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It's Time For Squamish To Grow a Pair And Get Political

10/09/2014 01:55 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST
Chris Joseph via Getty Images

In case you haven't heard, our B.C. Liberal government, cheered along by the federal Conservative Party, wants liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be the nouveau Alberta tar sands, with the massivefracking and pipelines throughout B.C.

That's right. "Beautiful British Columbia" as the licence plates proudly announce.

If you haven't heard anything else about it, B.C. Premier Christy Clark's plan of attack is to locate the first LNG facility next to Squamish. Beside the ocean in Howe Sound.

So what does Squamish think about it?

Now, after some have tried to raise awareness, I'm pessimistic about Squamish fighting the government's policies and industries.

The problem?

It's not a hippy-thing in Squamish. I like hippies. Was a bit of one myself, though a little too young for the '60s groove, so I thought Woodstock happened in Ontario. But I do remember looking at LIFE magazine, at the old-school hippies standing up to the National Guard. Those who demonstrated on the campus of Kent State. I still clearly remember the screaming anguish of the young woman sitting beside the blood pooling out of the killed student. Those courageous enough to oppose the federal government on the war in Vietnam.

But transport yourself into contemporary, insulated life in Squamish, it's becoming increasing obvious that here we are too polite, even worse than typical Canadian mythology puts it.

"Arguing," it seems, isn't cool at all. It's all about keeping it under control. It's like one big high school for many in the community. Remember those days? Fitting in. Smiling. The veneer of serenity. But a bit like the middle-age version of "Mean Girls." For many, it's a blend of lackadaisical shoulder-shrugging, with a pinch of some morphed new-agey, cliquey smirk -- even umbrage -- to political debate. "Negative energy," as the tiresome cliché goes.

But whether the battles of the '60s and early '70s, or the current debates about social and economic justice, this LNG thing is about the very life our communities, and our children will face in the future.

This is not an unnecessary hissy-fight about team colours.

For us in Squamish, it's time we look at the facts. The science. It's about economic reality. It's about political and corporate power.

Next month in Squamish we are facing a municipal election. What to make of it?

For a council that doesn't think its stance matters, funny how our present mayor has been chumming it up with Christy Clark on the Woodfibre LNG ambition for some time now. Even on a little junket with Madam Christy, out to China to gaze slack-jawed at what "could be."

And yet, when asked about the deleterious consequences the facility would have on our local environment, our mayor mimes, "This is really in the early, new stages, but that's something that we've yet to hear about this impacts. I wouldn't want to guess on that." No word, more than a year later, how the guessing has turned to facts.

Astonishingly, Mayor Rob Kirkham's memory is still good enough to remember to run for re-election.

Our present city council hasn't fared much better, largely wanting to avoid any open political debate on the matter. One council member, opposing a referendum but with a fondness for the Woodfibre LNG proposal, sounds like he's channelling days of yore, in the kingdom amongst the peons: "[L]local politicians should show leadership and make decisions for the greater good of the community."

"Greater good" of the community? How's that measured Mr. Council Member? For whom?

As pretty as that platitude sounds, the greatest defect with this flabby version of Utilitarianism, as it calculates the "greater good," is that it ignores basic individual rights, notions of justice, and is flaccid when trying to anticipate future, deleterious consequences.

It's not much better with some of the new candidates running for municipal council. "Not enough information yet." "I'm waiting to hear the facts." Information? Facts? You still haven't done your homework, yet you think you are ready for council?

But wait. I'm arguing now. And we don't like it.

Like it or not, it's time for Squamish to grow a pair and get political. Stop, even for a few hours, the trail bike riding. The hiking. The mountain climbing. The kite boarding. If the mudders really want to "live the life," then it's time to really get dirty. But by putting a little time aside for arguing and debating for the environment you so immensely enjoy. Carefully, with vigor, even rhetorical flourish.

Talk about the facts. Connect with the groups trying to inform the community about LNG. Stripping the fallacies, non sequitur, false analogies, appeal to pity and ad hominem. Looking more closely at the facts and details.

Alas, the problem remains. And it isn't with those who are full-throated in their enthusiasm for Woodfibre LNG. They, at least, are engaging in the politics.

In light of how other BCers are doing it, Squamishers need to recognize. How about those in Kitimat opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline? The West Vancouver council banning the passage of LNG tankers in the Howe Sound? And the mayor of Vancouver ready to run on the platform in opposition to the pipeline expansion?

For some time I used to challenge the notion that "we get the government we deserve." I now see we get exactly the government we deserve. And all the consequences of such a government.

Just don't complain next time when they act like you don't matter. You probably don't.