Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of April 5th, 2012

WFF is good for Whistler

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Max stated the Whistler Film Festival is aspirational, reaching beyond its grasp. WFF's request for $300,000 is not based on hopes and dreams, but on great business opportunities for our resort. (Pique, March 29)

In 2011, Whistler got its $275,000 RMI investment back in municipal taxes alone. The economic impact was $5.1 million for B.C. and $2.8 million for Whistler. There was $13.4 million in national and international media coverage. Value for Whistler was $18.5 million — a return on investment over 6,700 per cent!

There are three opportunities, which make the RMI investment a no-brainer. The first is Variety, Hollywood's bible, the most influential entertainment publication in the world. Variety endorses 30 festivals of 2,000 worldwide, and they love Whistler. They said, "We will put Whistler on the map in Hollywood. That puts you on the map in the world." George Clooney walking down the stroll. That is good for tourism.

The second is the China Canada Gateway For Film. Whistler will be a major centre for filmmakers to do co-productions with China. The Canadian government, B.C., Canadian Media Producers and China Film Group all endorse it. The Gateway will bring visitors.

The third opportunity is with a leading Canadian television, Internet and radio company. They are helping Whistler Film Festival take off and are offering the resort a list of benefits that will blow your socks off.

This $300,000 will grow tourism. The $18.5 million from 2011 will reach $35 million by 2020 or sooner. And that makes good business sense for Whistler.

Jane Milner

Whistler

Fee for Service crucial to Chamber projects

On behalf of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce (WCC), I'd like to provide clarification regarding GD Maxwell's (Pique) column "Time for less is more?" on March 29, 2012.

Approximately 80 per cent of the WCC's annual operating budget is funded by Core revenues i.e. membership fees, event and program registration fees, office and boardroom rentals, sponsorship funds etc. Since 2007, the balance of approximately 20 per cent has been funded by Fee for Service, awarded by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) so that WCC can undertake projects that, although delivered via the business community, benefit the community at large. Examples include the development and delivery of our 2010 Business Readiness Strategy and the Whistler Service Strategy.

In respect of our Core operations, the WCC planned for an operating deficit in the year ending December 31, 2011. It was a strategy that was carefully considered by our Board of Directors before it was approved as a necessary investment, to be funded from our reserves, to progress some key initiatives. Because the WCC is not immune to the challenging economic environment, it has incurred a deficit greater than planned due to non-renewed office and boardroom rental contracts, less than anticipated sponsorship funding and participation in training programs and a first-year investment in the Outlook Economic Symposium. The WCC is actively managing the impact of the deficit through its 2012 operational budget, which will creatively and resourcefully generate the net income needed to begin to recoup the deficit and rebuild our reserves effective immediately.

In respect of the projects funded by Fee for Service, the WCC applies for three-year tranches so that it can plan projects that extend beyond one year, knowing that funding will be available to cover the associated costs. The WCC's recent application for Fee for Service, totalling $569,622, is less than previous years' applications and, if awarded, will profoundly impact the way in which the WCC supports the business community and therefore the resort as a whole. Specifically, the funds will be used to develop and deliver the Whistler Service Strategy and the Whistler Economic Enhancement Strategy, described below, over the course of 2012-2014. In the WCC's case, as required by the RMOW, Fee for Service can only be applied to development activities, with the understanding that once established, the program(s) become(s) self-funding. The funds have not and cannot be used to cover day-to-day operational activities.

The WCC's vision for the Whistler Service Strategy is to make the delivery of service in Whistler one of the resort's key competitive advantages. Our 2012-2014 application, amounting to $385,405 of the total $569,000 and, if awarded, will allow us to develop the technical infrastructure and a library of service-related resources, each a long-term legacy, that will see the delivery of a variety of tools and events including online tutorials to all participants of the Spirit Pass Program, a summer Spirit Pass program in 2013, as well as sector-specific feedback reports to participants of the ServeUs Challenge mystery shopper program.

The vision that drives the Whistler Economic Enhancement Strategy is a prosperous, diversified and innovative business community within a healthy resort community. The 2012-2014 application, amounts to $184,217 of the total of $569,622 and, if awarded, will allow us to develop tools, such as the Whistler Report Card, another legacy, which will track the performance of the resort on a monthly basis via specific economic indicators, and be distributed to our members and partners so that they can plan accordingly. Also, if awarded, it will provide seed funding that will allow us to continue to plan and build the Outlook Economic Symposium, an event that over the medium term has the potential to become an iconic and self-funding business conference that rounds out Whistler's sports and cultural offerings while attracting guests to the resort during the shoulder season.

