Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)

OPINION: B.C. urban-rural divide is a myth

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka writes there is more that binds, rather than divides, our urban-rural relationship

Vancouver and my home in Cranbrook are closer than one might think.

As MLA for Kootenay East, I believe the urban-rural divide is a myth – a false choice. There are more linkages in each community that may require some reminding. As an elected representative in the Kootenays, it is my privilege to offer some perspective of our province in a time of divide.

Whether it is our cultures, wildlife, natural resources, landscapes or waterscapes, BC is home to some of the richest diversity on the planet. Yet, when it comes to where we live we identify this significance as disunion rather than diversity. The context of the urban-rural divide is a myth – a false choice.

There is also distorted impressions between environment vs. economy; fiscal policy vs. social policy; traditional knowledge vs. science-based; Millennials versus Baby Boomers (a segment my children like to remind me of too often). These are mirages usually formulated or implemented for a political purpose. For example, I would like to point out BC has an opportunity to be a leader in both the environment and the economy when unified.

The Urban-Rural issue is not a division as much as it is a misunderstanding. In many ways, when we do not understand something, it frightens us and as a result, it is easier to disassociate or even eliminate than it is to learn and understand. In the spirit of shattering those divides, take a moment to recognize Vancouver as the largest mining community in BC, as it is a hub for hundreds of mining companies, legal, engineering, high tech and other mining support personnel.

Once we as British Columbians can conceptualize and appreciate our remarkable range, the sooner we will understand that what makes us different will make us stronger.

Our commerce, institutions and consumer demand largely come from our urban areas. Our industry, natural resources, and wildlife mainly come from our rural regions. Recreation, Culture and Tourism are a healthy mix of both, and we don’t exist without both.

The Rural-Urban misunderstanding needs to be recognized by anyone that wants to lead our province to the future. Currently, I see this misunderstanding exploited for political gain and sadly it is working. As Aristotle once said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” – that is our BC. We can do better, and we will be better if we can debunk the myth.

Tom Shypitka is a BC Liberal Party MLA representing Kootenay East.

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