Housing issues must be addressed
Having been a regular visitor over the last few years for a holidays in Whistler I like to keep in touch with happenings over there through the electronic version of Pique.
I have been following the staff-shortage question with interest, as one of the most important things that keeps us coming back is the welcoming staff in all the places we sleep in, eat at or slide down. If it is not the town's greatest asset then it has to be a tie for first place.
My daughter worked over there last year, but could not get a (travel visa) for this year so could not work, even though she did go over for some training.
She does have a travel visa now and has a job, but getting somewhere to live is ridiculous. There just does not seem to be any available again. Last year she ended up in four different places, as she could not find anything long term, at any price. One month was spent in what I would have considered under-eaves storage. There were at least 10 people chasing every bed she tried for.
This year she has tried to get a place in Whistler Blackcomb staff housing, where she stayed the first year, as she will be working for the mountain — but they have a waiting list of over 200 returning staff already. In August that is crazy.
How, or even why, do businesses in Whistler think people will come to fill the jobs if they do not care enough to look after them? I am not referring to the crazy cost of housing (if you can get anything), or the tiny, shared rooms they have to put up with. No, they are more worried about getting anything.
Having read Pique for years, I realize this is not a new problem and may even have been worse in years gone by. But, come on, who is even thinking about getting a grip of the situation?
Most other towns have cheaper living places nearby to supply the poor people who do the low-paid jobs. Not Whistler. Pemberton maybe, but only if you have a car, in which case you may as well pay more for Whistler as transport cost kills any savings in rent.
Your businesses may think that travel visas and getting anyone is the biggest problem, but I think they are missing an important issue. If you are competing for staff from a smaller pot, you are really going to have to get on top of housing and transport to the housing, or the possible staff will go elsewhere.
Whistler may be in build-out, but unless it builds some low-cost worker housing it cannot keep providing high-quality service, which is one of the main reasons I, and many others, come. I am amazed at how shortsighted it is, especially as it has been going on for many, many years.
No shortage of employees treated well
While the recent labour shortage in Whistler is cause for concern, perhaps it has opened up opportunities for younger employees, new to the work world, to get a foot in the door.
Thank you to Ingrid's Village Cafe, Upper Village Market, and Backroads Whistler for giving younger employees a chance to gain experience, develop skills, and build their confidence.
I have also read plenty about employers not treating their staff fairly, or compensating them well.
So far my kids have not only been treated well, but they have also been given gift cards in with their paycheques, fed lunch with each shift, invited on staff outings to Playland, paintball, bungee jumping, and had post-work-day pizza parties.
Those are some pretty nice perks that I don't remember getting in any of my first jobs!
There are many reasons why these locally owned and operated businesses have been around for so long. Treating their employees well is certainly one of them!
The real cost of 'living the Dream'
It's has been a slice, but I have to say this is it for me — I am throwing in the towel after this letter. They (who they are I really don't know) say be the change you want to see. I say, "Don't listen to what 'they' have to say and do whatever makes you happy."
I have spent almost 20 years putting together these letters, trying to create some fight in people so they might follow suit and join together to help create a better living environment for everyone, and nothing has changed, except for faces, store fronts, and the price of a cup of coffee. The exact same problems that existed when I moved here still exist today and will continue to be an issue 20 years from now.
First: I would like to correct Tsur Somerville (director of the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate at UBC) when this was said, "The pool of Canadians who are willing to put up with low salaries to have access to skiing seems to be smaller than the pool of Australians" (Pique Aug. 20, 2015).
It's not that we are not willing to put up with low salaries, it's that we cannot afford to live below the poverty line in Whistler. When "they" go to the store to buy a loaf of bread, head to the gas station to fill up, dinner and a movie etc., we pay the same amount for these luxuries as "they" do.
Perhaps creating a "living below the poverty line" discount could help this solution. For example, in 2015 the living wage for Victoria is $20.05 an hour (www.communitycouncil.ca/initiatives/livingwage) this should give you perspective when I say "living below the poverty line." B.C. is the last province in Canada without a poverty reduction strategy, and why should "they" as long as "they" are taking on all foreign investors rather than looking out for us.
Second: I find it very disappointing that over a decade ago the best and the brightest in Whistler were warned about this exact problem.
So what have "they" done in the past 10 years to help prevent this from happening? My guess is "they" tapped into a cheap labour force and "they" thought this source would never run dry. Guess what? It's beyond a drought.
Tapping into these foreign workers has been amazing, it keeps the wage low, and if these workers decide to become residents the employer has these employees in their grasp for two years, and living two to three per room, no problem.
I would like to make this very clear: I do not speak for all employers — to be honest I don't speak for any employers. My rant is based on living within this community for many years — working within various positions, within various business — I have washed dishes in kitchens that should not be allowed to operate and I have helped create seven-day ski packages for billionaires that have paid more money for a seven-day ski package then what most executives make in a year in this resort.