Both the Whistler Service Strategy and the Whistler Economic Enhancement Strategy are initiatives that, in our opinion, are essential to the long-term economic health of the resort. Given that a significant investment is required to bring them to market, we thank the RMOW for the Fee for Service that it has awarded since 2007, as well as Whistler Blackcomb for its support of the Spirit Pass Program.

In closing, as the premier business association in Whistler, we are committed to actively participating in the development of Whistler's next chapter. We have an obligation to our members to be visionary, to be creative and to plan proactively for the long-term thereby helping to secure their prosperity. We also have a long-standing commitment to our partners to work collaboratively with them to deliver projects like those described above that enhance our economic viability and standing as a world-class resort.

Fiona Famulak

President, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce

Lest we forget

April 9 marks the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. After failed attempts by both British and French forces, a corps of brave and determined Canadian soldiers captured this strategic ridge in France, which was of great importance to the German defence.

Despite the terrible price in casualties, this battle marked not only a significant Allied victory, but also the first time Canadians had fought as an independent force and not as part of the British Army.

Along with other achievements during the First World War, the Battle of Vimy Ridge helped establish Canada as a key player on the world stage, earning our country a separate signature on the Versailles Peace Treaty, which ended the war.

As a member of The War Amps Operation Legacy, a group of committed young people who are dedicated to preserving Canada's military heritage, I would like to highlight this significant anniversary of a battle considered by many to mark Canada's birth as a nation.

To commemorate the anniversary, members of Operation Legacy will be donating copies of the documentaries A Vimy Veteran Remembers and In Flanders Fields to their local libraries.

These productions are part of The War Amps internationally award-winning Military Heritage Series, which tells the lesser-known Canadian stories, and are available at a cost-recovery price by calling 1 800 250-3030 or visiting waramps.ca

Courtney McLaughlin, 17

Operation Legacy Member, Quesnel

Squamish Council looking at increasing pay

For Councillor Raiser to imply that there is a better councillor candidate whose quality we will only enjoy with arbitrarily conceived salary increases undermines the democratic process, smacks of elitism, reflects pure self-interest and in no way demonstrates any understanding of public service (Pique March 28).

To quote the mayor of the District of West Vancouver (Vancouver Sun, A6, 2012-03-31): "I haven't seen anything to prove that the more you pay, the better candidates you get."

Mayor and council in the District of West Vancouver are about to receive their first pay raises in ten years. The salaries expected in Squamish are not far from the increased salaries in the District of West Vancouver, a community with a population more than two-and-half-times the population of Squamish, with an average family income more than double the average family income in Squamish.

The salaries that currently exist in Squamish, population a mere 17,000, are comparatively high for council members and the mayor. Raises have already been received. At a time when there is an expectation that district staff will receive no increases, when families are suffering given the current state of the economy, when businesses and community organizations in Squamish are struggling, and when we will pay greater taxes to accommodate what is needed to run our community, raises are unacceptable.

As Councillor Race suggests, the money could be spent somewhere else in the community.

Furthermore, this is a conflict of interest; the notion that salary increases would be forthcoming should have been made clear to taxpayers during the election; on a platform statement, via a referendum, or in some other way; not presented to the taxpayer in the media, four months after the election. This is yet another example of why the public holds those in political office in such poor regard. Yes, mayors and council members can increase their own salaries, but they are also expected to behave ethically, and are accountable to the taxpayer and the electorate.

Thanks Sander, Race, Kirkham and Weys for your thoughtful and fiscally responsible responses to the suggested pay increases.

Vicki and Tom McCarthy

Squamish

Thank you from the Dog House

This week I went through what everyone knows could happen, but thinks never will, when my home of the past 16 years caught fire while I was in it. The list of thanks I owe to everyone is so long I'm not sure where to start. First would have to be to Luke and Lance my duplex neighbours who were also home in their half where the fire started. Upon smelling smoke they discovered a bedroom full of smoke and a fire source. I'm not sure what the stats are for the percentage of people who when faced with an emergency situation run towards it instead of away, but both of these guys are in it.

Instead of saving what they could of their own they tried to smother the fire and then alerted us before returning with a kitchen fire extinguisher to try again.

