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New councillors weigh in on OCP

Mayor and council to be sworn in today, Nov. 6



Speaking at a United Nations conference on responsible tourism in Washington, D.C., last year, recently elected Whistler Councillor Arthur De Jong was taken aback by some comments from a representative of the World Bank Group.

"This lady spoke to how (the World Bank) looked all over the world to find resorts that had acted in the collective behaviour, meaning their entire resort had acted in a collective behaviour to drive sustainable tourism," De Jong said.

In the end, the World Bank identified just two such resorts, one of which was Whistler.

"She went on to talk about how the World Bank learned and took so much interest in Whistler, because we had this document, Whistler 2020, that spoke to our collective effort," De Jong said.

"I wanted every Whistlerite to be there at that time, because she gave it so much recognition, that we were a global light on tourism, and sustainable tourism, and she referenced the document, so it was very powerful."

While Whistler's updated Official Community Plan (OCP) bylaw received first reading on Oct. 2, three new voices will be joining the table before second reading after the Oct. 20 election: De Jong, Ralph Forsyth and Duane Jackson.

For De Jong, incorporating a document like Whistler2020 back into the OCP—a straightforward, overarching summary of Whistler's vision—is worth pursuing (the latest draft incorporates Whistler 2020 directly into the OCP).

"For the most part, it just needs to summarize what is in the OCP ... the content is there, but again, you get so deep into the trees (that you can't see the forest)—you want to describe the over-arcing purpose, especially speaking to external audiences," he said.

While he has yet to speak with his fellow councillors on the matter, and he doesn't see a need to "derail" the progress made on the OCP, De Jong said he would like to discuss Whistler 2020 once the new council is sworn in.

"Absolutely, I would table it," he said.

"I think a couple of other councillors have made mention to it, and so we definitely want to check in on that."

Forsyth, who sat on council from 2005 to 2011, said while Whistler 2020 is a great community engagement tool, he's not concerned about the new approach.

"You can see throughout the document that those things are incorporated, so I'm not worried that any of that stuff is left behind," he said.

"I think my concern, certainly (with) the people that I had conversations with, it was more around, well, this was a great tool to bring the community together to talk about big issues, and we don't do that anymore."

While he hasn't read the OCP cover to cover, Forsyth said he likes that First Nations interests are more thoughtfully considered this time around.

"I would say from my cursory look at it that, yes, I would support it in its current form, but I haven't read anything to tell me otherwise ... I reserve the right to change my mind," he said with a laugh.

Jackson, for his part, said that while he is very familiar with the 2011 document and has read a bunch of the update, he's not in a position to comment just yet.

"Once I have more context and a sense of how public input has influenced the evolution I'll be in a better position to offer an opinion," Jackson said in an email.

Whistler's new council will be sworn in on Tuesday, Nov. 6.