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Here we are hosting tens, if not hundreds of major corporations in our village on a daily basis, yet not wanting to let them host their meeting here. Maybe it's just because I'm a writer, but personally I think it would be fascinating to have all those movers and shakers from the transnational corporations gathered right here in our town. At least we could have a close eye on them, and the ability to poke a finger in one of theirs (a metaphorical one, of course). When the Libertarian conference met here in 1996, I attended as a journalist and heard a bunch of right wing wackos pronounce on why there's no free lunch and why homosexuals are evil. Did I agree with them: not in the least. But it was interesting and refreshing to come into contact with thoughts that exist out there in the wide world, no matter how much I may disagree with them. And when it comes to the WEF, the matters to be discussed will have a powerful bearing on people around the world as well as all of us right here in Whistler.
Whistler is one of the most corporate towns in North America. Witness the World Ski & Snowboard Festival that's about to take place from April 12-21. Check out how many new cars will be parked in the village advertising their brand names, how many banners and tents advertising soft drinks, Web sites and cell phones will be plastered all over town. For that corporate inundation we seem willing to flash a sun-tanned smile and forget about our global, anti-corporate stance.
In a town that thrives on the image of fun, it might be worthwhile to exercise our brains for a change and see what we think about trends that are going on around the world. I say, bring on the WEF. When a protestor protests, they know there's a certain element of danger. When a cafe patron can't get a cappuccino, they survive. And when a town sees what they're really a part of, it just might shake them awake.
Reading the results of the recent KPMG study on Whistler's considerable impact on the provincial economy reminds me that little has changed in this province over the decades. Hard-working people built communities to take advantage of a resource, but the financial benefits rarely stayed in those communities, they were siphoned off to Victoria usually leaving ghost towns in their wake once the resource was gone. British Columbia is filled with towns that didn't have the financial tools to make a transition to a broader economic base. Whistler a resource town? Sure we are, we export happy visitors who have used our natural surroundings and recreational infrastructure. Won't our resource be there forever? Because of our balmy coastal location this place is more vulnerable to a warming atmosphere than just about any other major North American ski resort. By 2020 it is anticipated that our average temperature could be 2 degrees higher, with potential devastating consequences for our main winter industry.