Infrastructure Inferno!

January 28, 2009 at 12:58 am 5 comments

Or: Why is it when other cities roll up their sleeves, Victoria wrings its hands?

Yesterday, the Federal Government said it would open the vault and fund infrastructure projects in an effort to boost the faltering economy. In the hours that followed, every mayor from Medicine Hat to Montreal boasted that their community had a list of “shovel ready” projects ready to go–all that was needed was that government handout.

From the Globe:

Then there are the big centres, such as Montreal, where a spokesperson for Mayor Gérald Tremblay said the city has $1.2-billion in “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, roughly $270-million of which would be earmarked for sports, recreational and cultural facilities and another $500-million for parks.

“We have the projects identified, we have a list of priorities, and we are ready to go,” said Renée Sauriol, who added all the projects await only the official go-ahead and could easily be launched in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Alas, will Victoria be overlooked at the feeding trough? We too, have a list; ranging from the minor (new bus shelters) to the major: a new Centennial Square library complex, a new Belleville terminal, a rehabilitated Johnson Street Bridge, new recreation facilities to name but a few.

But can we really call any of those big ticket items “shovel ready”? Premier Harper’s offer will have an expiry date and since even the most minor initiative requires endless report-writing and community consultation is there any hope that any of these projects can be fast-tracked to take advantage of this rare instance of Federal gift giving?

Co-incidentally (or not) the big news out of City Hall this week was that our infrastructure was “close to collapse” Keith Vass lists them for the Vic News and follows up here.

Project sampler

• Centennial Square revitalization (new downtown library/parkade) : $80 million

• New civic pool: $58 million

• Stormwater mains: $58 million

• Sewage main rehab: $57 million

• Water mains: $39 million

• Repairs and upgrades to city hall: $17.5 million

• Fire hall #1 rehab/replacement: $15 million

• Bike lanes on Point Ellice bridge: $3 million

• Roads and sidewalks: $1.4 million

One of the only sure bets is Federal funding for sewage treatment. Ironically, this is one project not everyone agrees is necessary now.

Other cities are revving up the bulldozers in anticipation but I fear that Victoria’s big effort will be to create more stacks of three-ring binders, workshops and PowerPoint presentations.

Entry filed under: architecture, City Hall, Victoria's economy.

The Cuff Report [updated, March 18, 2009] Six storey wood frame construction

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yule Heibel  |  January 28, 2009 at 9:36 am

    “Island time” strikes again?

    This is depressing… Depressing, for one can’t help but think of the old saying that a people get the leadership they deserve.

    In which case I guess we could be called …no wait, I can’t write that in a polite publication. But it starts with “w” and has 7 letters if you count the “s” at the end to make it plural, and rhymes with those large ships that carry oil and other goods across the oceans.

    Great subtitle, Rob. about others rolling up their sleeves while we wring our hands.

  • 2. Yule Heibel  |  January 28, 2009 at 9:43 am

    PS: For a strategy that might help us to bust through our chronic logjam, see this article, just out in MIT Technology Review, Wiki Your Town Council – A new effort seeks a database on all U.S. elected officials. From the article:

    For years, political parties have amassed national databases on voters. Now voter groups are increasingly collecting data on the politicians. This includes an ambitious new effort to create a central repository of data on all 513,000 U.S. elected officials, down to village councilor and sewer district board member.

    Believe it or not, it was started by Newt Gingrich, but even my friend David Weinberger agrees that as long as it remains non-partisan, this is a great initiative.

  • 3. Yule Heibel  |  January 28, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Here’s another thing that troubles me: not sure when this article was published in the Times-Colonist (it must be very recent), but here we get the impression that agents/ agencies working separately from municipal government are making greater strides in connecting the dots (and possibly getting the money that’s on offer) than our elected leaders are. IOW, the elected leadership is …well, doing something, not sure exactly what, while the non-elected agents are trying to do the heavy lifting. From the article, Times Colonist Reports: Construction industry cheers billions in federal spending

    The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce was also giving Flaherty’s stimulus package a thumbs-up.

    “Our challenge now will be to identify those projects that can be brought forward through a municipal partnership and still represent a long-term economic benefit to the entire region,” said chamber CEO Bruce Carter, noting expansions to the airport runway, the Ogden Point Cruise Ship terminal and the Vancouver Island Technology Park should be on the radar.

    The tourism industry welcomed the federal government’s initiatives, noting $800 million in new spending will certainly help as the industry has hit “challenging economic times.”

    The funding initiatives included $40 million in marketing money over two years for the Canadian Tourism Commission, $100 million for marquee festivals and events over two years and $150 million for Canada’s national parks system.

    Tourism Industry Association of Canada president and CEO Randy Williams said those investments will improve the way “we deliver experiences of some of Canada’s most important tourism destinations, and will provide both international and domestic travellers with even more compelling and urgent reasons to visit Canada.”

    Nowhere in this entire article is there a single mention of Mayor Fortin or other City of Victoria elected officials. But tourism officials and Chamber of Commerce CEOs and Victoria Shipyards general managers are quoted at length.

    Those folks, it seems, have something to say, have some plans, are pushing to move something forward, but the rulers of the various fiefs are nowhere quoted.

    It’s a surreal moment. It’s as though in truth everyone knows what’s what: namely, that the elected leadership of our collective municipalities is irrelevant, and that we have to look to others. How else to explain that a longish article Times-Colonist on the Federal budget’s infrastructure spending initiative fails to mention a single local politician?


  • 4. Yule Heibel  |  January 28, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    PS: In contrast, google “Gregor Robertson” + infrastructure + “federal budget,” and you get many results that tell you how the mayor of Vancouver is tackling the situation.

    Do the same with “Dean Fortin” inserted instead of “Gregor Robertson,” and you get a fraction of results, topped by “Report says infrastructure in Victoria is near collapse.”

  • 5. robertrandall  |  February 10, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Thanks, Yule. I fear our infrastructure entitlement has already been earmarked for sewage treatment.

    The Times Colonist’s Jim Hume has a good take on it. He’s a voice to respect as he’s been monitoring Victoria closely for a half century (he points out to his chagrin that he’s a year younger than the obsolete, crumbling Johnson Street Bridge).


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