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‘We have a process in place, let’s use it’

Quinlan calls for more decisiveness, accountability in bid for council

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Chris Quinlan, in a word, is engaged. He’s a familiar face at Whistler Council meetings, a familiar voice in the Letters to the Editor section, and is involved with groups like the Whistler Arts Council, the Whistler Health Care Foundation, and various Whistler 2020 planning committees.

He’s also the latest person to announce his intention to run for Whistler Council in the Nov. 19 civic elections.

Quinlan ran for council in 2002, where he was one of 18 candidates vying for six seats on council, including six incumbents vying for re-election. Only three challengers were successful.

While Quinlan still has a lot of the same concerns he had in 2002, his approach to addressing those issues has changed.

"If you look at the last time I ran for council I was more of a reactionary to what was going on, or what wasn’t going on," he said. "This time I have had the opportunity to work with (municipal) staff on (Whistler 2020) focus groups and see up close what works for Whistler and what doesn’t. More amazing than that was this amazing process that we went through."

According to Quinlan the resources to solve all of Whistler’s ongoing issues – whether it’s the future of the Paralympic arena or deciding where and how to build the next phase of staff housing – already exist.

"It’s within municipal resources, it’s within the community," he said. "Everything can be looked at within the framework of Whistler 2020 and how that was achieved."

If council followed the same process, using 2020 as a guide, it would have more confidence making key decisions on behalf of Whistler – decisions Quinlan worries are not being made in a timely way.

"If we used the same process with all of the Olympic planning we could have issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) for those facilities two years ago," he said.

The delay in planning and making decisions on issues that council has known would come up since Whistler won the Olympic bid has been costly, with the price of building materials, fuel and labour skyrocketing in the past few years. "The library is the same thing as the arena," said Quinlan. "The longer we wait the more things are going to cost us."

Quinlan also pointed out that Squamish District Council met with newly elected MLA Joan McIntyre three times since the provincial election, before Whistler Council met with her once. Squamish also came up with and approved a viable plan to host the proposed Paralympic arena, including corporate partners and a Junior A hockey team, in just six months.

While Quinlan appreciates the energy and enthusiasm of some individual councilors on various issues, he suggests that another example of council’s collective inability to be decisive is staff housing. While he likes the concepts presented for the Rainbow Lands between Alpine and Emerald, he wonders about the timing.

"(Council) hasn’t even dealt with the issues that we have left over from the last election, like affordable housing," he said.

"Affordable housing needed to be addressed immediately by council, not by trying to ram it down (municipal) staff’s throats two months before an election."

Quinlan says his first priority on council would be to work on staff housing initiatives that help Whistler to retain qualified workers.

His next priority is to represent the local business community, which he feels has been under-represented in the last council.

"The municipality has to accept responsibility here because we are a resort municipality. We have to provide an incentive and reason to come here for guests, we can’t keep relying on the weather," he said. "Whistler needs to try harder and harder, we’ve been taking tourism for granted."

Making Whistler successful means delivering new amenities to the resort, which is why Quinlan is in favour of a Paralympic arena and multi-use facility on Lot 1/Lot 9. If the arena is passed up, he’d like to see the land developed into another amenity to support tourism.

Quinlan believes that Whistler will also need a strong voice in Victoria, although he cautions that the town shouldn’t count on outside help, such as "financial tools" that were promised as part of the Olympics, to solve its problems.

Another of Quinlan’s priorities is to take a more proactive role in managing the delivery of the Olympics, while keeping the community up to date on discussions. "It’s the responsibility of councillors to be aware of bigger problems and possibilities, and that goes back to decisions on the arena and affordable housing."

Quinlan has been considering running for council for more than six months, but only made up his mind after Monday’s meeting. He does not have an official campaign launch set and his website is a work in progress, but he plans to have his platform and campaign details finalized within a few weeks.

Quinlan adds that his most supportive demographic will be voters aged 30 to 50, but he also wants to represent the younger demographic that makes up his staff at Behind the Grind.

"Basically I want to represent anyone who wants to make Whistler their home. People who stick around, who start businesses and buy into staff housing, make a huge contribution to this town.

"The small businesses especially make a difference because they are the ones who provide funding for arts and culture, who provide sponsorship for a lot of our events.

"You need these skilled, committed people in the community, or it just doesn’t happen."

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