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Letters to the Editor for the week of September 21st

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In support of controlling growth

Barrett Fisher's comments are timely and in fact long overdue (Pique, "Letters to the Editor" Sept.14)  

In the 38 years that I have lived in Whistler, I have never encountered such dissatisfaction by locals over the loss of their quality of life. Like Barrett, (the CEO of Tourism Whistler), I have had the great opportunity to travel the world, both as a tourist and a mountain- and ski-resort planner and designer. Like Barrett, I always ask myself, could I live at the place I am visiting? And, like Barrett, I have always found those options had shortcomings and Whistler remained the location of choice.

That is, until recently. Now there are other places that are worthy of consideration.

This is primarily being driven by the fact that the powers that be at Whistler have chosen to ignore the basic and original Whistler mantra that there are limits to growth.  Mountain environments are very definable areas with absolute capacities (skiers on the mountain, cars on the highway, parking in the lots, the number of beds, clean water, sewage, the environment, resident housing, developable area, economics, etc.). To be sustainable, all of these capacities need to be in balance.

Cross the tipping point of these capacities and you begin to wreck the place. With the overcrowding and constant drive for more growth, Whistler has crossed that tipping point; surpassed its comfortable carrying capacity and has seriously begun to lose its shine.       It is easy to point fingers at the "growth for growth's sake" culprits. The challenge now is to figure out how to retreat and establish a balanced, steady state, tourism focused economy.

I commend Barrett and her team at Tourism Whistler for finally verbalizing the need for a new vision for Whistler.

Ever since the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Whistler, we have been largely rudderless.

Let's hope that we collectively have the strength to make the difficult decisions to create, implement and enforce mechanisms to control growth and recapture some of the magic.

Brent Harley
President, BHA Inc., 

Listen to small business on tax changes

This letter was addressed to Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Member of Parliament for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country and shared with Pique.

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce has received significant feedback from businesses on the recent proposed tax changes. Ninety-three per cent of our members are small and medium businesses with less than 50 employees. Fifty-one per cent have fewer than 10 employees. These business owners are the backbone of our successful resort and they represent the middle class.

The government has proposed the most radical tax overhaul in 50 years. We're particularly worried about the impact on business from: (1) a new tax on investment income in a corporation, and (2) tough new rules for compensation in family businesses.

Why is the government doing this? The minister says it's all about "fairness," and his consultation document compares the tax treatment of a business owner with that of an employee to point out corporations have "unfair" advantages.

The comparison makes no sense — there are good public policy reasons for why owners are taxed differently. Business owners have invested their own money to get the business started or pledged personal assets (house, car) as collateral for a loan. Business owners have employees who depend on stability and if there are "dead seasons," as in Whistler Resort or myriad of other business challenges, owners may not earn a penny while keeping the business afloat.

Whistler has so many success stories of business owners who have risked everything to develop and build business, employment and success. Few businesses in Canada operate in such a cyclical economy with busy seasons, dead seasons, snow years and challenging low-snow years.

In virtually every advanced economy in the world, businesses can accumulate and invest after-tax retained earnings so they have money to get them through an economic downturn or to make big capital investments.

The government wants to tax "passive" (invested) income that many businesses use to offset a dead season or plan for expansion.

The report says it's a crackdown on "high-income individuals," but the rules would apply to all incorporated businesses in Canada, most of which are restaurants, retailers, farmers and consultants.

Finance Canada also expects to raise $250 million by cracking down on "unreasonable" salaries paid to family members, which it says diverts corporate income into lower tax brackets.

But, to pull in $250 million, CRA will have to tax over $1 billion in salaries and audit hundreds of thousands of businesses.

Imagine the litigation! You're compensating your spouse $40K, but the CRA believes he or she should only be earning $20K. Do you go to Tax Court?

Painting business owners as cheaters is unfair and discriminatory.

Incredibly, Finance Canada has managed to design a set of tax measures that would hit the maximum number of businesses in the most complicated way for a small amount of revenue. The expected $250 million is less than one per cent of the federal deficit.

Nobody supports tax evasion or loopholes, but these changes will punish legitimate businesses that are the foundation of our Whistler community and our resort's international success.

Whistler is a built by people who roll up their sleeves, get creative and work hard to move mountains. We ask you to make the voices of Whistler business heard and extend the consultation process with small business owners and their advisors.

The Whistler Chamber and local businesses will continue to provide feedback and suggestions as part of the consultation.

Businesses who would like more information can visit the Whistler Chamber of Commerce tax changes page at  http://www.whistlerchamber.com/proposed-federal-tax-changes.

