“Coastism” is a term we first heard used in a consultant’s presentation to Gibsons council in June of last year. It was defined as discrimination based on how long someone has lived on the Sunshine Coast and was one of the negative findings of focus group sessions probing bad attitudes in the community.
While a certain amount of crusty nativism is natural and par for the course anywhere in the world, some of the complaints about development we’ve been hearing lately have taken a decidedly unhealthy turn. Critics are using legitimate beefs about water shortages and stressed transportation links to oppose virtually all new development and to vilify anyone in any industry who might stand to benefit. Newcomers? We don’t want them. One letter writer last week even suggested that Sechelt had 2,000 people too many. For recent arrivals or prospective residents, and certainly for visitors, the unwelcome sign couldn’t be larger, brighter or nastier.
Like real estate prices, population on the Sunshine Coast has grown at a modest rate relative to the Lower Mainland. But as the decades march on, change happens. The highway and ferries do get more crowded and the outdoor water use restrictions come earlier. These are real challenges that require political solutions and personal adaptations. The truth is, some improvements will happen only after a threshold of continued growth is reached. Meanwhile, the unstoppable need for additional housing of all types feeds the need for services of all types, increasing the need for more housing to shelter the people who provide those services.
If you feel the urge to complain about surplus humans and would like to slam the door shut behind you, please remember that those “extra toilet flushers” could include your next doctor or nurse or paramedic, your children’s teacher, your mother’s caregiver, the senior who returns your lost wallet, the young woman who bakes your bread, the young man who cooks your next meal, the mechanic who fixes your car, the dental hygienist who cleans your teeth, the firefighter who saves your house, or the guy who pumps out your backed-up septic tank on a Friday afternoon.
We are a small community compared to most, and there’s no room here for the toxic notion of surplus people, be it 2,000 or 200 or two.
Fortunately, the Sunshine Coast has generally been known as a welcoming place. That’s the tradition, going way back. Let’s try to keep it that way.