Flip of the Coin
ALLIE NICHOL/STAFF WRITER
Part of the job of being a reporter is attending meetings. My beat often requires me to attend so many meetings, I joke about seeing local politicians more than my own family. The issues I cover vary, of course, and while they all have merit, I would be lying if I said every one of them makes a specific impact on me.
There’s no denying I feel affected by matters regarding hot button topics such as B.C. Ferries, economic development and transportation, to name a few, but not every bylaw passed, wall painted or cross walk installed weighs heavily on my mind.
But last week something shifted in me, and I was unable to completely punch out from work.
Over the past month, I have been covering a proposed development on Shaw Road in Gibsons. The proposal has been discussed at regular council meetings, and two public hearings were also held, enabling people to have their say on the multi-unit project. The matter snowballed into a highly contentious issue, so much so, in fact, I have never seen the gallery so packed at Gibsons council.
At the hearings, both sides had terrific arguments, and I say that not only as a reporter, but also as a Sunshine Coast resident. Although I was there to do a job, I enjoyed hearing people’s reasoning, even if emotions ran high.
Neighbourhood development is a delicate issue, to say the least, and emotions can sometimes get the best of many. And that’s what public hearings are for — to hear what the public has to say. It’s a beautiful exercise in democracy.
Then came a few comments that nearly threw my support of free speech and belief in democracy out the window.
One citizen, who lives in the vicinity of the proposed development, shared numerous reasons why he disapproved of the development, turning from valid to ugly. Not only did he oppose the project, but he referred to potential unit renters as “undesirables.” He then likened renters and first-time buyers of “cheap residences” as the kind of people who would not fit into the community.
My heart truly sank when I heard those comments. I tried to get back to the task at hand, recording the rest of the meeting, but could not get the man’s words out of my head.
Driving home after the meeting, I pulled up to my house, which I rent, still thinking of the comments. Granted, the location of the development is in an area dominated by single-family dwellings, but if I were that man’s daughter or granddaughter, would he see me as an undesirable if I rented a unit in the development?
After reminding myself it was only one person’s point of view, I was still surprised such classist notions could exist, particularly in these days of economic uncertainty. Home ownership is a luxury, one that I am unsure I will ever be afforded, even with hard work.
Gibsons council agreed times have changed. I concur, and feel those who judge others based on socio-economic status are behind the times themselves.