Melissa Pace
Chief Executive Officer, Whistler Chamber of Commerce

GranFondo will act on litter

Whistler, thank you for being such an accommodating host for the eighth running of the RBC GranFondo Whistler. After 122 kilometres of cycling from Vancouver, Whistler's warm cheers and comfy beds are welcome rewards for our nearly 4,500 athletes. 

As you probably remember, Sept. 9 was rainy and cold and the entire day had tough weather circumstances for our athletes.

Under that day's unusual weather conditions, people ate more often to create fuel for warmth. Cyclists store their food, supplies and wrappers in the back pockets of their jerseys or jackets. Because of the cold and wet weather, rider's hands were frozen making it difficult to put wrappers into their pockets and close zippers. In the cold, cyclists did not realize if anything was dropped.

Last week, (a Letter to the Editor) mentioned that the riders were "the wrong people," which I feel is mostly unfair.

I believe that the vast majority of garbage that was left on the highway was inadvertent (accidentally falling out of back pockets). 

The riders this particular year are not litterbugs; they're good people who were riding in difficult conditions (we've not experienced litter issues in the previous seven years of good weather).

That being said, it is a good reminder to we as organizers to be vigilant, and we'll keep an eye on this for next year as we clean up this year, and ensure that our protocol is clear. 

Whistler, we appreciate the privilege of working with you and being able to ride in your beautiful community. We'll do our part to keep it beautiful and be good patrons of that usage.

Neil McKinnon
Chief Enthusiast, RBC GranFondo Whistler

Learning beyond four walls

It was with much enjoyment and gratitude that I read your story Learning Beyond Four Walls (Pique, Sept.7). As a member of the Sea-to-Sky educational community, I would like the opportunity to offer insight from my place of leadership — The Whistler Waldorf School (WWS).

Last week, the high school students of WWS departed on one of two yearly outdoor excursions. This trip to the Stein Wilderness takes them deep into the valley to primitive places including Devil's Staircase, Earl's Cabin, the petroglyphs, and Cottonwood Falls. How lucky they all are.

For all our students, these yearly trips are steeped with learning, personal discovery, collaboration, and growth — and of course a bit of "just being a kid" time.

The Grade 9s are taking their geology main lessons with them to study minerals, ores and other elements that are used in everyday life today. The Grade 12s will work on their biochemistry and physics blocks, and our exchange students will be introduced to the "wild blue yonder" of British Columbia.

At WWS, we ask the question, "Will this experience help teach the student the concept of having freedom and confidence to change the future of our world for the better? Will this experience contribute to educating the student to be a principled leader and humanitarian?"

In the case of our outdoor program the answer is absolutely.

As a democratic and diverse country, and nation, we need to be raising young adults who are free of false ideals, free of fear, and very in-tune with themselves and their surroundings (as opposed to out of tune). Outdoor education contributes to this and helps enable them to realize their own potential to go forward and make a difference in the world.

Almost all of the strategies, methodologies, and philosophies sited by each of the schools in Pique's cover feature story Sept.7 are shared in the pages of Rudolf Steiner's most early observations and writings. They mirror the philosophies and foundations of the very first Waldorf School, which opened in the 1920s.

Over a period of 40 years, Steiner formulated and taught a path of inner development and gave practical indications for nearly every field of human endeavour. From art, architecture, drama, science, education, agriculture, medicine, economics, and social organization there is almost no field he did not touch.

I consistently hear that, today, wherever there is a human need you'll find groups of people working out of Steiner's ideas, which form a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity, social and political initiative, artistic expression, scientific research, community building, and, of course, a love and respect for nature and our fragile world.

Arnold Grimm
Director of Education, WWS

Farmers' Market a jewel

I live in Vancouver but have been coming up every weekend with my family since last spring.

One of the many activities I've enjoyed a lot up here this summer was the Sunday Farmers' Market. Its size, the beautiful setting, the diversity and quality of food available, the ambiance, the energy... I fell in love with it from my first visit.

I wanted to thank (columnist) Leslie Anthony for his recent articles giving us a behind the scene view on the market: it really made me appreciate all the details that make this place magic! (Pique, "Odd Job" Sept. 7 and 14.)

And to all the vendors, volunteers and other organizers who transform the Upper Village every Sunday — thank you and keep up the amazing work!

Virginie Lamarche
Vancouver/Whistler

Keeping Whistler's narrative alive

Whistler has long had a tradition of using its local newspapers to send shout-outs to the countless people who go beyond the call of duty to make the community happen. I'm banking on that now to send a giant thank you to the fine people at Whistler Museum who worked so hard scanning and organizing the 35,000 (!) images donated in 1991 by Pique's sister paper, the Whistler Question, to launch the super show now on at the museum.