It was nice to read that when 100 of the greatest and brightest came together all they could think of was the obvious, and solutions they could have read on the thread a week prior to the conversation on the Facebook Whistler job board posting — I am glad real life decisions are not left up to "these" individuals.
Just a suggestion: If you are to give your employees a raise, and if this raise was created on a higher price point from your customers, just be honest and inform your customers why there has been an increase to the price point. I will even supply the "how" to provide this information:
Beside your point of sale machine post what the cost of living in Whistler is;
Post What the "Living Wage" in Whistler is;
Post what you used to pay your employee prior to this increase.
I would have no problem paying more for something if I knew it was going to help create a better life for someone else. Since "they" feel "they" are doing all they can right now for their employees, nobody should feel embarrassed posting this information.
I understand there are smaller businesses that are probably doing all they can for their employees, have the best intentions and are probably in the same situation with their landlords.
With that being said, what is the excuse of the corporate businesses that occupy Whistler, and I would go so far as to say more than 50 per cent of Whistler is comprised of multi million/billion dollar corporations?
Third: So what is the cost of "Living the Dream?"
I can tell you there are a lot of employees out there that go to a job that does not pay overtime, does not pay their employees for stat days, there are zero health benefits, head chefs making no more than $15 an hour, people standing around for four hours on an "on call shift" to find out they are not working and not getting paid for the four hours they were there waiting to work.
This is Whistler's dirty little secret. Again I cannot speak for all employers, but I can guarantee the employers this does cover, know exactly what I am talking about.
This town was built on the backs of hard working individuals that decided to trade the rat race to help build the dream for others, unfortunately the dream has become a nightmare and the backs are broken and the hard working want a fair shake.
But reality sets in and the few weeks that I have been thinking about how to put this letter together was for nothing. The "We are doing all we can" will continue to be the mantra for employers, the price of a season's pass will continue to climb alongside the cost of living and the wage will continue to decline.
Good luck with your fight Jason Town (Pique, Aug. 27), go into this with the collective being the purpose and do not get caught within your own needs and you will shine.
As for me, it has been a honor to have you all read my letters. I am very grateful for the thank yous along the way and I wonder if my time in Whistler would have been a greater one if I was a foreign worker?
But I refuse to fight for nothing, I refuse to stress about a better life for others, and I am very thankful for my current landords and the friends I have made along the way.
Quick action saves Tamarisk
Huge thanks to Whistler Fire Rescue Service for working diligently to stop the spread of the fire at Tamarisk this past week. Acknowledgement goes out too to neighbours who acted quickly and selflessly: What an amazing community we have here.
Rose Lawrence, Tamarisk owner
Solution to flooding needed
Flooding occurs because the River of Golden Dreams cannot handle the Alta lake watershed.
The lake used to drain out of both ends and the only time there was anything close to flooding was when beavers blocked the River of Golden Dreams, and Nello Busden usually took care of that since he lived on the shores of Alta Lake by Adventures West.
Only when the Valley Trail was pushed through to Creekside did flooding become a problem since the south drainage was blocked. Guess what the solution would be?
Thanks for the collaboration!
A big thank you to everyone who came out to enjoy this summer's Flag Stop Theatre & Arts Festival at The Point Artist-Run Centre on August 7 and 8.
This year's theme of collaboration and experimentation was front and centre throughout the weekend with emerging and professional artists, both local and visiting, working together on theatre, multidisciplinary and musical productions.
The festival attracted audience members from Whistler, the Sea to Sky, Vancouver and beyond to enjoy improv and theatre performances on the floating stage, bands inside the heritage lodge, lantern making and face painting for children, and the lantern boat procession on the lake. When Saturday's weather turned to rain, the site proved its flexibility by accommodating all of the performances inside the lodge.
The Point would especially like to thank its presenting sponsors, Gibbons Life and the BC Arts Council, as well as major sponsors Nesters Market, Whistler Brewing Company, Whistler Arts Council, Local Automotive, Pasta Lupino and Burnt Stew Computing, and additional supporters, Armchair Books and Whistler Roasting Company.
Thanks also to our media sponsors Pique Newsmagazine, Whistler Question and Mountain FM, and accommodation sponsor Lodging Ovations who put up our visiting artists and guests in such style.
A special shout-out to Toad Hall Studios for printing the beautiful programs, Eric and Judy at Backroads Whistler for once again lending canoes for the lantern boat procession, and to Francois and Rowan from the Whistler Sailing Association for picking up and returning the canoes for us. Collaboration was in evidence all around!
At the heart of all of our events at The Point is the incredible team of staff and volunteers who pull together to make it all happen. Your efforts are hugely appreciated.
