On 24 February 2019 Wentworth Mayor Jason Morrison announced that a Malaysian developer wanted to take a chunk of land just north of Lake Louisa and spend $2 billion turning it into a tourism Shangri-La.

To help understand what $2 billion actually means, it’s worth noting that in 2017 Intrawest Resorts was sold for $1.5 billion. Intrawest holdings include Mont Tremblant, Ontario’s Blue Mountain, Vermont’s Stratton, West Virginia’s Snowshoe, Colorado’s Steamboat & Winter Park, and Canadian Mountain Holidays, a heli-skiing and hiking company in British Columbia.

The astute reader may notice that all above components of Intrawest Resorts have something in common – namely mountains.

Now it’s true that our Malaysian suitor could spend only $1.5 billion on amenities and still have a half-billion dollars left over to build a mountain. It would probably be a quite nice mountain, but that doesn’t seem like an especially astute business plan.

Assuming he’s not going to build a mountain, that leaves a severely truncated period of time between the end of June (after the mosquitoes are gone) until the beginning of September (when the nights go below freezing). We agree Summertime in Wentworth is Shangri-La, but it’s hard to imagine investors plunking down boatloads of cash to fund a resort that will be empty 9 months/year.

Maybe he’s got a secret plan such as casinos or money-laundering or mining crypto-currency. We wonder if he’s actually experienced one of our Winters. Maybe the correct answer is that he’s not so much our suitor as the suitor of hypothetical far-away investors he hopes to lure with big talk and pretty pictures.

Whatever his plans may be, we’ve got to stop jumping through hoops for him.

Our municipality prepared an amazing brochure that is 100% marketing and promotional material for the fictional project. Here is the promotional material. To me this was so obviously sales literature that I wrote the municipality inquiring about its provenance. Our Director of Urban Planning & Environment explained it as “the Mayor, Mr. Morrison, speaking with the citizens of Wentworth.”

For what it’s worth, here’s what it says in the Municipal Spring Bulletin: “Council has recently hired a firm to help us in planning key communications concerning the project. The municipal Council has taken this initiative to ensure the citizens of Wentworth are well informed as the project progresses, given its size and its strategic importance.”

Why are we paying to promote such a dubious project?

Now, it’s not every day that a developer shows up dangling $2 billion. That amount of money would cover the combined wages of our mayor and councillors for 40 thousand years. Any one of us could be expected to make some procedural errors in dealing with such an unprecedented situation.

However, there’s still a bit of funny business afoot. For some reason or other there was a big push to pass a new by-law for dealing with developers. The by-law is 2019-005. The English version was posted on the Municipal website, and public consultation meetings were scheduled. Then, it disappeared and went through unknown changes. At the June 3rd meeting the Mayor said it wasn’t ready because translation would cost $5,000. This is strange since an English 2019-005 had been previously posted. Regardless, an unknowable version of 2019-005 was voted on and passed at the June 3rd council meeting.

We don’t know what the explanation is. The most innocent reason is that whatever lawyer the municipality uses is doing a fine job of creating excess business for him or herself, and all the extra clauses couldn’t be translated in time. (Municipal lawyers creating work for themselves is a topic for another day.) However, that doesn’t explain the evasiveness of our municipal employees. Perhaps they need to understand they work for us, the citizens, and not whichever group may have been recently elected.

We’d also like to trust our Mayor and council. The last batch thought they weren’t answerable to us and were surprised to find themselves defenestrated at the November 2013 elections.

This Saturday 8 June (tomorrow) at the Community Center at 2 PM, the Mayor will host an information session on the project.




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