Council needs to do more to help businesses during labour shortage
Whistler is in crisis. I know you've heard this before, but I truly believe after living in this beautiful town for more than 20 years, that more of us need to speak out. Whistler has a labour crisis, precipitated by a housing crisis. The word is out to prospective employees that Whistler is too expensive. Employees who do come here are coming for shorter time periods and moving on quickly, looking for cheaper places to live and work. When I see and hear of businesses having to close one or two days a week, or for lunch, or completely, it breaks my heart.
Pique ran a story last month about an employee who had worked 30 days in the last month ("Staffing an ongoing struggle for local small business," Pique, Aug. 24, 2017) — this is our new reality. Tourism Whistler has done a great job in bringing visitors to Whistler, but without hard-working employees with somewhere to live, we will lose our reputation quickly.
I have spoken to many visitors recently who felt that service levels have fallen. I don't blame the employees or employers — the majority do the best they can — but most are overworked, and becoming, if not already, burned out. One business owner I spoke to said they need to hire 12 people out of 20 staff in early September — all the staff departing are leaving town. One business had a job fair last week and no one showed up. The restrictions the government is placing on foreign workers and temporary workers hurts this town. We need help to reverse these decisions.
But in order to solve the labour shortage, we need more affordable housing. When did $3,200 become the new norm for a two-bedroom suite? Or $6,000 for a four-bedroom house? Who can afford this?
We all need to do our part to house and welcome employees to Whistler. Small business I know have purchased houses and are trying to rent accommodation for staff. They are doing what they can, but need help. The employee (rental) housing list has over 800 people on it, and a three-to-five-year waiting time — how many of these people will leave before they reach the top of the list?
I know council has scheduled a meeting to discuss the housing shortage in November, but we need solutions now, otherwise the winter will be a disaster. It won't be the weather or infrastructure that causes problems; it will be businesses offering reduced hours or closing. We need temporary modular homes or container homes or micro homes now.
What can be done immediately to house and attract employees, and retain them? People are leaving this town at an alarming rate — how do we stop the exodus?
In response to Vail
Finally! For a number of years now I have been needling my old workmates at Whistler Blackcomb (WB) on their pretense at climate leadership, all to a stony silence in reply. With that in mind, thank you Rob Katz for bypassing them entirely and giving the goods straight from head office (Letters to the Editor, Pique, Aug. 31).
However, we've heard it all before and your treatise completely avoided the central premise of my letter (Letters to the Editor, Pique, Aug. 24), which is leadership. I doubt it, but to be fair, perhaps you just didn't get my drift so I feel compelled to repeat it.
Do you in fact see your corporation as an actual community leader — or only a shareholder leader? The distinction is important because leading the shareholders only requires the usual focus on cost/benefit to quarterly profits. There are two ways to do this — improve operating efficiencies with things like hydro plants, and improve product, or at least the illusion of product. I say "illusion" because appearances of action on climate can be a real winner in marketing and branding, even if essentially insignificant. No, I don't say that all your bottom-line efforts are wrong — not at all. Only that in a context of Vail's potential, it is peanuts.
We are told constantly by Vail, Whistler Blackcomb, Alpine Canada, Mountain Life magazine, every lifty and even ourselves that we are all a global, special mountain community, and there at the very top is you. Like it or not, your own propaganda has positioned you so. Your shareholders demand accountability and no doubt your industry climate partners will, too — but that is all behind boardroom doors. Do you really think you and WB are leading your community by run-of-the-mill operational upgrades and clever marketing?
You know full well that climate mitigation only has half a chance with consistent, positive public policy, and that requires politics, not business. You are not leading until you get publicly political. Yes, we know — half your friends are powerful Republicans, and yes, we do expect you to keep "communicating" with them. Funding them, however, is unjustifiable, even if they are your friends. If you are honestly going to lead, take a page from those who actually do — Yvon Chouinard, the entire Outdoor Retailers Association, Trump's own mutinous business and ethics leaders, and last but not least, your little neighbour in the mountains, Aspen Skiing Company.
These people take risks and they are taking the right risks for the right reasons. That is leadership. If that still doesn't strike your fancy, spare us at least the routine greenwashing propaganda, because that is not leadership. If you don't believe me, just go ask your own kids.
Reflecting on those who make Whistler special
A big bouquet of thanks to all those who gave their time and assistance when I fractured my femur riding Yummy Numby last month.
My biking buddy Judi was cool, calm and collected throughout. When it quickly became apparent I wasn't getting out unassisted, she initiated the 911 emergency call.
Shortly afterwards Fairlie, Darlene, and Janet wheeled along the trail and offered their help (little realizing they would be waiting trailside for four-plus hours). Stroke of luck for me: two are ski patrollers who've seen plenty of fractures and are familiar with the various emergency service agencies. They knew this accident would require Whistler Search and Rescue (WSAR); Judi called 911 again and spoke to the RCMP who dispatched WSAR. Throughout this time, these four women kept me warm, comfortable, and entertained.
The first of the tireless WSAR vollies, Toby, arrived by e-bike to assess the scene. Then two more dedicated volunteers, Tony and Renata, dropped in via helicopter long line. I was efficiently packaged and transported to the pick-up point, and then the three of us were airborne at the end of the long line. Looking at video footage, the Blackcomb Helicopter pilot's skills were remarkable: he expertly manoeuvered us through the small clearing and out of the canopy.
I received VIP treatment at the Whistler Health Care Centre from Dr. Stanley; nurses Tim, Shari, and Ingrid, and X-ray technician Sally. It was a new perspective to be a patient on the receiving end of the stellar care at my workplace; I'm not usually on the other side of the X-ray tube.
Darren and Tony from the BC Ambulance Service provided smooth transfers and a bump-free drive down Highway 99 to Lions Gate Hospital.
During my post-surgical rehab, I've had plenty of time to reflect on how these people make Whistler such a special place to live, work and play.
Increasing traffic leads to safety issues, noise
We live on Rainbow Drive in Alpine Meadows and with the increased traffic along West Side Road feel that there should be a third speed bump added, somewhere between the two entrances of Matterhorn Drive. Vehicles are increasingly not adhering to the posted speed limit and it is only a matter of time before there is an accident. If you also add in the increased noise from all these vehicles, especially from motorcycles, then it makes conversation almost impossible, if you are trying to enjoy the outdoors.
I have sent a copy of this letter to municipal hall and hopefully will receive a positive response from them.
Pemberton Canoe Association benefits from generous grants
The Pemberton Canoe Association was the recipients of two grants this season, for which we are extremely grateful.
Thank you to the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for their generous grant, which enabled the club to purchase three new fibreglass kayaks for our sprint flat water program. We appreciate the continued contributions of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation towards purchasing updated equipment for our programs.
As well, the club is appreciative of funds received from the Pemberton Music Festival Community Grant Program, which were used to purchase two new plastic kayaks for the newer paddlers in our summer day-camp programs. These boats will be a great addition to that program.
Pemberton Canoe Association