Opinion » Editorial

Moving forward with transparency

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It was sobering to arrive at the polling station last Saturday night, Oct. 20, and see only one other person voting.

As I cast my ballot, I noticed that one of the three machines only had a few hundred votes while the others were just dipping into four digits.

In all, by the time the polls had closed, 2,995 people cast votes representing 32.46 per cent of eligible voters.

It is a depressingly low turnout if you ask me, and yet it is still twice what we saw for the byelection in 2017, and 692 votes more than in the 2014 election. The election in 2011 had an even better turnout at 3,952 votes cast.

Our 32.46-per-cent total put us behind the B.C. average, which hovers at the 36-per-cent mark, and way behind places like Fernie (63 per cent), Tofino (65 per cent) and even Revelstoke (45 per cent).

There are myriad reasons for voter apathy, but the one that kept being brought up to me when I asked people about voting in this last election was a feeling that their vote really didn't matter.

Some of those I spoke to gave voice to a perception that is common on some of our community's social-media threads: that elected officials have little power when it comes to decision-making because their decisions are fully reliant on the reports given to them by Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) staff.

It is a reality of municipally elected officials that, for most of them, this is a second job. Take our outgoing mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden—she was, and is, a busy practising lawyer.

It is unreasonable to expect councillors to do the work of staff. What is reasonable is to expect staff to do their best work on behalf of the community and for our elected officials to be transparent about their concerns, or support of, the projects that come before them.

We have an incredible breadth of experience at this council table and we also have many RMOW staff that are highly trained (and very well-paid), passionate community members who are honestly working to do their best for our town and those who live here. They are raising families here, riding the trails, skiing the slopes, volunteering—they are us.

And I believe it is the community's expectation that with this partnership between council and staff Whistler can move forward on thorny issues such as housing.

Let's be frank, this is an issue that has plagued us since the '70s and it is simply not possible at this point to fail to move ahead with a significant number of employee units for sale and rent.

Are we likely going to have to mortgage our Whistler Housing Authority properties? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes, absolutely.

Like most voters, I do have a bit of a wishlist as this council takes the reins. I would like to see staff provide information about projects or plans in an open and timely manner to the community.

It's no secret to readers that Pique has been asking about the $6.7-million Gateway Loop project for months. What we hoped for was an open disclosure of the project and the context around its construction. What we generally got was the bare minimum on the topic in question and no context.

It will be interesting to see the level of transparency newly elected Councillor Ralph Forsyth operates with if he gets the details of the project, as he has committed to do in this week's Pique.

I look forward to this being shared.

In the meantime, I can share this information on the $2-million bus-loop roof structure, which was shared by the RMOW following a media request.

The roof's metal components are from Canada and the wood components are from a German manufacturer—yes, from Germany.

The company that supplied the wood products and erected them is called AHC/Derix, and they are based in both Canada and Germany, explained an RMOW spokesperson.

"The initial assembly of the connections into the beams was completed in the factory in Germany, and the final assembly was completed on site by the Canadian company.

"The contract for the Gateway Loop allowed for the use of whatever wood and production facility would provide the lowest price to complete the project, while still maintaining the structural requirements of the project.

"We encouraged the best price for the design specified, and in this case the wooden beams and the connections came from Germany."

The roof architect was Public Design architects (publicdesign.ca) with the structural component of the design completed by Fast & Epp Engineers.

Here's to transparency and engagement.

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