When I was little, my parents told me that I could do anything that I wanted to do, and I believed them without question. I’ve had many ideas of what I wanted over the years. Some worked out, some didn’t.
I wanted to go to post-secondary, I wanted to live and work in small towns around Canada, and to experience new cultures. I wanted a career that I could be proud of. I’ve been able to achieve these and now, I want to own a home.
I’ve lived in small towns all my life (if you can call under 25,000 people small, of which some would call huge). I’ve worked as a Heath, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) Specialist in heavy industries: from road construction to mining to powerline transmission. I’ve seen the opportunity and empowerment that industry brings residents who may have otherwise lived a life of financial struggle.
Living in small towns has made me appreciate and respect the identity residents take on because of their towns. Squamish is no different. I spent half of my childhood there, watching as many locals witnessed their town, their home, slowly lose its own identity.
Squamish was a community of loggers, mill workers, the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw nation, blue-collar workers, and adventure seekers. Now, it’s a bedroom community for commuters. While nothing is permanent and cultures do shift, it doesn’t erase the fact that my hometown and its identity is gone. It’s been replaced by urban professionals who want to impose an urban culture to a town that was here long before they’d ever heard of it.
The “old” Squamish is gone. The Olympics and poor planning by local officials have taken away our options.
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When I was a kid, I used to bike downtown from Brackendale and buy a hot chocolate at some of the local coffee shops. Now when I visit, it’s a 20-minute lineup to get served.
I used to run on the trails in Brackendale, Garibaldi Highlands, and Valley Cliff. Now when I visit, my favorite trails are buried under big houses that some of you reading this are living in.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely happy that the local businesses that I grew up with are doing well. I know a few of the owners and they’ve been able to work hard (sometimes nonstop), grow their small business to expand, increase their investment and real estate portfolios, and retire early and comfortably.
But what about everyone else? I think that I can confidently say that we are past talking about reducing the cost of housing. I wouldn’t want to see my (theoretical) house that I worked hard to buy drop 15-25% in value for someone else to afford. That’s not fair. But neither is setting up an entire generation to face economic struggle.
Not everyone will make $100k a year because of the career that they have chosen, but for those who could, it’s not even an option in Squamish. Where are the local jobs for those who specialize in business, engineering, construction management, red seal trades, health and safety, operations management, city design? These are the professionals who can look after Squamish, design and rebuild the infrastructure and recreate the town in a sustainable and responsible way. Where are the living spaces for them to rent or own?
The “old” Squamish is gone. The Olympics and poor planning by local officials have taken away our options. The van-lifers can’t camp overnight at The Chief anymore. Traffic, something that never existed 15 years ago is a regular and growing concern. Working professionals who make above a living wage can’t afford rental prices (assuming they can find a unit to rent at all). Community buildings that used to be places for locals and visitors to enjoy, are crumbling and falling apart despite increased taxes. Maybe because taxes have been spent on initiatives like making Squamish a hub for solar panels – in one of the cloudiest and rainiest cities in Canada.….really?
To the Squamish Council: you don’t need to talk about making Squamish desirable. It has always been that way. Make it livable.
Make it livable for the barista that serves you coffee, for the customer service worker that takes your membership payment at the climbing gym, and for the thousands of other workers, that make Squamish enjoyable.
Because many of us have left. Teachers, outdoor guides, customer service reps, engineers, doctors, working professionals, and even government administrators. We left for a reason and we haven’t forgotten.
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