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McCaul Balmer, candidate for council.

Standing up for tourism, community

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Name: McCaul Balmer

Age: 30

Website: Not yet

Occupation: Hostelling International, tourism

Last book read: A Short History of Everything by Bill Bryson

What music are you listening to these days? Everything. I woke up to Metallica this morning.

Favourite recreational pursuits: Mountain biking, snowboarding, kayaking, canoeing, paragliding, surfing, hiking.

1. Why are you running for council?

All my education is in tourism. I spent three years on a diploma, two years in university for a degree, and I’m two-thirds of the way through an MBA in tourism. I think I can help the community, and I want to help. I love living here and I want to give something back, and I think tourism could be more effectively represented. The bottom line is that I think I can make a difference.

2. What are the biggest issues facing Whistler?

There’s so many issues, but number one is our failing economy. Then there are the harsh conditions for our small businesses. We need to get our occupancy levels up in the hotels. Development is always a huge issue, like resident housing and Olympic development. We need to look at how we’re developing our resident communities as well. And the whole strata hotel issue is huge, with all the front desk problems and the tax problems.

Those are the major issues. There are other ones, like the noise level in the village. Locals don’t see it as a problem because they don’t live there, but when you work in the hotel business you see it from a different perspective. There’s also a problem with communication. I have friends who don’t even know where the ski jumps are being built – it’s not that the information isn’t out there, but they’re not being engaged. That’s why they don’t vote.

3. What needs to be done to address those issues?

For each issue the solution is different, but I think the overall solution is to be aware of the issues and try to make decisions as a community, with all of the stakeholders involved. We need to focus on getting things done, and keep our skilled people in the community by putting a light at the end of the tunnel. We need to follow through on Whistler 2020.

As far as the economy is concerned, it’s going to be tough but we have the biggest opportunity in the world right now in terms of the Olympics. We also have China – in the next 30 years this is going to be the world’s biggest economy and we need to be ready to welcome this opportunity as well.

We need to review the bed cap, and make sure we’re taking that seriously. Personally I would have preferred to see Whistler stop at the original cap. We should also consider whether we want to include staff housing in the cap.

4. How will Whistler 2020 help us?

I think the framework is fantastic, we’ve outlined what we need to do and now we need to do it. It’s essential for our economy and the community to follow through. What we’re talking about is sustainable development from a tourism perspective, and I’m obsessed with that concept, that’s where my education is focused. It’s all about maintaining Whistler as a number one destination, and managing a growing community in such a way that it is not harmful to the environment, and Whistler 2020 is as good a guide as we’re going to have to manage that.

5. Name three things you expect to accomplish in this council’s term.

One thing we definitely have to do to boost the local economy is to support small businesses. It’s killing me how much we’re losing. We don’t have a music store any more to buy guitar strings. We lost our CD store, the Levi’s store is closing. How long will it be until we lose everything?

I’m a futurist and I wonder what our community is going to be like in 2020. Based on what I’m seeing now, I think we need to make some major decisions. Small businesses are our core; they’re our families, the people who sponsor our events, the people who volunteer for everything.

Another thing we need is a surgical centre in Whistler. We have a social responsibility to provide that to our residents and our guests. We have the bike park, we have 50,000 people here in the winter on the mountains, and we have some of the best athletes in the world. We could save lives.

The third thing is to look at the impact we’re having on the environment and wildlife. The PAN strategy and Whistler 2020 talk about that, and we’re doing a great job. But Whistler should be a model community for Canada and the rest of the world in showing how a resort can co-exist with the environment and the local wildlife, which is also important for our economy.

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