Sustainability is a word that should mean something to all people, but thus far has been saddled with political implication. And there, in the midst of municipal and provincial politics, the true significance of the word is all but lost, addled in the mire of what for most in Powell River, turns from optimism, to cautious scrutiny, even, in some cases, futility.
The true functional form of sustainability encompasses ecologically sound development and energy management. A sustainable community is economically, environmentally and socially resilient. Management policies within a sustainable community take on challenges in a holistic way, with policy informed by an integrated approach rather than a fragmented approach that might sacrifice one result to get another. Perspective is focused on the well-being of the present and the legacy of the future—what is left behind for future generations. There is public participation by an informed citizenship.
As Scott Randolph, manager of Powell River economic development suggests, any business that punishes its customers like BC Ferries does, is just not something that’s done in good conscience. Each person does their part to build affordability and sustainability into solutions that affect all as a community, but so far, little is coming back from regulatory bodies that are ultimately responsible for drafting sustainability policy.
In the sustainable official community plan (SOCP) public hearing meeting 28 people were scattered throughout the first few rows of the 700-seat theatre. What by all accounts from a distance seemed simply a poor showing on behalf of the Powell River public, could simply mean that in many cases, people have given balanced consideration and a fair shake in participation in the sustainability process and have been turned away. People have weighed in on co-treatment and it was resoundingly rejected at community meetings. Was it an oversight, therefore, that the subject of co-treatment again somehow found its way into the SOCP? The public turned out in droves on numerous occasions to weigh in on ferry cutbacks that will hobble the economic vitality of many coastal communities. Yet, by all accounts, it seems the government will push through with its cutbacks regardless of public process.
Time and again, given a lack of results and a distinct impression that policy makers are actually paying attention, if there is going to be public engagement, the public needs to have a reason for showing up.