Oh dear. What shall we do?
In the annals of growing pains, Tiny Town has hit yet another milestone. Not the first; certainly not the last.
Back in the day — that would be the day when we walked 20 kilometres to school... in six feet of snow... uphill... both ways — the town became the first resort municipality, a new governmental animal certain to solve all the issues facing a nascent ski resort. Life was good. Whistler as we know it began to get built.
But what about the community underpinning the resort? Seemed to be kind of neglected in our rush to build for the tourists. So we focused on the community, built a few amenities and, once again, all was good.
Then the economic chit hit the fan and interest rates went up to... never mind; most of you weren't born then and you wouldn't believe the number if I told you. But the province stepped in and bailed us out. Sort of. The cost of their largesse was what turned into much of village north and marketplace. Some would say their headlong rush to develop it came several years too soon but why quibble? It got built.
So we concentrated on filling it.
Somewhere along the way, we became worried about becoming another Aspen, or Vail or some other mountain resort devoid of employees who couldn't afford to live in the town where they worked service jobs for service wages, which is to say peanuts. So, once again, we focused on the community and set a lofty goal of housing the majority of our workforce in town at "affordable" prices.
And, you guessed it, all was good.
Until we built, and built, and built and ended up with what we have now, more or less. What's that, you ask? Way too many hotel and condo beds. Arguably too many retail and food and beverage establishments. Or, if you turn the binoculars around and look through the end Tourism Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb look through, not enough tourists.
What we also have now is a relatively mature resort — think lifecycle curve — and a relatively stable, maturing population — think growing older. What we don't have is an endless supply of fresh-faced seekers wanting to come to Whistler for a season or two to work and party their bums off before setting sail on the good ship adulthood and seeking their fame and fortune in places more conducive to finding whatever that is.
Make no mistake, there are still lots of fresh-faced seekers. They come, have fun, create memories and in a few seasons, possibly in the throes of a wicked hangover or the harsh light of impending bankruptcy, realize it's time to go home and work in their mom's insurance business back in the old country — Ontario.
Such is the cycle of life.
Except there are now a growing number whose mom's either don't have insurance businesses, or selling insurance just isn't their passion. And, unfortunately, they've been told their whole self-esteem-imbued lives they should — no — they have both a right and a duty to follow their passion.
Back in that day when we trundled through the snow uphill to school and back, passion hadn't been invented yet, or at least it hadn't yet slinked out of the boudoir. We were never told to follow our passion. We were told to get a job, make a living and, if it turned out that way, suck up the drudgery that was adulthood: job, home, family, retirement, death. Oh, and we were told to get the hell out of our parents' house after we finished school... or before if possible, not that we had to be told; we couldn't wait to set out on our own.
But if you want to follow your passion, and your passion includes something called a career — to be differentiated from a service job, the kind found in a resort — Whistler seems to be a tough place to do that. An increasing number of career-less people aren't satisfied with the career prospects to be found here.
Disclaimer: I'm not entirely certain what a career is or how it differs from a job. I'm willing to bet is has something to do with how much you get paid, which is old-school thinking, or perhaps with how well it aligns with your passion and doesn't infringe on your personal, fun time — new school thinking. Either way, Whistler doesn't seem to have enough to meet the hopes and aspirations of people who live here and want but don't have one.
It would seem the easiest solution would be to shrug our shoulders and say, "Meh," or something similar. Whistler has jobs. Whistler has jobs that aren't being filled. If you want one and can breathe, you can have one. If it isn't your passion, try another. If that doesn't work, move.
But that is both cruel and heartless and, not to put too fine a point on it, not particularly self-esteem enhancing.
And so, with apologies to Jonathan Swift, I would like to put forth another Modest Proposal.
Get rid of the old people.
Jonathan Swift satirically suggested poor Irish families who were starving to death during the potato famine should sell their children to feed rich people, since children seemed to be the only crop they were capable of raising.
I suggest we force older Whistlerites to leave town so we can open up career opportunities for the more delicate, younger, career-frustrated. This would solve several problems. Old people are either retired, semi-retired or still working. The fully retired just take up too much space. They have housing, don't have tenants, take too many vacations and are largely absent. Who'd miss them? Think of the housing we'd free up.
Semi-retired and working old people just clog up the career paths so eagerly desired by those who only see limited career opportunities. Getting rid of them would be a bonanza of jobs and, like retired old people, housing.
Making old people leave town to, say, Sun Peaks where they can both age and ski in place, would go a long way toward solving both the housing and career problems Whistler currently faces. And, bonus, we wouldn't hear all the carping about building retirement housing for seniors. Heck, we could entirely do away with the Mature Action Community (MAC) and just force seniors — those 55 and older according to MAC — to leave town.
Of course, I don't know who would fill all those empty volunteer spots. Certainly not the young adults now consumed by their career opportunities and breeding activities. They haven't shown much passion for volunteering or community service. But maybe as they get older and face the daunting prospects of leaving town....
Just a thought.