The day I found out I got a job in Penticton — my first journalism job — I’d only hours earlier found out I didn’t get a job in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Having lived in Vancouver for five years at that point, after spending about 20 years trying to get the hell away from Saskatchewan, finding out I didn’t get the P.A. job was only tepid disappointment. Finding out a few hours later, I was moving to Penticton, by contrast, was met with effectively a one-man festival of celebration.
Coming to a new town is intimidating, but I’ve felt nothing but welcome in the South Okanagan by all walks of life. And for that it’s with a mix of displeasure and satisfaction that I approach my final days living in the region as I continue my career at the Penticton Western News’ sister paper the Abbotsford News.
Displeasure because I’ll hate to leave behind the sunshine, beaches and mountains; the hundreds of activities, the entrepreneurs and their businesses big and small and my colleagues. Even my landlord — that relationship that always seems to feel somewhat hostile — has been absolutely pleasure to rent from, and I doubt I’ll ever have a landlord quite so generous as her again.
But that, in a nutshell, is where the satisfaction comes in — those whom I’ve met along the way here in Penticton.
Competing against and working with some incredible journalists in the Okanagan Valley has been an immense learning curve, and I’m a better reporter for it.
Reporting on city councils and school boards; covering our federal/provincial representatives and the provincial election; sitting in court, talking to cops, chasing fire engines and ambulances, filing freedom of information requests — I managed to do it all in Penticton.
In fact, I’m going to be a little upset to be missing this upcoming municipal election, which promises to be an interesting one, both in the city and the regional district. That’s not to mention the federal election next year, which is already looking to be a good one locally. To be sure, I’ll be watching both from afar in Abbotsford.
But one issue has been of most interest and importance to me — this will come with no surprise for anyone who reads bylines.
For two years, I’ve watched how this city has handled the crisis in housing, homelessness and addictions. As much as I heckle city hall on this issue in my occasional columns and as many stories I’ve worked on that have shown a serious lack of affordable housing in this city, I do see positive strides.
A lot of people, myself included, have cited the Portugal example of drug policy — tolerance for personal use, viewing it as a health issue rather than a criminal one. But as a Guardian report from the U.K. has pointed out, similar to what local non-profits have been trying to convey, the success in Portugal “could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction — and itself.”
And while work continues to be done in health care, city hall, policing and corrections, there’s still a lot of work to be done on the community level.
That, too, I will be watching from afar, because I sincerely hope to see this city succeed — not only for the working poor, the small businesses and those in their golden years, but also for those most marginalized.