Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

Democracy works, if you participate



By G.D. Maxwell

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I don’t know who came up with that one but I suspect it was someone who’d traded a mule for a horse only to find the horse was at least as stubborn an animal and half again as large.

And that’s the way it is with participatory democracy. You can give citizens an issue, a choice, a chance to be heard, but you can’t make ’em give a damn, pick up a phone, write a letter or send an e-mail.

Well, boys and girls, here’s your chance. Don’t blow it.

After nearly a year of talks, meetings, and other activities – the human equivalent of dogs sniffing each other – the issue of the World Economic Forum coming to Whistler is finally out in the open. It was discussed and debated in public at Monday night’s council meeting and let me tell you, that was some bun fight.

I would like to sincerely congratulate the mayor and all the councillors for bringing the boogie man out of the closet, to torture a metaphor. I’d also like to smack each and every one of them with a rolled up newspaper for waiting so long to do it. How long? Well, Gordo Campbell – the man who seems determined to answer the burning question: Just How Bad Can It Get? – has already sent the WEF an invitation. But what the heck, who takes him seriously?

Whether the WEF will eventually grace our happy mountain home with their presence will largely be determined by what happens during the next four weeks. The possible scenarios could include Jean Chrétien picking up the phone and saying, "Don’t be so stupid; of course they’re coming. Make it happen." In which case, it probably will. But that’s a mule no one can handle.

But the scenarios also embrace what we want, what we really, really want. The important local issue to be decided is this: Do the people who work and live in Whistler want to invite the WEF to hold their January meeting in our town in 2004?

The subtext of that issue is this: If we don’t let our elected officials know our individual answers to that question, they’ll do what they want, which is apparently to extend the invitation.

Okay, you’re cynical. You think it’s a done deal. You think council doesn’t care what your position is. Guess again, Sparky.

Almost unnoticed in the dustup and rancorous debate Monday night were signs of council backtracking on the idea of spending a million bucks to launch a municipal Web site. In the process of receiving a couple of letters against the idea, discussion was engaged about maybe taking another look at the project. Why? Council was feeling the heat. The heat was coming from Chris Quinlan’s petition and the letters they’ve received. Democracy works. But only if you let your voice be heard.

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