[Lots of campaign IOUs outstanding and an empty Liberal Gov’t bank account]
According to the former premier Bob Rae, Ontario is in a mess. I have seldom agreed with Rae on much but upon researching the facts behind his statement as key note speaker at a national conference of construction industry (29th annual CanaData Construction Industry Forecasts Conference in Toronto.) set off alarm bells.
My concerns moved from just being concerned into the realm of being genu9inely worried. Obviously, the construction industry thrives when fresh and new construction projects are taking place. That industry lags behind when the need for fresh project dries up. Other (and wiser) economists than I can go so far as to predict national economic trends following slow down in construction starts.
Seemingly, on the surface looking at the construction cranes in the sky, all would seem well. But according to the Construction Industry forecasts, even this growth is masking a hidden and silent economic illness that is equally as deadly as any human cancer.
Those construction projects that are seen may actually be contributing to a huger and more pervasive problem. The projects that we can observe as works in progress consist of commercial and residential development. And THERE is the problem.
The elephant in the room is the fact that in Ontario, vital infrastructure is lagging behind. In many cases vital infrastructure such as roadways, bridges, water supply and waste water management are all at or near the end of their life cycle and are crying out for replacement or repair.
On a much smaller scale, if we look at the events that took place in Walkerton Ontario in 2000 when waste purification systems failed partially due to human error but on a wider view because the tap/drinking water system passed permitted E coli (Escherichia coli O157.H7) bacteria to enter the human use cycle for about 5,000 residents of that small town. Seven people died and over half the population of that small Ontario town became ill.
There was a vital lesson that ought to have been learned by way of the events of Walkerton that reach far beyond human blame. As much as the Koebel brothers were found to be complicit and the provincial government of day was likely duplicit, the lesson in the event was lost on the public. Simply finding fault did not advance public safety.
Thomas Edison once said that 10 thousand failures led to the birth of the incandescent light bulb. Automotive pioneer Henry Ford added that failure is simply “the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”.
If one only views an obscure breakdown in infrastructure as a human error as in the case of Walkerton, a lesson is wasted. The existing town water well system that served the small hamlet of Walkerton was probably once sufficient to provide water to a few farms clustered together. As the community grew, risks were taken relying on water being taken from shallower soil depths. To compensate, a filtration system was placed in line and all seemed perfectly functional despite the fact that the little (and antiquated) filtration system required constant human monitoring. When that monitoring and human intervention failed; people began getting ill and dying.
Extrapolate the Walkerton lesson from a small town of 5,000 to the 8.7 million residents that live in the “Golden Horseshoe”. According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, official “growth plans” (Places to Grow Plan) the ‘Horseshoe is destined for explosive growth over the next 25 years.
And there is your parallel to Walkerton. The Places to Grown Fund which was intended to assure that vital infrastructure components such as water purification, waste water treatment and a myriad of key life support. Many are unaware that soon to be retired Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion recently announced that Canada’s sixth largest city (Mississauga) had turned a new page. For the first time in decades, Mississauga became debt burdened. The reason? Long neglected infrastructure repairs and replacements had reached the critical point where they no longer could be sustained without large scale reinvestments.
The province of Ontario is currently facing a $60-billion infrastructure deficit that could take 10 years to eliminate, according to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
That statistic should be setting off bells and alarms for businesses operating in Ontario and all residents. The significance and unimportance of emotion driven projects as the much ballyhooed Hurontario LRT with its $1.6 billion price tag pales when compared to critical infrastructure is crying out for ultimate repair and replacement.
It is always nice to boast of growth BUT the urban sprawl that has become Brampton may well have pushed critical infrastructure and services to the point where we may well be mortgaging future generations by way of unbridled growth.
At the end of the day, the fact is that there is really only one “tax payer”. That tax payer is all of us and it really is irrelevant which pocket the tax dollars are taken from. It is unimportant whether the tax is taken from our left pocket by the feds and the province or our right pocket by the region and the municipality.
Instead of hearing incessant nattering over a total of $60,000 of non-complaint spending by the present city council, I hope that the thoughts (above) may encourage voters to seek answers from those seeking election on October 27, 2014.