The Point Artist-Run Centre
Alta Lake sewer plan behind the times
Michael Blaxland makes some compelling financial points in his recent letter urging his Alta Lake neighbours to do the deal with respect to hook up fees to the local sewer system (Pique, Aug.27).
In it he notes that the sewer costs being absorbed by fellow taxpayers are actually far higher than originally indicated in the initial article.
If sewer was the only alternative to existing septic systems I would agree that the responsible course of action would be to tie the 32 houses to sewers and significantly reduce the chance that Alta Lake would be polluted by a failing septic system.
However, modern technology means that this is not the only course of action today.
An alternative solution is already available for a sum that I estimate would cost only 40-per-cent of the cost of the sewer extension — probably less. This solution would provide the same safeguards against pollution and, as per my earlier letter (Pique, Aug. 20), actually provide environmental benefits not offered by the now outdated sewer solution.
I should add that the 40 per cent figure is calculated before potential budget overruns in the sewer project are accounted for.
If we could wind back the clock even just two or three years then Mr. Blaxland would be bang on the money.
Back then residents would have been well advised to take the discount and get on the sewer system. But this is 2015 and things have changed.
Now the residents are just being asked to pay less for the wrong solution.
Another huge blast from a neighbour's bear banger at 9 a.m. — so LOUD I almost fell off my chair. Really getting tired of this.
What not to do when you live in the country on a game trail: bring in a bunch of chickens; make a big garden with no electric fence; tree a bear; stand underneath the bear and scream at it while it is hissing and growling at you; then phone conservation officers and ask them to shoot the bear.
Every time you set off that bear banger, I almost have a heart attack and it is not necessary if you are bear smart.
Thanks to WB Foundation
The staff and the Board of Trustees of the Whistler Public Library would like to thank the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for its grant of $52,750 to build a deck on the library overlooking Florence Petersen Park.
The deck was something that was included in the original library plan and will provide patrons with an alternate entrance to the library, while contributing to ease of access to the library, the museum, and the park, and the vitality of the Main Street neighbourhood.
We would also like to emphasize the great enhancement this will provide to our patron experience with regard to additional leisure and reading space.
On Aug. 27 we celebrated the library's 29th Birthday Party and the completion of our deck. The outdoor space is more alive than ever at the library and we are excited to utilize this additional space.
Thank you again to the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for contributing to our vision to "Inspire Wonder."
Lindsay DeBou, Library Director
Mike McCarville, Library Board Chair
How to have a successful block party!
1. Gather support from local business;
2. Arrange music, food (i.e. food trucks), artists, musicians, street performers;
3. Run media adds;
4. Get the municipality to close the road;
5. Do not hire Whistler Center for Sustainability (WCS);
(The Function Junction block party) was the most pathetic attempt to host a block party, or party for that matter, that I have ever seen or been privy to!
Who was consulted in this matter? You can't just put a picture in a paper and say your going to have a party.
What a waste of time and effort not to mention sullying the great reputation of a "real party."
WCS is a joke in my eyes. Maybe they should contact me for my input next year. And in closing, why were funds from the Whistler Arts Council not granted this year for the usual party? Lame.
Are coins still worth producing?
So, just an observation for our MP to take some notice of: When it was discovered that it cost a cent and a half to produce a penny due to the rising cost of copper, too much time was taken to respond to this loss.
During that time I noticed pennies laying everywhere, and often offered in a help-yourself tray at every store. Need one, take one, have one, leave one, was often the sign on the dish, and it was all about rounding out the math.
(Still pennies were produced for a further) seven years at a loss of $11 eleven million a year — that's $77 million dollars down the tube. $77 million dollars!
if anyone ran a business like this in the real world they would soon be bankrupt. However, plenty more where that came from seems to be the rule for Parliament.
What is sad, and yet more amazing to me, is that during this time there was no money for our veterans and so many other well-deserving programs.
So? What is my point you ask? Lately I have noticed that the ground is now sprinkled with dimes and nickels. At this point in time may I suggest we look at the cost of coin production and ask if it is still a viable coin to produce?
What about the Arctic?
I used to worry that "Peak Oil" would get us before the ppm's (parts per million of carbon), but now that does not seem to be so.
We have more than enough fossils to cook ourselves, and we have blown through 350 and 400 ppm.
If you pair CO2 with sea levels — Florida condos are so passé. The connection most people miss is that the broken Arctic icebox produces changes in the jet stream and the weather.
We've melted 12,000 cubic kilometres of Arctic ice. The jet stream no longer reliably flows circum-polar. The East got Siberian air and we get droughts and fires.
I am writing this because the dire El Niño article (Pique, Aug. 27) failed to mention anything about ice loss in the Arctic.
We've also melted about 1,200 Gigatonnes of Antarctica (one GTon = one cubic kilometre).
If half the skiing is above tree line it means that half the skiing is below tree line/freeze-line. That means skiing is being cut by half?