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Beautiful British Columbia: best place on earth?

This province really is beautiful, and not just in the Fraser Valley – this statement surprisingly holds true for all of BC: along the Coquihalla, Victoria, even the bits of Kelowna that look oddly like Alberta. It’s all stunning. Look around. Breathe this fresh BC air. Think about how lucky we are to live here.

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By Dessa Bayrock (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: January 25, 2012

I was born in Yellowknife, and my family moved to BC when I was three. I barely remember our house up north, but I remember that I liked it. It had cool stairs and a pantry I liked to hide in. As a result, I’ve always kind of resented BC for, well, not being Yellowknife.

It’s only recently that I’ve realized how stupidly pretty this province is.

Every since I was little, I’ve been reading “Beautiful British Columbia” on every licence plate, to the point where it’s completely lost its meaning. It’s like sitting down and thinking about where Ziploc bags get their name from – a lock that zips? That’s actually an interesting concept.

Likewise, for some reason, I suddenly realized how stunningly gorgeous BC is as a whole. “Well, how about that,” I thought to myself, looking at the brilliant crimson sky over Mount Baker in the morning before class, “Those clouds look like they’re on fire. This province really is beautiful.”

And not just in the Fraser Valley – this statement surprisingly holds true for all of BC:  along the Coquihalla, Victoria, even the bits of Kelowna that look oddly like Alberta. It’s all stunning. Look around. Breathe this fresh BC air. Think about how lucky we are to live here.

Interestingly enough, one of the things that sparked this realization was BC’s slogan change, circa 2006, from “Beautiful British Columbia” to “The Best Place On Earth.” This catchphrase goes on all of our tourism propaganda, both in-province and out. At first, it seems like a minor change. BC is so beautiful that it follows it is the best place to be. That’s kind of logical, right?

But it caused a fundamental change in the way I view the province of BC. I can get on board with calling ourselves beautiful. We are. Straight-up. No bones about it. But the best place on earth? I don’t know about that. What about Venice, or Montreal, or those Peruvian mountains in Up? What about the Grand Canyon, or the white beaches of Mexico, or the organic-looking houses that stack on top of each other in Spain? I’m more than willing to stand behind calling our province beautiful; more than one place can be beautiful, so our quiet assertion is proud and true without being demeaning to anywhere else. But the best place on earth? The second we say that, everyone who doesn’t live in BC is going to be up in our grill about how their hometown region is the best place on earth. It becomes a competition. We can’t help ourselves: we are competitive as a species.

I can understand our provincial government wanting us to stand up and be proud of where we live, but “Beautiful British Columbia” already did that for us. If they wanted us to get competitive about where we live, then they severely miscalculated and forgot one very important point: we’re Canadian. It’s not just the punch-line of every terrible Canadian joke – we are actually polite. If somebody gets aggressive and wants to fight about where the best place on earth really is, we’ll back down. After all, we’ll reason, we haven’t seen every single place on the planet, so maybe this other place really is more beautiful than BC. We have no way of knowing, so why would we fight about it?

But we can absolutely positively assert that we live in a beautiful place, and will always be able and willing to fight for that.

This is why I, among many others, was pleased to see “The Best Place On Earth” slogan slip quietly out the door last summer. Gone are those irritating tourism commercials. The ranks of special edition licence plates are thinning. And as a whole, I’m glad to see it go.

Apparently the decision was easy to make: there was no debate, no written documentation of the decision, and it apparently wasn’t even doodled on a phone pad in some minister’s office. Tyee journalist Bob Mackin requested to see the thought process behind the change, but his Freedom of Information request yielded nothing. As the provincial government told him, “There was no written directive issued… we cannot produce records that don’t exist.” Someone was chatting in the elevator and it was decided. Yes, our province is beautiful. No, it isn’t necessarily the best place on earth. Oh, here’s my floor. See you at the press conference.

So now we’ve returned totally to “Beautiful British Columbia,” a phrase I am proud to stand by, and a statement (when looking at those clouds over Baker) that nobody can deny. This place is unspeakably beautiful. And—off the record—I think it might just be a contender for the best place on earth.

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