By G.D. Maxwell
So, if any of you bothered reading about the World Economic Forum last week, you might be asking yourself a couple of questions. Maybe youre asking yourself, "Whats the big deal? So what if council ran all these secret meetings with the WEF?"
Well, the easy answer is they simply shouldnt have been operating behind closed doors. The deal being discussed didnt fall under the exceptions recognized by the Local Government Act land, labour, legal for closed sessions. More fundamentally though, council collectively broke its promise, a promise every single one of them made during the course of the last election, to run a more open, participative government.
Ted Milner summed it up as well as any of them when he said, "Unless were into one of our three Ls land, labour or legal anybody who wants to come to one of our meetings or workshops should be welcomed."
The excuse given for keeping things under wraps because the WEF didnt want to embarrass the Swiss and asked us to plumbs the depths of banality. It reminds me of my rationale for what was a patently stupid act, my one and only botched attempt at shoplifting when I was 11 years old. "Butch stole a comic book and said I should too." It was a pathetic excuse then, its still a pathetic excuse. Just because somebody asks you to do something you know you shouldnt do doesnt make it okay. Duh.
But thats a failing of the individuals involved and we will have an opportunity to let them know what we think about it in a couple of months when elections roll around.
The more fundamental question remains the one I asked last week: What business are we in?
Is Whistler a hardcore ski town pursuing conferences to buttress the resort infrastructure necessary to be a destination ski resort? Or are we outgrowing the ski resort model and embarking on a strategy to chase after conferences as a principal business?
Do we want to cater to passionate skiers and boarders who come to Whistler for the ride of their lives? Or do we want to cultivate the fabulously wealthy, powerful, and influential movers and shakers of the world, be they dilettantes, poseurs and generally ignorant of what happens to the human psyche when you head down the fall-line on a perfect powder day?
The questions are not academic because of this reality: The World Economic Forum will take a breathtaking bite out of the ski business for two weeks every time it meets here. Meeting late in January, early in February, WEF members and guests will soak up maybe 5,000 to 6,000 commercial hotel beds. That represents a significant percentage of the total inventory. Those beds will not be available to destination skiers who want to come to Whistler.