Decision put off to April 2 to allow for community input
After nearly nine months of trying to keep the lid on discussions about hosting the World Economic Forum, the pot boiled over Monday in council chambers.
Emotions ran high as the debate wandered from what business Whistler is in to how Whistler can advance its own agenda; from communicating with the community to security issues and the potential for violence.
"If were not interested, were just going to be a little ski area. Maybe Desmond Tutu wont rent skis from you, Dave," Ted Milner said referring to fellow Councillor Dave Kirk, who owns several ski shops.
"I know these people are intensely capitalistic, but they bring some socialists with them," Milner continued.
"Were all wringing our hands its a five-day conference two years from now. I dont get it."
"I really resent your glibness, that I may suffer for five days because Desmond Tutu wont rent skis from me," Kirk fired back. "I think its time you got back before a cash register."
Mayor Hugh OReilly was also frustrated by the opposition, and Kirks complaint that he wasnt prepared to discuss the World Economic Forum because it wasnt on councils agenda.
"We didnt discuss this last meeting because you and others were away," OReilly said to Kirk.
"The question is, is this a fit? Is it appropriate?
"I thought we should do this. I bought in (to the sustainability initiative). Im now trying to do something meaningful on a global level," OReilly said, referring to how Whistler could make sustainability part of the agenda if the WEF held its forum in Whistler.
"But theres no backbone. If were all going to end up dead, Dave, were not going to worry about your store. This is five days. Wheres the backbone?"
After more than an hours debate on the issue, which at times produced applause from some of the 50-or-so people who jammed council chambers, councillors decided to put off a decision until a special meeting is held April 2. In the meantime municipal staff will put together information packages and guiding principles that will be available to the public, and public input will be sought.
A motion by Councillor Ken Melamed to schedule an open house on the matter failed.
Communication with the community about the World Economic Forum was at the forefront of councillors concerns. Councillor Nick Davies said: "I tend to support the World Economic Forum, but Im troubled by the lack of public input." He later said if he was forced to vote that night he would oppose the forum, but if the vote was held two or four weeks hence he would support it.