Kitimatians connect on issues through Facebook

Part two in a two part series about how people in and from Kitimat use social media to connect on matters of importance.

Dave Schiller found that a lot of people were nodding in agreement to what he was saying.

The Kitimat-resident was fed up over this past summer due to a lack of access to Kitimat’s waterfront. With Hospital Beach closed, and only one marina in operation — that being MK Bay — he was frustrated, as were many others.

He found enough of a following that he decided to just start his own Facebook group: Future Kitimat Beach.

And when Rio Tinto Alcan announced that Hospital Beach would be re-opened, he let everyone know. He proclaimed on his page, “Good news!” before sharing the details.

The page just started with an opinion that seemed to catch on.

“[How] it started out, I wrote out a blurb on [waterfront access] and put it on my personal Facebook site. I was having a lot of ‘likes’ on it, a lot of comments on it…I figured it’s starting to snowball, it’s not just me venting.”

He was given permission to post a comment to one of the Facebook Buy and Sell groups and interest kept growing. When he hit about 70 ‘likes’, he started up his own page.

He thinks it was effective in at least letting Kitimat Council know people wanted action on waterfront access.

“I think it probably let city council know there are people out there who want the Alcan beach…The turn out may have been the same anyways with or without it. I don’t know,” he said. “The biggest point was to get lots of people on there and show city council that there is no access to the [Douglas] Channel.”

He said he’s not convinced that Hospital Beach will remain open indefinitely so the page will remain so people don’t forget that waterfront access is a real issue locally.

He firmly believes that the access to social media made this Kitimat topic so accessible.

“Because of Facebook you can voice your opinion immediately, and you get immediate responses from people. Without Facebook, without the Internet itself,  you’d be writing flyers, you’d be trying to get a hold of your buddies to pass the message around. It would have been long and complicated,” he said.

In another corner of Facebook is Kitimat Politics, a group of 283 as of this writing.

Sandra Capezutto (you’ll see her by her profile name Sandra Hunter) founded the page over a year ago and it remains a busy, frequently updated page by its members on news items not just local but with local impact.

Kitimat Politics, like many other pages we’ve talked about, spawned from an already existing community page, not associated with politics. But when that original page started to get flooded with political messages and discussion around the last municipal election, Capezutto re-directed it all to this new page.

“It was just one of those spur of the moment things,” she said. “I’m not really a political person.”

She said she hadn’t even voted in 90 per cent of the elections she was eligible to vote in.

“People [in the older group] were getting frustrated with all the political talk so then I saw the need for a politics page.”

Her page remains active, even with election over, and she said the debate is lively, with two camps, for the most part, firing volleys at each other.

“There’s a lot about Enbridge and all the different parties, and [Stephen] Harper,” she said.

Oil pipelines are an important topic for the group, but talk about Canada’s Prime Minister likely tops the charts for conversations.

“There’s a handful of regulars who are quite involved.”

Capezutto, who moved to Kitimat when she was seven, isn’t sure this group can specifically claim victory when it comes to her own political involvement, but she does note that she has cast a ballot in the last few elections.

Those on Facebook can also look up the page of town councillor Mary Murphy, who still updates her campaign page, Mary Murphy for Kitimat Council, but instead of campaign messages she includes a steady stream of relevant news items and articles which she has curated locally or nationally. She’ll also sometimes post updates on what council has done at recent meetings.

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