing for the low-paid workers, a perfect storm is coming. Why, when many years ago, there was a sensible option on the table for temporary, "oil-worker-like" housing offered, was nothing done?

I can only assume that council is more bothered about the people who vote for them, i.e. the ones who have houses doubling in price over the last three years and/or renting out their rooms at crazy prices, than keeping Whistler running.

There are a lot of workers who come for the winter season and then leave, mainly as there are fewer jobs in the summer, so for most it will never be a full-time life. This year, there is already nowhere to get a bed at any price and the really bad news is now with social media, everyone worldwide knows how bad it is.

Previously, kids would have turned up and done what they could to get somewhere to live, six to a room maybe. This year, they are not even bothering to come and try to find a place, as they see the total lack on Craigslist. So they are just going elsewhere.

"OK, so the skiing may be slightly worse, but at least I will be able to live," I hear over and over. Social media is open to the whole world, if you don't believe me then try reading it.

So if you think the summer staff shortages were bad, just wait until next month.

There is a need for 1,000 beds in single occupancy rooms, now, not the paltry 200 the taskforce may produce in a couple of years' time. A couple of years' time may as well be never for the good that will do now. They have not had a clue about the real world for underpaid staff. The reason I come up with this number is the state of the company-subsidized housing.

It is a joke in this age that you have to share a room with someone you do not know. There is absolutely no security for you or your things. Not even a lockable cupboard. Bunk beds, really?

Kids going to uni in the UK expect as a minimum a single room and most have their own ensuite shower. Yes, they are very small but that is fine, they are specifically designed for the job. Very much as the "oil-worker" temporary housing would have been, I assume.

So having holidayed in Whistler for the last 15 years, the last five to visit our son, last year was our last visit. We are voting with our feet and not coming again.

George Hannah
Leeds, UK

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