An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
‘TOO SOON?’ That’ a question sometimes asked when somebody starts a discussion about a negative event while emotions are still raw.
It might well be fitting in connection with an Atco TV commercial that appears to be set in the fire-destroyed town of Lytton. The commercial has generated anger from some residents who feel it was insensitive and exploitive.
And that has prompted many media to do stories about the commercial “sparking outrage.”
Critics of the commercial question how it could even be allowed, since access to the burned out town is strictly controlled, and anyone entering it is required to wear N-95 masks for protection.
And they’re skeptical that Atco has donated substantial funds and other support to the community. The commercial, they say, is all about Atco’s bottom line.
On the other side of the issue, Mayor Jan Polderman has responded by pointing out the company and its film crew were given permission to enter the town, that all safety protocols were followed, and that Atco donated $50,000 to the community. Atco itself says its total support tallies up to $130,000.
Neither was all of the commercial filmed in Lytton. Much of it was filmed in Ashcroft, then spliced in with some scenes from Lytton.
Atco has apologized for any offence it may have caused with the commercial. Its intent, says the company, was not to specifically target Lytton but to represent the company’s 75-year record of helping communities recover.
So, was it exploitive, or a feel-good two minutes about hope for the future?
No doubt, at least some of the frustration with the commercial’s critics stems from the fact that, almost a year after the fire, residents are still waiting to return home. If the commercial had been released six months or a year from now, with signs of rebuilding becoming apparent, there likely wouldn’t have been so much sensitivity to it.
As they say, timing is everything.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.