I’ve been asked many times since my tenure began here why I came back to the Beach (well, technically the Danforth in my case – it remains to be officially decided whether that counts as ‘the Beach’) after moving away to British Columbia in 2010. Some have asked whether Smithers turned out to not be what I thought it would be, or assumed things didn’t really work out as planned. I wanted to clear up a few things about why I returned, if you’ll indulge me for a few hundred words.
First of all, northern B.C. was – and is – a large, empty slice of outdoor paradise. I won’t sing its praises too highly, for fear that too many people may want to move there (a large part of the appeal is the low population), but make no mistake, it is a stunningly beautiful place, with a nearly limitless supply of ways to enjoy yourself outdoors.
The decision to move back to Toronto was one of the toughest we’ve ever made. But, like many other Beach traditions, this newspaper is too important for me to just turn my back and stay away. There are very few – if any – comparable publications, and the fact that hundreds of volunteers deliver Beach Metro exemplifies what Thomas Neal, this year’s Beach Citizen of the Year, calls the “spirit of the Beach.”
A large part of that spirit is a willingness to get involved: with school fundraisers, coaching, church groups, neighbourhood associations, social programs, non-profits and any other number of volunteer opportunities. It’s something I’ve always admired about the people here, one of the things that keep me from becoming cynical on the occasions I’ve been tempted, and one of the big reasons I’m sitting at this desk, rather than hiking up the side of a mountain to report on a downhill mountain bike race or waiting for the first snow to fall on a ski hill.
Sure, people can get a bit worked up about dogs; real estate remains a hot topic, and development proposals can turn neighbours into neighbourhood activists. But that’s exactly the point – people here care about the place they live. We care enough to speak out, we care enough to act, we care enough to wait for hours for a chance to speak for five minutes in front of a group of city councillors who will proceed to more or less ignore everything they’ve just heard, and we care enough to pitch in and help out when help is needed.
As of late, development has been a very heated topic of discussion in the Beach, even more so than in past years (if that’s possible). We do our best to present unbiased coverage of the controversies, but it’s worth remembering that almost everyone involved in the process, whether they support or oppose new development in various shapes and sizes, believes they are supporting the right thing for the Beach. Even when we disagree, we should remember that while we fight for different ends, we do so for the same reason.
We’re all here because of how unique this place is, and the place is unique because of the people. And whether or not all the people agree about everything, the fact remains that the people here in our corner of the city are passionate about our home. We care. No matter what decisions are made by different levels of government, and no matter how many differences of opinion we may have, I hope that one fact never changes.