A Message to Whistler Mayor: British Columbia Belongs To All British Columbians

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden thinks Lower Mainlanders shouldn’t visit on the cheap

Tourists wander around scenic Whistler BC, a popular and world-renowned winter holiday destination.(pixabay/werner22brigitte)

In a recent interview with CBC News, Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden had a couple of complaints about some of the summer visitors to her little piece of our province, and she specifically singled out day trippers from my little piece of British Columbia.

“We don’t necessarily want people who are coming up for a day, packing a bag with their lunch in it, and not really appreciating the mountain culture that we have,” Wilhelm-Morden told CBC.

In the same article, Wilhelm-Morden implied that Lower Mainlanders are disproportionately responsible for the trash being left on the trails. But it’s not only that—we’re also guilty of an apparently equally egregious offence: not spending enough money while we’re there.

“We have a significant machine that has to be fed, and if people are driving up to Whistler for the day … that’s not going to sustain our economy, not by a long shot,” she said.

I’m not certain what Mayor Wilhelm-Morden means exactly by “mountain culture,” but in my mind the words conjure images of the exact type of activity that she’s trying to discourage. As an avid hiker, I picture throwing a sandwich in a bag and heading into the backcountry to take in that stunning B.C. scenery, away from the headaches of the city for a night, or maybe just an afternoon. For Wilhelm-Morden, “mountain lifestyle” seems to mean staying in her resort town and shelling out for a night at the Westin, dinner at The Keg, and shopping at the resort’s boutiques.

Mayor Wilhelm-Morden’s concerns about trash on the mountains are perfectly valid, just as similar concerns are valid about trash being left on just about every part of this earth where humans have set foot. It’s a sad reality that there are thoughtless people everywhere who somehow never learned to clean up after themselves. I’d be interested, however, to learn exactly how Wilhelm-Morden came to the conclusion that the problem comes disproportionately from the Lower Mainland, because the reasoning stated in the CBC article is flimsy as best.

Whistler mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. (whistler.ca)

Let’s address this issue without unfairly assigning blame to a single demographic and agree that littering makes you an asshole whether you’re on a daytrip from Surrey, abroad on a work visa from Australia, or on a tour group from Hong Kong. Pack out what you pack in. It’s not that hard.

What I most take issue with is that the residents whom the Mayor speaks for seem to have come to the conclusion that they’re owed something from their fellow British Columbians who visit this particular, special part of the province. The truth is that every taxpayer in B.C. has already done their part to support the Whistler tourism economy. The infrastructure that makes the area accessible, the forestry services that maintain the natural beauty, and the 2010 Winter Olympics that helped put Whistler on the international radar were all paid for by provincial tax dollars.

It’s the Crown lands that surround the municipality of Whistler that create the real draw to the area, not the resort town. These lands, like the rest of this vast and spectacular country, are the birthright of every Canadian. They are ours to enjoy and protect. They are not just for the residents of Whistler and certainly not just for those with money to throw around.

I’m about to graduate with a journalism degree, which means I won’t soon earn the kind of money that will make me welcome in Wilhelm-Morden’s Whistler Village. Regardless, the next time I visit I will probably be throwing some food and supplies in a backpack and sleeping in a tent rather than a hotel. Whether I stay for a week or just an afternoon, I promise to take my garbage home with me.

I’m looking forward to it, and I’m not going to feel even a little guilty about it.