Don't have an account? Create one now

2005 Planning — Co-winner 3

Resort Municipality of Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler 2020 — moving towards a sustainable future

Population: 8,896

Whistler 2020 is the community's long-range strategic plan. Using the scientific principles of The Natural Step framework as its base, the plan addresses 16 strategy areas, including economics, residential affordability and the natural and built environment. Whistler 2020 is the community's long-range strategic plan. Using the scientific principles of The Natural Step framework as its base, the plan addresses 16 strategy areas, including economics, residential affordability and the natural and built environment. More than 140 community experts were involved in creating the strategy area plans. During public consultation, Whistler used QUEST, an interactive software program that allows people to see the long-term impact of various scenarios. As a result of the plan, Whistler amended its community grant process; applicants must now demonstrate how their project contributes to the community's sustain-ability. The municipality has also signed a dozen partnership agreements with local organizations and businesses that are committed to supporting the plan.


The Resort Municipality of Whistler has long been aware of the need to protect its local environment. As a community that depends on a healthy environment for much of its economy, Whistler faces some unique challenges.

A large segment of its population — owners of second homes, a portion of the workforce and tourists, for example — don't live in Whistler, and the emissions from so much transportation to and from the community affect local air and water quality and raise land-use issues. "We're also not your typical economy because so much of it is tied to the worldwide market," says Mike Vance, general manager of community initiatives. "We have to balance many competing interests."

Over the years, Whistler's permanent and tourist populations have grown considerably. Beginning in the late 1980s, Whistler realized that it would need to cap development if the community was to retain its social fabric and natural ecology. A decade later, Whistler was nearing its development limit and the community knew that, to deal with issues related to growth, it would require a new way of planning.


  • Whistler will amend its Official Community Plan to reflect the vision and goals of Whistler 2020, and council has made a long-term commitment to implement and monitor the strategy.
  • Whistler signed partnership agreements with 14 local businesses and organizations that have formally endorsed the vision and sustainability principles.
  • Members of the 16 task forces represent more than 140 community experts and stakeholders.
  • Whistler aligned its annual budget with the Whistler 2020 criteria to incorporate sustainability into corporate decision-making.
  • Whistler signed an agreement with the 2010 Olympic organizing committee to ensure that the games fit with Whistler 2020. For example, development guidelines for the Athletes Village require that the village and future housing neighbourhood comply with the strategy's vision and principles.

Lessons Learned

  • ENGAGE YOUR COMMUNITY IN A MEANINGFUL WAY. Community residents conducted most of the research required to move Whistler 2020 forward, making them a key part of the planning process, rather than simply a sounding board for municipal plans. "If we had done it differently, we might not have been so successful," says Mr. Vance. "We used local expertise-members of the community- so we have that resource for the future. We used external experts for advice and review as necessary or to validate what we did."
  • MAINTAIN MOMENTUM WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS. Encouraging organizations to adopt the vision and principles of the plan created a true sense of ownership within the community. "The task forces were convened to prepare a short-term plan in the interim, which enabled our partners to start on the work program as the long-term strategies were being developed, keeping the momentum going," says Mr. Vance.
  • IDENTIFY A COMMON FRAMEWORK. Using TNS provided all participants with a common language to identify challenges and opportunities. "With TNS, we created a description of success and then worked towards it," Mr. Vance explains. "This planning approach focuses on building a forward-looking and adaptable resort community."
  • DEDICATE IN-HOUSE RESOURCES. Whistler made considerable investments in research, public consultation and preparing communication materials for the community. Municipal staff members continue to facilitate the task forces' meetings, provide them with written materials and document their findings. "It is very labour-intensive," Mr. Vance admits. "But, by investing a significant amount in local resources to engage the community, we have helped the community understand how complex sustainable development can be, and that remains a Whistler legacy."



  • All municipal departments within the Resort Municipality of Whistler


  • The Natural Step Canada
  • Healthy Communities Committee
  • Whistler-Blackcomb
  • Tourism Whistler
  • Whistler Housing Authority
  • Capilano College
  • Terasen Inc.
  • Whistler Museum and Archives Society
  • Whistler Chamber of Commerce
  • Whistler Community Services Society
  • Whistler Arts Council
  • Whistler Public Library
  • Partners for Climate Protection
  • Mature Action Committee
  • Green Municipal Fund
Page Updated: 21/12/2015