Whistler’s election got heated Sunday as mayor candidates played a round of the "blame game," taking each other to task over past actions and failures.
It was the first time the seven mayor candidates have taken the floor together, in a two-hour debate sponsored by the Whistler Forum.
When moderator William Roberts urged candidates to "shake it up a bit" the antagonism among some became apparent, with incumbents defending council’s past actions and Ted Nebbeling defending his role as MLA in the provincial government.
Sparks flew when the issue of Whistler’s financial tools, or the ability to collect more revenue either in an additional tax or in a larger share of the provincial hotel tax, was addressed. The inability to get these financial tools from the province for the past three years pitted Councillor Nick Davies and former MLA Nebbeling in a battle of blame.
"I know this is a sensitive issue because you didn’t help us," said Davies to Nebbeling.
Davies said he was in the same room as Premier Gordon Campbell when the premier personally promised to deliver financial tools to Whistler.
Nebbeling said: "You’re misleading the people by saying it was a commitment."
"I was in the room, Ted. You were not in the room," replied Davies.
Councillor Kristi Wells, who was sitting between the two, put an end to Davies and Nebbeling talking over one another when she stood up and took control of the debate. She joked that she felt like a rose stuck between the thorns – aptly put as she was wearing a red blazer.
She reiterated that Whistler has had no relationship with the provincial government for the last eight years.
"Thank you," said Nebbeling, who was MLA for the area during that time.
Nebbeling then argued that no one from Whistler ever asked him to help the municipality secure financial tools.
"The mayor never called me once," he told the packed audience at Millennium Place. "The administrator never called me once."
Wells replied: "I guess your phone wasn’t working because you never called us either."
Councillor Ken Melamed stayed out of the contentious debate. But his past actions were also under scrutiny when Roberts began taking questions from the audience.
Melamed was asked why Whistler should support someone who did not support Whistler’s dream of hosting the Olympics. The three-term councillor attempted to clear up the misconception that he was anti-Olympics.
"I didn’t vote against the Olympics," he said, adding that he withheld support for the Games when Whistler’s council was asked to endorse the bid. Melamed explained that he wanted more security for the legacies Whistler believes it was promised, namely financial tools, the 300-acre land bank and a boundary expansion, none of which have been resolved in the three years since council’s endorsement of the Olympics.