As I rode up the Glacier Chair in the smashing sun this past Tuesday (Jan. 1), my thoughts turned to what I would like to see accomplished by our three levels of government in 2013. The list would fill a book.
The federal government needs to start demonstrating more respect for Canadian soldiers. The EH-101 helicopter fiasco, and now the debacle with the F-35 fighter jet, leaves one wondering whether well-fed but inept bureaucrats in Ottawa fumble with military equipment replacements while Canadian soldiers returning from a war zone are not properly supported.
Provincially, more British Columbians come into contact with the civil courts than the criminal courts, yet we devote disproportionately more resources to repairing the criminal courts. The argument is that somebody caught up in the criminal system faces more personal peril. What about the mother of three infant children who is not receiving any support from the deadbeat dad of her children, or the father who has been denied access to his children by a vindictive mother? What about the children themselves? Arguably, someone caught up in the family law system faces as much personal peril as somebody who faces a three-month suspended sentence for an assault charge.
British Columbia is about to undertake a massive overhaul of the laws applicable to family disputes. Regrettably, the new Family Law Act does little to ensure that the reasonable expectations of all of those embroiled in family law disputes are met. In 2013 the province needs to rationalize family law courts and initiate new ways to resolve family law disputes as alternatives to the adversarial court process.
Locally, we need a “What Would It Cost?” button on Whistler.ca or Whistler2020.ca.
Last week Rick Clare raised the possibility of getting rid of user-pay fees at Meadow Park. Arguably user-pay creates a system of privilege where those with higher disposable incomes enjoy more access to publicly-funded community facilities. This approach is akin to what might be described as a culture of “love thyself, and love thy gun, but forget thy neighbour.”
We pride ourselves in Whistler and in Canada of being an egalitarian society where we care for our neighbours. If a fixed amount of public money is available to the community to pay for community facilities, then shouldn’t all members of the community be equally entitled to enjoy whatever level of facilities the available public money will buy? Those who want the privilege of buying better access to better facilities may build a private club at their own expense.
The opposite problem arises with respect to funding Tourism Whistler. Tourism Whistler’s marketing efforts benefit the entire community, yet owners of “Resort Lands” fund Tourism Whistler’s budget. Should the boundaries of the Resort Lands be expanded to include all lands inside municipal boundaries? Every property owner in Whistler would then contribute to Tourism Whistler’s budget in the same way that every taxpayer contributes to the municipality’s budget.
Both issues raise the same problems. What would it cost the community? What would it cost you and me? It would be helpful to simply fill in a few fields and push a button to find out how much you or I would pay if all lands in the municipality were “Resort Lands” and the budget of Tourism Whistler was increased by $25 million. Would I agree to pay an additional $1,000 on my property tax bill to significantly increase Tourism Whistler’s ability to market the resort? Probably not. Would I pay an extra one hundred dollars? Probably. Similarly, it would be helpful to know how much my tax bill would go up if we eliminated user-pay fees at Meadow Park.
In summary, in 2013 we need to improve our support of the soldiers we send overseas, overhaul the way we resolve family law disputes, and give Whistler residents the ability to calculate for themselves the consequences of a proposed budget increase.