Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) is back in the news, and in some ways, the proponents’ timing couldn’t be better — if you’re a backer of the project, that is.
In March, the tourism-friendly B.C. Liberal government inked environmental certification on another controversial four-season resort, Jumbo Glacier Alpine Resort near Invermere, that has been on the drawing board for decades. This week, in fact, Christy Clark’s government appointed a three-person mayor and council to help shepherd the future community forward.
There’s little question that Squamish has morphed somewhat since the previous council voted to oppose the latest GAS proposal — the one that would see 22,500 bed units of housing and accommodation, 25 ski lifts and two golf courses as part of the resort. Even though four of the seven members of the current Squamish council were re-elected last year, the No. 1 election issue was economic development and the current council may be more amenable to something like GAS.
Wolfgang Richter, the longtime GAS visionary who appears to be back in the saddle for this round, says there’s little question the proposal will need the community’s support if it’s going to proceed. Richter also says $5.5 billion, even when spread over 20 or 30 years, is a lot of economic development. No argument there.
In some ways, though, the pressure is on both GAS proponents to move the project forward. They need to provide the Environmental Assessment Office with the data about water resources that was deemed lacking when the environmental assessment was shelved in June 2010, and the resources and environmental mitigation plan need to satisfy the needs of the certification process.
A month before that data is due, though, another event could shelve the project indefinitely yet again. While Richter says he thinks proponents can work with a government led by the New Democrats’ Adrian Dix if the NDP gains power next May, that remains to be seen. There’s certainly precedent for projects — including earlier iterations of GAS — having been shelved by a change in government.
The last time we were down this road, many locals said that while they might support the more modest GAS proposal first presented in 1997, they couldn’t stomach the larger one that’s the subject of the current review. Undoubtedly, reaction to the presentation planned tonight (Nov. 22) at the Adventure Centre will help set the tone for what’s to follow.
— David Burke