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From Growth to Sustainability: Community Discourse on Changing Approaches to Resort Governance in Whistler, BC

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From 2000-2012 The Resort Municipality Of Whistler (RMOW) took steps to radically shift its governance approach from one based on growth to focus more on sustainable policies through the creation of a Comprehensive Sustainability Plan (CSP) that empowered the community to guide decision-making. The RMOW’s status as a pioneer in the realm of establishing a governance approach based on principles of sustainability has been studied by Gill and Williams (2008, 2011, 2012) the findings of which create the foundation of this study. This research employs a path creation lens as described in Garud and Karnøe (2001) to determine what underlying forces influenced the resort’s transformation. To observe this transformation a newsprint database was created and analyzed by collecting articles from 2000 to 2012. A total of 2,380 articles from 646 issues of the Pique Newsmagazine were collected, summarized and coded for this study. The findings suggest that the path towards sustainability was forged when a group of individuals and organizations, the Early Adopters, began a process of community conditioning to promote local stakeholder buy-in. Ultimately, while significant and meaningful change occurred within the community and local government the sustainability movement, and those who supported that movement, were inhibited to varying degrees by global and local forces beyond their control.
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