Small Town Living

Trent Ernst, Editor


I love living here in Tumbler Ridge. I still don’t know if this is where I want to die, but it’s a great place to live.

But there are issues living in a small northern town a few kilometres east of the middle of nowhere.

The most recent one came after writing last week’s story on how to cut down on heating expenses.

In the story I mentioned that BC had a special program for home owners, where the province would cover a portion of the expense to make your home more energy efficient.

After writing that story, I wanted to write a follow up on the LiveSmart program.

When I went to the LiveSmart website, it invited me to “Enter the first 3 digits of your postal code to find a Certified Energy Advisor in your area.”

Which I did, and discovered there are two companies with Certified Energy Advisors in this area.

I called the first number, which was a 1-800 number and reached head office somewhere, most likely back east. They gave me the number of their northern BC office.

When I called that number and told them I was in Tumbler Ridge, the lady at the other end said “yeah, we don’t go there.”

Alrighty then.

So I called the second number, a Prince George number, expecting about the same reaction. Imagine my surprise and delight when they said “yes, we come out that way: Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John…”

I asked her further about the program. She says the initial cost was $300, half of which the government would cover. In addition, there would be a $50 travel fee, assuming that there was more than one or two people who signed up.

We started talking a little about the gas shortage issue that Tumbler Ridge faced, and I mentioned that PNG was building a virtual pipeline to Tumbler Ridge, and how gas prices were going to go up again next year.

She listened patiently to the story. Once I was done, there was a moment’s pause, then she said “the program does not apply to PNG customers.”

Turns out that, because Fortis BC is one of the partners in the program, people in Tumbler Ridge are out of luck.

And because PNG runs a virtual monopoly in town, the only option for people to take advantage of the program is to switch to electricity (which, if you’ve been paying attention is far more expensive), or use wood heat as their primary source of heating.

This isn’t going to turn into a Masters of Renovations article. It’s just an observation that, despite all the things I love about living in Tumbler Ridge, there are trade-offs that must be made.

Like shopping. I don’t like shopping, so I’m good with there being very few stores in town. But it does mean that when I need to pick up a new pair of shoes, I have to travel to Dawson or Grande Prairie.

Same thing with entertainment. There might be a time in a few years where Tumbler Ridge might have the population to support a first or second run theatre, but there’s no chance of getting a multiplex with an Imax screen. At least, not in my lifetime.

And I moved to Tumbler aware of these things. I’m not complaining. There are a few movies that I’m willing to drive to Grande Prairie for and the rest will make it onto iTunes in a few months.

But every once in a while, something like this Live Smart thing happens, and it catches me unaware. Why should Tumbler Ridge be discriminated against in this manner?

But that, too, is part of the trade-off. And there’s an awful lot to recommend this place. I was biking to work and wiped out (long story, my fault). I got back on my bike and went to the clinic, where I could walk right in. Whereas the last time one of the kids needed medical attention while down in Vancouver, we stood in line for two hours and finally just gave up on the process. Sure, we are facing an impending crisis at the clinic if we can’t find some more staff, but the folks we have now are priceless.

So despite the occasional shock of finding out a Government program for all citizens of BC is not applicable to me because of where I live, the good far outweights the bad.