By: Korie Marshall, Editor
I know the lower mainland of BC has most of the population of the province, but until I spent a few (unplanned) days there, I really didn’t appreciate the urban sprawl of the place – and how much it contrasts to the actual sprawl of the rest of the province. And it’s not just physical; it’s also the services and the wealth that is concentrated in the south west, while the rest of the province vies for often meagre resources.
So much of how our provincial and federal governments fund things is on a per capita basis, which on the surface, seems reasonable – if you live in a heavily populated place. Also, there is obviously a natural tendency for private enterprises to pop up where there are lots of people who might use the services provided. And wherever there are a lot of people, there are usually some people that have more money than they know what to do with. But there are also many more who are struggling to make ends meet.
I drove alongside (and under) the Vancouver Sky Train, saw some of the construction of the new Evergreen Line, and we used our cell phones to look up the cost-per-metre of building the thing. We also used those phones to pay our tolls for crossing the bridge. And we drove in the HOV lanes, which, near as I can figure, are supposed to encourage you to travel with more people in your vehicle by giving you your own special lanes. I listened to a couple complain about the cost of their vet bill while standing at a 24-hour animal hospital, and then watch as she removed her cat to take it to some other 24-hour hospital. It was all so simple, there is so much available, if you just have the money.
But on the drive home, a good seven hours back to the Robson Valley, you see what I call “real life.” There are sections of highway with no cell service, warnings about checking your fuel because the next station is really far away. There are tiny communities like McLure where their only restaurant recently burned down, and their fire department is volunteer like ours here in the Robson Valley.
The “sprawl” between Merritt and Kamloops, or between Kamloops and home, and anywhere else in the province is not filled with communities that were once tiny and have grown and spread to cover the farming landscape with buildings and industry and light rail transport, like they have near Vancouver. The rest of the province is filled with still tiny communities, with a few larger here and there (though even Kamloops is not as big as I used to think). They are spread out, remote from each other, connected by varying qualities of roads, varying speeds of internet and very little public transportation.
But in many senses, I think we are much more of a real community. We have to think every day about many things that city-folk take for granted, we know our neighbours and help each other out, whether directly each day or by volunteer work or by just doing what we do here, instead of fleeing for the cities, which just might be easier sometimes. But not better. As much as I enjoyed getting to know Vancouver more, seeing the ocean again, getting a taste of some of the services (and getting mad at the traffic) – I enjoy coming home that much more.