Editorial: Empowering vs Enabling

Trent Ernst, Editor

There’s a fine line between empowering and enabling.

On the surface, the two mean the same thing: stepping in and helping someone accomplish something that they could not do themselves.

But recently, the word enabling has developed a more specific meaning of help that perpetrates a problem, rather than helps solve it. Lending your drug addict friend money so he won’t have to steal isn’t really empowering the person to face down their addictions, it’s enabling them to continue on with that addiction.

When one person continues to enable another, the relationship becomes co-dependant. The enablers self-esteem becomes tied to their ability to help, even if that help is doing more harm than good.

So, empowering is good, while enabling is bad.

Recently, I’ve been seeing things that make me worried about the relationship that the District has with the people of Tumbler Ridge. Or rather, our relationship to the District. Are we becoming co-dependent? Is the District empowering us, or enabling us?

While it isn’t the only example, the thing that pushed me over the edge was a recent issue that came before Council about a request for an outdoor rink.

If you are like me, your first thought would be “but there is already an outdoor rink, Trent. It’s down by the sledding hill.”

And that, apparently, is the problem, because the outdoor rink is more than a km away from most residences, it should be moved downtown, goes the argument.

Which I don’t necessarily disagree with. What I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around, though, is whose responsibility it is to do it.

I can’t help but think back to when I was a kid. Like most Canadian towns, there was a rink where we could go skating. But there’s just something magical about skating outdoors in winter. So on those bluebird days when we kids couldn’t stand to be inside, even in an arena, we would walk the half a kilometer across the farmer’s field behind my house at the edge of town, carrying our skates and our shovels, to a small pond  set back in the trees. Before we could play hockey, we would have to spend a half an hour, an hour, maybe even longer, clearing off an area large enough to hold our dreams.

Because we were the ones who had done it, we had ownership of our little NHL arena.

I worry that, if the District were to buy the boards for a hockey rink, and move the outdoor rink back up to, say the high school field, or better yet, the tennis courts, people still wouldn’t have any sense of ownership over the outdoor rink. It would be just another thing. The District would be enabling the town to skate if they wanted to, but also to not.

So, how do we turn this from enabling to empowering? What if a group, maybe minor hockey, maybe not, were to say “we really want an outdoor rink. So we are going to ask the District for the space to do this rink, but we are going to take care of it. We are going to flood the ice, we are going to shovel it. We believe this is important, so we are going to take ownership over this.” And all the District would need to do is empower this group to realize their dream.

That involves work, yes, but the sweetest reward is to feast from the fruits of your own labour. It wouldn’t be as easy as just getting the District to do it all for us, but it would be far more rewarding.

With the fate of at least two mines now up in the air, its high time we start taking a bit of ownership of this town. Let the District focus on infrastructure. On fixing potholes and replacing water mains. And if we want, say, an adventure skating track, lets do like the WNMS did with the ski trails and get permission to use an area and go out and do it ourselves.

If you have a vision of what you think Tumbler Ridge should be or should have, it’s not always the District’s responsibility to make that happen for you. Their responsibility is to empower us as residents; our responsibility is to build the community that we want.