Local solutions the best kind

If you look at our living room on any given day you are likely to see a pile of newspapers.
I read three daily papers, two by hard copy and one on-line. Each week we get several weekly papers and it’s always interesting to see how different communities handle the same issues.
But before I go any further I must congratulate Greg Sellnger on becoming premier of manitoba. He won his leadership race handily and he obviously generated a lot of support in the NDP party. I know Mr. Selinger fairly well and it’s no secret that I wanted his opponent, Mr. Ashton, to be premier. The reason was both stated and obvious. Mr. Ashton is willing to debate policy much more readily than Mr. Sellinger. The new premier has , in the past, debated little and spent much. He may, in the future, be forced to reverse that priority. I will do my best to be supportive but I will also do my best to point out better and different ways to run the government of Manitoba.
Closer to home, a review of weekly papers shows that every community in Manitoba is facing huge infrastructure deficits. Neepawa has it’s on-going water debate. Rivers needs a new community complex and the old train station stands begging for new purpose and funding. Every other community has an infrastructure problem.
The real problem is that communities, both large and small have, for the most par,t not had a long term plan. Councils are really only required to have a one year budget. A longer term capital plan is loosely cobbled together but few, if any, have a 20 or 50 year plan.
Long term planning should be easier now than it was in 1950. Many of our towns haven’t grown much since then and the experiences they have had have been repeated over and over again. The smaller towns have of course changed, they have shrunk or disappeared. We should be able to see into the future based on the last 50 years experience. We also can more easily measure, plot and map out infrastructure. With computer modeling and computer assisted drawing and plotting we can quickly update a map, a projection or a written presentation. We have more experience and we have more tools than 50 years ago.
What we are lacking is foresight, will and courage.
We need to face the fact that we have limited resources, that government grants are scarce and elusive and that the only thing we can certainly depend on is our own locally, generated resources. Outside funding and investment is welcome but it’s not the norm. We need to look outside for ideas, for research and for best practices but it’s usually internally that we need to cast our gaze for our long term sources of financial resources for infrastructure construction and maintenance.
That said, every councillor and mayor can tell you about a project that if locally designed and locally built would have come in a lot less expensive than the government-funded project designed by a high priced engineering firm. Stories abound doubling and quadrupling of costs are not uncommon.Something as simple as a low level creek crossing assumes astronomical costs as two federal agencies vie for outrageous spending limits, that is the Department of Fisheries and oceans and the navigable waters regulators. Most people would be absolutely astounded at how small a creek can be and still be classified as a navigable waterway. You would think that Pierre Trudeau himself might want to come back to paddle his famous canoe up some little rural Manitoba creek. There have been creeks subjected to these expensive regulations where even the ducks have to walk upstream in July.
You get the point. While we need to look far afield for ideas, we should be able to implement our own solutions.
I wonder if the government is listening. After Mr. Selinger has had a day or two to celebrate and rest we’ll check back and see.

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kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247