The snip of ribbons came on Monday after decades of active planning finally got the desired effect.
Premier Christy Clark headlined a list of dignitaries who gathered for the first time behind the "open" sign at the BC Cancer Agency's Centre For the North.
"My mother experienced cancer three times," said Clark, who told of how her mom survived skin cancer first, survived breast cancer second, then succumbed to brain cancer. It was not just the treatment skills and technologies of the building that won her mother so much extra time in life, she explained, it was the ability for her to have family constantly nearby, helping her through the harsh realities of the disease and the hospitalization.
"She got the best possible care - the kind of care you will now receive in Prince George," said Clark. "We got to spend those last months with her in the best possible way - the gift of time together. And finaly, in Prince George, you will also have that gift."
The premier's were not the only teary eyes in the new building's foyer. Many at the event were survivors of cancer who had to get their treatments in faraway places. Many were thinking of loved ones lost to cancer who might have been saved by a cancer centre closer to home.
"Today is an exciting day for [those in healthcare delivery]," said Wynne Powell, chair of the Provincial Health Services Authority. "There were dark days when we wondered if it was ever going to happen, but on behalf of [healthcare authorities], on behalf of families, we thank you for seeing your support through to completion."
"Last year, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 carcinoma of the lymph glands on the right side of my neck and underwent two months of extensive radiation and chemotherapies in Vancouver," said Peter Zimmer, a Prince George resident who was on hand at the event. "I celebrate the opening of the centre as it will provide local treatment for those of us who continue to live with the reality and the consequences of cancer."
The political thanks went largely to local MLAs Pat Bell and Shirley Bond for their efforts in Victoria to make the case for the northern facility, however they pointed to a number of people who did the heavy work to get them the adequate information. Former Northern Health Board chair Jeff Burghardt of Prince Rupert and current chair Charles Jago were applauded for their years of data collection and support building.
Thanks to that effort, and those who helped them in the mission, said Powell, the cancer centre in Prince George "is on time and below budget." The final bill was about$91.5 million to construct and outfit the 5,000-square-metre (54,000-square-foot) facility.
MLA John Rustad from the neighbouring riding of Nechako-Lakes said that when he was living in Prince George, he knew of the local Rotary clubs already fundraising for a northern cancer centre close to 30 years ago. "That went on to form some of the seed money for the [adjacent] cancer lodge," he said. "But that's how long this has been an active issue."
"People would talk to us about it all the time and we said it wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when," said Bond. "When is today."