Opinion » Editorial

Looking back, but planning for the future



That's another year in the rearview mirror as we get set to welcome 2019.

In many ways, 2018 was a year of change and challenges.

We ended the year under scrutiny from the rest of Canada for calling out fossil-fuel companies' failure to help pay for the frontline costs of climate change—which, yes, we all have a role to play in addressing.

But the viral way this story swept the headlines may be a signal of the change we are all going through as we come face to face with what climate change means to all of us.

While it is true that Canada is not even close to be being the worst offender on the climate-change front, that does not mean that we, as individuals, can shirk our responsibility to do our part. Ask yourself what you can do. Can you reduce your waste, drive less, consume and buy less, throw out less food, shop locally, get involved with an organization helping to combat climate change, offset your carbon emissions if you fly? There are a lot of options to take advantage of. Make 2019 the year to take action for change.

And yes, it will be a challenge.

We have also had a change in our political landscape. In October, Whistler welcomed a new mayor, Jack Crompton, by acclamation. Joining him were new councillors Arthur De Jong, Ralph Forsyth and Duane Jackson and incumbents Jen Ford, Cathy Jewett and John Grills. (Forsyth and Jackson have been on council in the past.)

Interestingly, the councillors have taken on portfolios. Given that staying up to speed on the projects underway in our $85-million budget (2018) is likely a challenging "part-time" job, setting up this structure will no doubt help with transparency and accountability. (The budget was $82.5 million in 2017 and $73.5 million in 2016). The 2018 budget had 144 projects for a total spend of $40.3 million—with the big-ticket items related to infrastructure.

Long-serving mayor and councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden bid farewell to politics after 17 years, though one hopes that she remains in the wings for advice. No doubt, she is enjoying having just one job with her busy law firm, a profession she's worked hard in for all the years she was also a public servant.

While there are many files the new council will have to tackle, a few on the list include managing legal cannabis, the continuing issues around bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 99, our total failure to meet our emissions targets, the provision of employee housing, and the ongoing work that must take place between local government and other stakeholders such as Vail Resorts, Tourism Whistler, the provincial government, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce and others.

As a resort founded on seeking adventure, we also took notice of the 2018 formation of a new group, the B.C. Adventure Tourism Coalition. The adventure-tourism industry is a growing economic force within the province, making up an estimated $2 billion of the province's roughly $15-billion tourism sector, and includes stakeholders from mountain-bike businesses to heli-skiing operations.

For most operators that use public land, a strong relationship with the province and local governments is vital. Yet some say relations are strained, with the province failing to fully recognize the economic benefit of the sector or the jobs it creates.

As our woods, wilderness and parklands get busier and busier, having an organization that represents this sector just makes sense.

Indeed, the sheer volume of people escaping to the outside—some arguably driven by the quest for the perfect selfie—is a problem.

During a community gathering earlier this year titled The View From Here, MLA Jordan Sturdy shared that Joffre Lakes saw 2,500 people in a single day. This year saw dogs banned from the walk—a move BC Parks thought might help reduce foot traffic. Now there is even consideration of a booking system for the popular hike.

This is symptomatic of the sheer busyness the resort is facing as more and more people discover the beauty of the region. We want people to experience this, but we need responsible behaviour around it—that is the challenge for 2019.

Last year also saw a shift in our relations with our local First Nations—a recognition at the business, the government and the cultural level that we are partners.

Lil'wat Chief Dean Nelson described it like this: "Moving towards self governance means exploring opportunities of the lands and resources management, establishing strong partnerships and growing the Nation's business.

"New economic opportunities are being realized in forestry and energy, construction, retail and tourism, through partnering with companies that recognize the benefit of working with the nation.

"Moving forward, the Lil'wat Nation will be a full participant in the economy of the region ... To do business with the Lil'wat Nation, our partners have to understand that the land and its resources belong to all the people."

Here's to 2019.


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