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Whistler asks tough questions

Campaigners battle it out at all candidates meeting

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Questions relating specifically to Whistler were rare, although the PiqueÕs G.D. Maxwell asked Joan McIntyre point blank where WhistlerÕs financial tools were hiding. Whistler was promised financial tools, specifically the ability to create a tax on tourists to help pay for municipal infrastructure, in a pre-Olympic agreement with the Liberal government.

McIntyre did not specifically commit to delivering financial tools, but did say that the province was still looking at the issue.

ÒLet me preface my answer by saying financial toolsÉis a tax,Ó she said. ÒWe appreciate that Whistler has a tax base of 10,000 providing services for 50,000É but before government gets involvedÉ we have to look at the impacts (of a new tax) on local residents and businesses, and make sure locals arenÕt being penalized.Ó

Dennis Perry, who supports financial tools, noted that Òa promise, is a promise, is a promise. Why it hasnÕt happened yetÉ that comes back to the general argument that we need accountable representation for communities, communities need a strong voice in the legislature.Ó

Lyle Fenton, who resides in Squamish, was not aware of the issue, but said he would look into it for this Sunday when he will speak at the Whistler Forum.

The Olympics were a minor issue at the presentation. Eckhard Zeidler got all three candidates to promise they would continue to support a green, sustainable legacy for the 2010 Winter Games after they were elected.

Education was a concern, with at least three questions to candidates on their plans for the education system, class sizes, and a new contract for teachers. McIntyre stood behind the provinceÕs record, as well as the decision to allow for larger class sizes after Grade 3, and to take class sizes out of the last teacher contract.

Perry and Fenton noted that funding has been cut from special programs, supported class size limitations, and said the province should negotiate in good faith with B.C. Teachers Federation on a new contract.

Several barbed questions were also directed at the Green PartyÕs platform, which includes several billion dollars in tax increases, as well as measures to get people out of their cars.

Perry responded that the platform was basically moot anyway because the Greens had no real chance of forming the next government Ñ rather than speak on specifics he said it was more valuable to use this opportunity to speak in general terms about the Green PartyÕs approach, which is to give more power to communities. He also urged people to vote yes on the STV referendum to ensure that communities would be represented by Green Party voices in future governments.