Tsawwassen Moves Forward

         Kim Baird  

                                                                               Photo by David Fierro


If you want to know the mettle of recently defeated Tsawwassen chief Kim Baird, you could do worse than consult Twitter, where for two years she posted an entertaining and heartfelt gloss on what it means to be a young, powerful, female leader negotiating for the future of friends and family. Until September 5.

“I am 23 years old,” someone wrote her in a Tweet. “Maybe there’s a four-term chief I can oust in a surprising upset election!!! #lol”

“I was a 6 term chief,” Baird posted in reply. “Aim higher! ;). Lol.”

Challenger Bryce Williams was as surprised as anyone to oust Baird, who worked for the Tsawwassen from the time she was a 20-year-old treaty researcher putting herself through Kwantlen. The night she lost she Tweeted: “Count down is a horse race. Bryce is 3 ahead of me. #nailbiter.”

Then simply: “I lost.”

The next morning, a subdued Baird sits in the modest chambers of Tsawwassen council to talk about the end of her reign and about possible futures. “Yeah, it was a gong show last night. I really pulled the grenade pin when I Tweeted I lost.” When Williams’s nine-vote lead was announced at the rec centre, she says, daughter Amy burst into tears: “She’s never known me any other way.” I told her: ‘We’re going to be okay.’ ” (Five days later, on Twitter: “My oldest daughter, Amy , has told me she’s running for vice-president of her student council at her school *grin*.”)

“I just wish I could have had one more year,” Baird says now, glancing over at a copy of the official community plan leaning against a wall. “There’s still so much to nail down.” That community plan—which incoming chief Williams says “will continue; I’m looking forward to the future”—encompasses four major areas. In its pastel vision of the future it resembles the current scrubland behind Splashdown Park to no recognizable degree. Some of the growth areas, like the marsh that extends between existing housing and the ocean, won’t see immediate changes. Not cost-effective to use now, says Baird. Ditto the industrial portion, which nearby Port Metro Vancouver is “pretty keen” to use for container-related business. More urgent are the commercial lands, including two malls (a strip mall from PDG and an indoors one from Ivanhoe Cambridge) and the residential towers from Aquilini, Onni, and others that will house thousands of newcomers. (The Aquilinis’ Tsawwassen Shores has show homes already open for viewing.) Remaining space will accommodate the band’s 439 members, half of whom live in the area at any given time, plus provide upgraded amenities like roads, government facilities, and a school.

Williams will adjust the plans, of course, as his term progresses. Raised in Tsawwassen (his dad is Coast Salish; his mum, Haida), he says the biggest change will be “to be more involved on a personal level. Just really to be here for people and take the time to talk. I think Kim focused maybe too much on the economic side; I want to mix it up quite a bit, really listen to people.”

There’s one problem he must address right away: the land itself needs to be brought up above sea level. Any day now, trucks will begin hauling dirt in earnest—six days a week, 24 hours a day—down Highway 17 until the Tsawwassen have lifted themselves high enough to meet their future.