Local elected politics is a tough gig, not for the faint of heart or the thin of skin. There are the constantly shifting hours and exceedingly low pay, below minimum wage by most accounting. And then there’s the complaining, the mistrust, and the personal attacks. It takes a creeping emotional toll: you try to shake it off, but people say some horrible things to each other, and it sinks down deep and disturbs you. I’ve had profanities shouted at me outside town hall, and had to sit on my hands on the receiving end of hateful, uninformed and sometimes racist diatribes at public hearings.
Three years on, I still struggle with the trauma of my young daughter’s cancer diagnosis and successful treatment. At times, anxiety and depression have compromised my ability to function at my best. I don’t know how much this disorder is related to my personal circumstances and how much is the effect of the pressures of a public role. As a society we’re still learning that we can’t be cavalier about mental health; that just “getting over it” is not strong or sustainable; and that we are slowly evolving into more sensitive, less violent human beings. So, I’m not taking any chances with my mental health and my commitment to meeting my family’s needs.
There are so many wonderful, informed, compassionate people who care about this community and take a view of society beyond their backyards, and I will miss you the most. I hope we are entering a period of greater peace in Gibsons where respectful dialogue will take root. Our “us versus them” mentality is too simplistic; we are fully capable of making collective decisions based on reason and evidence, instead of individualistic partisanship and ideology.
I believe this Council has shown it is possible to listen to one another, and work together to find solutions, even in the midst of deep disagreements. Residents need to lead as well: energy used fighting one another on a personal level inhibits the community from moving forward together, and stops us from living up to our potential. A bigger vision will be critical to stabilizing our climate, the greatest existential challenge and responsibility to our children we have seen for generations.
Sadly for me, I may not be around to see this transformation. My family and I have made the difficult decision to leave the Coast, at least temporarily. I know what you might be thinking: in the 10 years I’ve lived here, I have felt personally betrayed by each and every person who has gone away. For us, it’s about maintaining balance and family cohesion. My spouse loves her job in the city, and increasing demands and responsibilities have made the commute unsustainable. Even with recent positive steps, our ferry and bus systems are still woefully inadequate to meet modern demands.
So I won’t be putting my name forward for re-election to Council this fall. I hope that Gibsons and the Coast will continue to move toward the vibrant, healthy community it has the potential to be. This will only happen if we remember that our neighbours, and the people we elect to make key decisions, are regular people who care. We need to go about the business of the community with common courtesy, civility and dialogue, and greet the darker sides of human nature with humility, respect and compassion. This community deserves nothing less.