It’s an ugliness that reveals a deeper problem that is developing in Squamish.
Over the weekend, a post on an anti-LNG Facebook page turned nasty. The post was about a Woodfibre LNG employee who was said to be giving out scientific opinions about the spawning and creosote pilings. He’s not a scientist, so it was questioned whether he was spreading false information that served only to benefit the corporation that is planning to build the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.
Perhaps that was a fair post, initially, a reaction by people against a clumsy attempt at public relations. Scientific information should be provided by scientists, not PR people – and not by protesters who lack scientific training.
That’s been one of the key problems in the debate: the lack of impartial and scientific information. But the problem goes much deeper.
Squamish is now polarized around the LNG issue. Both sides in the debate have resorted to name-calling and bullying. The animosity is tearing the town apart and making enemies out of people who should – and would normally – be friends. The weekend attack on Facebook degenerated into an ugliness that became personal and upsetting, and fortunately the post was eventually removed, but the damage had already been done.
The ugliness monopolizes our attention when we should instead be focussed on economic growth. Squamish is becoming a bedroom community for Vancouver and Whistler commuters who are buying townhouses here and travelling to jobs elsewhere. The deeper problem is that there are simply not enough jobs – and certainly not enough of the high-paying jobs – needed to buy homes in Squamish. The latest figures show local real estate costs have climbed rapidly, putting the price of the average home at $436,700, out of reach for many. The last census indicated the median household income here is $57,000.
Squamish does in fact need both industry and tourism – and it needs more than one industry. As a town, we should be working together to jumpstart the economy in a way that will bring economic prosperity and prevent this from becoming the kind of place where Vancouverites sleep. If we continue to focus all our energy on the LNG debate, we might miss out on opportunities to grow Squamish in a way that will benefit everyone.
– Editor Christine Endicott