The exhibition opened Sept.15 to a packed house. People couldn't get enough of the photo feast from the Question archives: Is that Jan Systad at The Cookhouse at Mons? Denver Snyder dragging a beater van out of the lake? Who are those young bucks in the "tighty whities" diving into Lost Lake? The flashback of print images from the late '70s to mid-'80s are enhanced by hundreds more on monitors, and the big smiles and guessing games went on all night.

Allyn Pringle, Alyssa Bruijns, Brad Nichols, Lauren Smart and John Alexander — hats off to you! You've done a great thing at a critical time for Whistler in doing this museum show now. Plus you recognize it's just the beginning. For one, there are 34,500 more images to show. But to me, it's a start in another way.

Local museums and newspapers share an important purpose — they are the keepers and builders of local narratives. And those narratives are the keystone of any community's culture.

Whistler is at an identity crossroads. Many of its elders have left town one way or another. They've died. They've moved because there's no place for seniors to age in place. Their memories are fading. The brilliant young people who've always been the dynamo powering the resort and its unique culture can't age in place either. Even if they're drawn to Whistler, the crazy cost of living makes it tough to stay. I just counted 17 pages of "help wanted" ads in last week's Pique. Good for the newspaper business. Bad for Whistler and its sense of self.

Yes, time moves on. No, you can't relive the past. Nobody wants to. But people have known for ages if you don't keep your eye on the rear-view mirror, you risk veering off the road.

Whistler has been a special place from the get-go. Why? What attracted the wayward trappers, the Myrtle Philips, the Seppos, the Paul and Jane Burrows of the world to live here and build a sense of place? What attracted you? And now that you're here, what can you add to the Whistler story?

Whenever you visit an "identity" institution — a museum, a school, an art gallery, or even a newspaper — it's just as important to think about what you see as what you don't see.

What made the grade? What didn't, and why? Who chose the image or story you see? How are they presenting it? What does that mean to you? What else is needed to build the story you believe in about the place you live in and love to keep it alive?

Editors are like museum or gallery curators — they're custodians of the narrative. There are a heck of a lot of stories and images out there, and the people and institutions responsible for presenting them, newspaper or otherwise, need to be constantly engaged with.

One reason the Question was so-named was that in 1976, when the first issue rolled off Paul and Jane's kitchen table, a burning question ruled — would Whistler even survive? Seems a lot of people now wonder the same thing, but with a different spin. Barring a meteorite hitting smack dab in the middle of the village, there's no doubt Whistler's economy will survive. But what about the rest — the really important stuff?

Maybe having a look at "The Whistler Question: A Photographic History, 1978-1985" at Whistler Museum will spur something for you. But don't stop there.

Check out the website the museum has built at whistlermuseum.smugmug.com that contains all 35,000 images.

Also know that some of us are thinking maybe we can build a Whistler history commons outside the official institutions — one that anyone can add to and anyone, including the museum and newspapers, can use.

We don't know what form it will take yet, but we're interested in your stories, especially the ones you maybe don't see in the official narratives, and those photos you have on an old hard drive or mouldering in a shoebox you know people would love to see — or forget! If you're interested in seeing them on a Facebook page or whatever to focus that history and culture in the rear-view mirror, please contact the museum or send me an email at gbartosh@telus.net.

Who knows where all this might go, but it will definitely be vintage Whistler.

Glenda Bartosh
Second publisher and curator at the Whistler Question

Calling out hypocrites

This letter is directed to the elderly man from New Zealand who objects to immigrants, especially the non-English speaking, non-white variety (judging from comments).

You've lived in Canada for two years and have the nerve to complain about foreigners? You are a foreigner. The fact that you come from a commonwealth country doesn't make you less of an alien. And, by the way, you barely speak intelligible English.  

My family didn't speak English when we arrived either. The difference is we're white and the negative stigma directed toward us eventually faded away, but not the impression it left with people being stigmatized.

This is why it's so important to not stigmatize immigrants lest their children end up as terrorists because of hateful attitudes directed toward them. Hate breeds hate.  

An Aussie cousin refers to that nation's own natives as "darkie" and had no use for immigrants because they take jobs away from their own people.

An Aussie! What a nerve. His own children travel and work around the world in non-English-speaking countries.

In the next breath he talked about immigrating to Canada. I had to ask how he would feel about being an immigrant when he had no use for them himself.

He comes from a family that objects to clothing worn by Muslims but has no problem with the Pope wearing a dress or nuns attired in virtually the same garb as many Muslim woman. They don't see themselves as hypocrites.  

Erna Gray
Whistler

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