Thanks to the Outlook for the recent article #Vanlife and thanks to those who contributed to the conversation through letters. The scope of perspectives from house dwellers, vehicle dwellers, visitors and decision makers was appreciated.
To broaden the topic, a Google search of vehicle dwellers lists similar situations in Toronto, Vancouver, Whistler, Seattle (U.S.), and Bristol (U.K.).
People live in vehicles for similar reasons discussed in #Vanlife (Aug. 23) and the concerns held by communities intersect geographies. While Canmore is an exceptional place to live and visit, it is not exceptional in terms of housing issues, increasing populations and employment trends.
We can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that, in this case, we are not that special.
In the last 58 years, the world population has tripled and Canada’s has doubled. Global urban populations have increased from 34 to 54 per cent; Canada’s has increased from 69 to 82 per cent. Calgary specifically experienced Canada’s largest urban growth rate for 2016 at 14.6 per cent.
There are more of us on this floating rock than ever before and most of us are running towards urban opportunity or away from rural problems. For the global upper echelon (if you are reading this, that’s you, even vehicle dwellers), a semi-urban, prosperous community like Canmore seems very appealing.
Along with population shifts, the flavour of Canadian work this century has changed. Pensions and linear careers are less the majority, while contract or entrepreneurial work blooms.
In the context of Canmore’s tourism-based economy, council noted in 2016 that tourism was the dominant local employer; seasonal jobs made up at least a vertebra of the town’s economic backbone.
My small criticism sparked by #Vanlife relates to how decision makers might view seasonal/temporary workers. If these workers are not counted among those who “live and work and help run our community,” then who is staffing businesses that enable tourists to spend $1 million a day in Canmore?
A number of small businesses were short staffed this summer and, despite being busy, reduced operating hours or available services to cope. Many community members stich together seasonal work locally or elsewhere in order to call Canmore home.
I imagine it’s difficult to involve these populations in Town decision-making, but with or without their voices, I would argue they are a significant feature of Canmore’s booming tourism sector.
Now, why Canmore is special? Canmore is safe enough that people can live street-side in vehicles without fear of violence. The municipal government is effective enough to address immediate health and safety concerns inherent to an informal settlement. The community is cohesive enough to hold dialogue around housing, development, and sustainability.
These are rare realties worth celebrating.
All this is to say, keep the conversation going Canmore. Be curious, lean in. Talk to people outside your niche. As the slow churn of democracy adjusts and prepares for a busy future, get to know the variety of people calling Canmore home. Discover what values are held in common, and what differences make us a little special.