Cue the pros: When the fire department rolled up our 40-year-old cedar cabin was fully involved and nearby tree branches were starting to catch fire. To describe the speed, efficiency, and co-ordination I witnessed — I can only compare it to a playoff sports team or maybe Cirque du Soleil. Within minutes they were containing the fire and managed to save the main structure of our side, which is still surreal to me after seeing the speed and intensity with which the fire spread through the adjoining half. Whistler is extremely lucky to have people trained to this level in our town.

After this the list gets long. Each and every neighbour whether they were close friends or barely nodding acquaintances offered us a bed or any help they could. One friend closed his business to bring us warm jackets and many others brought us hot drinks and food. I still can't walk through town without offers of help. You often hear about how Whistler supports people in need, but when you experience how many people are willing to help first hand it takes on a whole new dimension.

I can't finish this letter without thanking our landlord Tony Simon who built the Doghouse himself 40 years ago and the dozens of friends/roommates I've had over the course of the past 16 years. Whistler is still a fun, cool, interesting place to live but now we're missing another focal point for those things.

Duncan Solloway

Whistler

We all live in wood houses but....

There's a belief among yogis that you need to be rooted down before you can rise up. So why is a tourist Mecca like Whistler logging its old growth trees?

The Cheakamus (Whistler) Community Forest (CCF) is a joint venture between the Lil'wat and Squamish First Nations and the RMOW, working alongside foresters. The CCF's 2011 earnings show that 38 hectares were cut, generating revenues of $60,000 and expenses of $37,500, for an income of just $22,500. So Whistler receives a mere $7,500 for all the permanent damage that was done?

Heck, we could hold a bake sale or a silent auction and raise more money to protect our trees!

The CCF's minutes state that: "Whistler area forests have moderate biodiversity values, but have HIGH value for tourism." How will Whistler's tourism be impacted when all our natural assets are removed? Is old-growth forest harvesting really compatible with Whistler 2020 or First Nation's cultural objectives?

In 2012, 25,000 cubic metres will be cleared, of which (up to 50) per cent will be old growth trees. The logging will become more apparent as loggers move from the hidden corners of the Callaghan to prominent areas like Emerald and Alpine Meadows.

Whistler's Mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, was the only CCF member to vote against the removal of old-growth trees, but she's only one vote. It will take increased community opposition and new ideas to manage our forests properly — not glossy websites and one-sided open houses.

Our mayor suggested that we stop logging old growth trees, and instead enter into discussions with the Ministry of Forests to reduce our Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) and to extend the cut period, so loggers can harvest mature second growth trees and spare the older ones.

The CCF is also looking at adopting a carbon credit scheme, which is simply a way of buying complacency and an excuse for business as usual, since the trees they're saving will eventually come down. Real carbon-saving steps include logging less, allowing trees to grow older before cutting and expanding logging-free buffers.

Placing a few trees in a protected national park is not wilderness. It's more like a museum or viewing an ant colony in a plastic home and thinking it's nature.

I'm not anti-logging. We all live in houses made of wood, but it's important to keep these forests intact and not clear them for more Nordic trails and roads, as the Whistler Sports Legacies (WSL) prepares to build the Madely-Highline Trail in Whistler Olympic Park.

Pina Belperio

Whistler

Time for Improv?

I really enjoyed Stephen Smysnuik's article last week (Pique March 29), asking the question "Where's Whistler's Theatre Scene?" I have always thought the same thing. People like to be entertained, and good theatre satisfies that need. The premise that live theatre cannot work in Whistler needs to change — there is definitely a potential audience out there, but the code has yet to be cracked.

One form of theatre that would be an incredible success here (in my humble opinion) is improv comedy and theatresports. Not only is it great entertainment, but also, from a performer's perspective it is incredibly fun.

The overhead to produce an improv show is extremely low compared to productions that require elaborate costumes, sets and make-up.

It does not rely on a fixed cast, something that works well in such a transient town. Celebrity guests can make appearances if they are in town, it's often fun for them to get back to the nitty gritty of acting on a small stage.

I have tried to get people together in the past but due to busy lifestyles and people coming and going, have not yet built the necessary momentum to get a group meeting regularly.

If anyone is interested in getting together, let me know at whererusteve@gmail.com. Above all else it would be fun to have a routine night where a few of us get together and laugh until we cry. If the group has chemistry, maybe down the road we could approach a bar to promote a weekly gig.

Don't let a lack of experience deter you from joining — improv is one of those skills that everyone has, it just needs to find its way out. So let's make this happen and bring a real value offering for both tourists and locals that adds to our culture and authenticity.

Steve Andrews

Whistler

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