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Whistler offers qualified invitation to WEF



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He said the issue was not about the WEF but about the democratic process.

"This is not a negative issue for the community," Powel said. "I think the community is stronger… because of what’s happened the last month and a half. Thirteen-hundred people took the time to tell you what they think. That matters."

Garry Watson, who followed Powel at Monday’s meeting, said he offered qualified support for hosting the World Economic Forum, provided security concerns could be met.

"The most important aspect is we are all part of the world community," Watson said. "We have no right to stifle that debate… as long as we are secure in our community. We can’t give in to the tree-spiker mentality."

Speaking with emotion about the four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan last week, Watson said they paid the ultimate price.

"What that price is is the sole question before council," he said.

Brian Buchholz, who leads Remembrance Day services in Whistler, said his reasons for opposing the conference had to do with his daughter. Referring to the Pacific North West Economic Region conference in Whistler last summer, which attracted protesters and RCMP wearing camouflage and carrying automatic weapons, Buchholz said he came to Whistler for certain reasons.

"We can’t crawl under a rock, but I don’t want to expose my family to this," he said.

That sentiment, that Whistler is not a place for confrontations over global issues, which could spill over into violence, was repeated by several speakers. Kirby Brown said it is "that fantasy, that escape from downtown that makes this place special. It’s the twinkle in the snow, not the blood in the grass."

John Grills said riot police "scare the hell out of me," but he supported inviting the WEF.

"We’re starting to pick and chose who comes here. We haven’t done that before." Referring to speakers who said they oppose the WEF because it is made up of 1,000 of the world’s top corporations, Grills said: "We’re saying the corporate elite can’t come. That’s not why we built this place."

Eckhard Zeidler suggested the only way to know what will happen is to host the WEF once.

"We’ve grown up enough to have the debate," Zeidler said. As for concerns about Whistler’s image being tarnished by television images of barbed wire and riot police, Zeidler said: "We don’t have the information unless we host this conference."