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Whistler council to form governance committee

Three resolutions passed at special council meeting

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Shortly after being re-elected on Oct. 20, Councillor Cathy Jewett mentioned improving governance and public engagement as being near the top of her list of priorities.

And at a special council meeting on Nov. 8, just two days after being sworn in, Whistler's new mayor and council moved to direct staff to strike a new governance committee with a mandate to carry out a public engagement review.

"First of all, I think we need to take stock of where we're at," Jewett said when reached on Nov. 12.

"I'm starting my list already, of things that I think we should do, and I think what we need to do first of all is review our practices and take a look at how effective they are.

"I think the end goal is making people feel that they're heard, and that they have an opportunity to be heard."

With terms of reference still being drawn, it's unclear how broad the committee's scope will be, or if it will include a focus on increasing transparency as well.

"I think that that's certainly one of the things that the mayor has talked about, and I think all the councillors are interested in having that transparency," Jewett said.

"Because the important thing for us is that we have the trust of the residents."

The Nov. 8 agenda also contained two other items: That a new development corporation using similar terms and private sector experience as the Whistler 2020 Development Corp (WDC) be formed, and that council direct staff to strike a strategic planning commission.

"The WDC focused primarily on Cheakamus Crossing and Olympic housing. We want to consider a mandate that would include all municipal land," said Mayor Jack Crompton of the new development corp, adding that former WDC chair Eric Martin has agreed to help manage the transition.

"It will take some time to establish the corporation, but we're asking municipal staff and contractors to carry on with the momentum they've built (on Cheakamus Crossing Phase 2), and the new corporation will be the beneficiary of all of that work."

As for the strategic planning commission, Crompton said he sees it as a broad-based, long-term strategy for Whistler.

"We want to look five, 10, 20, 30 years down the road," he said.

"We want to not just look at housing but also consider education, healthcare, daycare, recreation, aging demographics—we want it to be high level and strategic."

The mayor is also taking a new approach to governance, assigning each councillor with a "portfolio" to focus on: Environment (Arthur De Jong), social services and regional cooperation (Jen Ford), infrastructure and community investment (Ralph Forsyth), tourism economy (John Grills), housing (Duane Jackson), and arts, culture and heritage (Jewett).

"It doesn't just find itself dictating what committees people are on, but it also has them building relationships with the provincial ministries and ministers, and spending some time giving thought to the strategies we'll employ within those portfolio areas," Crompton said.

"I imagine a portfolio lead seeing all aspects of that part of the organization and part of the community will be able to not be siloed. They'll be able to see the opportunities and the challenges that exist across jurisdictions and across organizations, and they'll be able to communicate within our organization and with our partner organizations in the community."

The next meeting of council is Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre.

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