Who’s Afraid of Squamish Speaks ?


By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 27, 2012

Coun. Doug Race flinched.

His eye brows strained for a second and he slumped back into his chair, the look on his face one of disappointment and anxiety.

The council had been discussing social media strategies when Coun. Ted Prior made a remark that seemed to have upset Race.

“May be we could have something like a Councillors Speak on Facebook,” Prior said in jest.

Facebook Squamish Speaks was the elephant in the room as councillors discussed the communications plan presented by the district’s new communications manager Christie Smith.  

Anyone who reads the following would know the district is referring to Facebook Squamish Speaks, a powerful online platform for community debate and discussions, even if at times riddled with negativity and parochial bitterness.

“The District of Squamish should not engage in dialogue on other Facebook sites that have a history of fostering or tolerating disparaging commentary or that do not follow Facebook Terms of Use.”

There is more: “It is not recommended that district staff feed this grapevine with self-serving information that simply adds to the facts.”

The truth is that the district has no place, real or virtual, where it engages with the public in a forthright, honest fashion.

It has no way to find out what the community thinks or feels about its policies and programs. Facebook Squamish Speaks or any such blog or media site has simply filled that vacuum.

But, now the district has realised there is indeed such a thing called social media, and it might even be useful if only they stopped turning their nose at it.

As part of the plan, the communication manager will soon provide information to community in the online platform of the Squamish Chief, a media organisation with which the district enjoys “positive working relationship”.

The plan also calls for sharing good news stories, on nurturing relationships and building trusts and transparency with local reporters.

That would also include coordinating meetings with the Chief reporter for feature stories such as on sewers, waterways, and dikes. The district will keep pitching good news stories to unspecified local media.

There will be media scrums, where local and Lower Mainland reporters would get the chance to learn about what the district is doing.

The district also plans to redesign its website, with a media centre for dissemination information and positive new stories.

The plan also calls for building the Mayor’s unique brand, which would involve him tweeting all the latest news and gossip about the district.

And last, but not the least, it would create a Facebook page for where councillors and the district staff can create their own space for community debate and discussion.

It won’t be called Councillors Speaks, although the Mayor and councillors will try their best to wean away people from sites that have “disparaging commentary”.


  1. Jaspera says:

    Poor Squamish! Poor councillors! So afraid of Squamish Speaks and “disparaging
    remarks”. I thought this was till a democracy where freedom of speech, including criticism, still exists. Yes,some disparaging remarks have occurred on Squamish Speaks but usually those have been between and about posters, and not in much detail about Councillors. In fact the District and this Council have come off pretty lightly, some would even say too lightly,but if Councillors can’t take the heat then they shouldn’t be in politics. As for the new Communications policy, saying nice things all the time is all well and good, but if things are bad under the surface and people know that, saying nice things won’t clear those up and, in fact, will ultimately contribute to a rather nasty festering sore that will eventually erupt. A positive working relationship won’t occur UNTIL residents believe that Councillors really, truly are not only listening to them, but taking into account in their policies, planning and implementation strategies the electorate’s/resident’s deepest worries and concerns. For example, do the councillors really think that taxpayers are happy about the process used and the action taken to vote themselves a 35% increase in salaries, a bare 4 months after they were elected. Do they really think that disparaging remarks about them and their actions re that farce are not floating around town, and not just on Squamish Speaks. Do they not think people areasking what about next year – another over-the-top budget plus another 35% increase in councillors`compensation. Yes, there are many disparaging – and humourous – remarks but they are by no means confined to Faceback Squamish Speaks.

  2. parkersson says:

    Good idea, they need their own Facebook page to share info and get feedback properly. Not some random public owned group. Last time I read through ‘squamish speaks’, it was really negative, argumentative and it seemed like it was full of people who had personal rifts with councillors.

  3. David Burke says:

    Hi Gagan: With great respect, no one has yet approached The Chief about having a district-provided “online platform of the Squamish Chief,” and if they do, the editorial department will make sure that if any such platform is being proposed, it will have to be made very clear that this is not our content but theirs before we will agree to anything. As for Rebecca’s excellent recent series of articles on Squamish’s crumbling infrastructure, it was her who co-ordinated, researched and wrote the series with absolutely no direction from municipal hall. In making these references I’m sure you’re merely reporting and commenting on what’s in the plan, but I thought it best to clarify these two points.

  4. Elliot says:

    That’s your opinion Parkersson, and a negative one at that! I’d rather hear everyone’s comments good and bad, than waste time in a censored government forum. If you criticize a public group, then you don’t understand the meaning of free speech. Get on there and make a whole bunch of positive comments to outweigh the bad; the power is yours to do so in an uncensored open blog!