The ‘good neighbour’ policy has come up twice now when elected officials are asked to address the brouhaha over a helicopter tour springing from Semiahmoo First Nation land along the waterfront.
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin suggested it earlier this month, while noting there are better ways for the Semiahmoo band to earn revenue: “It’s more a question of being good neighbours.”
And South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts suggested it this week, noting that even if allowing the tours meet all federal rules: “Sometimes it’s less about regulation and more about being good neighbours.”
It’s like taking a page out of Fred Rogers’ songbook, “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?” That famous song suggests since we’re together, we might as well try to get along.
The beachfront tours, by White Rock-based TRK Helicopters, whirled into town last month and received instant negative reaction from many residents. Others, it should be noted, spoke out critically of complainers, noting they don’t share the concerns and that the Semiahmoo Peninsula community historically has a cacophony of complaints over issues with which other communities seem to cope more readily.
More succinctly, they’re treating the issue like the boy who cried wolf.
Given the number and types of concerns, however, it makes sense for elected officials to sit up and take notice.
The City of White Rock rightly suggests its hands are somewhat tied, directing complaints to the First Nation and to Transport Canada. While First Nation involvement certainly precludes the issue from being a civic one, it might be suggested that there is more that could be done, with city officials actively trying to hold talks with all parties concerned.
Indeed, both White Rock and Surrey councils could play more of a role in this dispute – even if they believe their efforts won’t bear fruit.
This seems to be more the approach of Watts, who wants to meet with Semiahmoo First Nation and the tour operator, in addition to reaching out to the federal transport minister.
While there is no solution in plain sight, facilitating discussions might just bring sides a little closer together, which is what sharing a neighbourly community is really all about.