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Truth in WEF rumours?



Whistler council was faced with a tough question in their first early Question and Answer period before Monday’s council meeting.

In an effort to find out if the rumours are true, local scribe G.D. Maxwell asked flat out if the World Economic Forum had booked rooms at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for a 2004 meeting.

"There’s been no direct contact," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

"We’ve heard the same rumours.

"As we understand it the dialogue has been with the province of British Columbia."

With no definitive answer forthcoming from the mayor, Maxwell proposed that the municipality look into the matter before it’s too late, before it gets so far along that they can’t do anything about it, just like it became too late to hold a plebiscite on the Olympic bid.

Maxwell also asked if council was still prepared to ensure that the WEF adhere to the wishes of the Whistler community.

After a heated public debate about the WEF coming to Whistler last year, the municipality extended an invitation with specific conditions attached.

Chief among them was the condition that the WEF could only come to Whistler in late spring or autumn, not during the ski season. The meeting is usually held in late January and early February.

Both Councillors Ken Melamed and Nick Davies agreed with Maxwell.

"It behooves us to ask some questions," said Davies.

"It’s certainly more reasonable than burying our heads in the sand and hoping it goes away."

Melamed also pointed out that one of the other conditions of the WEF invitation was that if there were violent protests at the January WEF meeting in Davos earlier this year, then the municipality would revisit the decision to hold an annual meeting in Whistler.

A few hundred protested in a controlled area on the outskirts of Davos this year and thousands protested loudly further afield. Some were met with water canons, tear gas and rubber pellets from police.

Whistler residents who did not want the WEF to come to town were concerned with the negative image protests like these could have on the resort, among a number of other worries about the meeting.

Other issues for community members were security, the forum’s impact on businesses, what business Whistler is in, the structure of the WEF, and what hosting the annual meeting could do for the Olympic bid and future business for the resort.

Davies added that if they find out now that the WEF has booked in for the middle of the Whistler ski season, then at least they can attempt to do something about it.

Maxwell’s query was the only question at the new early Q&A portion of the regular council meetings. Council decided to move question period to a 6:30 p.m. start rather than at the end of the council meetings in an effort to engage community members.