Getting down to basics

Did anyone notice that Canada hit the $600 billion dollar deficit mark this past weekend?

Don’t read this over a meal.

Available fresh water and sewage that goes somewhere far away from its source; these two things are at the heart of any definition of a modern society.

The ancient Romans are a marvel because by 100 A.D. they already had a system of aqueducts and underground sewer systems that delivered fresh water and cleared waste water away discretely.

This was a huge improvement over throwing sewage out the window and it virtually eliminated the need for laws ensuring that any laundry bills arising out of unintentional splattering would be paid for by the unthoughtful sewage tosser.

Is this gross?  I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder.  But the health of our sewers are an indicator of the health of our towns and cities in much the same way that the health of our own digestive system is an indicator of our own bodily well being.

We’ve all had a stomach flu, or other such malady.  Really, nothing else seems to matter much when we’re in the middle of a sickness like that.  Imagine the consequences of a major disruption to sewage or freshwater services in a large city, or even in a small town like Burns Lake?

Burns Lake isn’t facing a crisis of immanent public works failure, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities report that came out this month isn’t an exercise in fear mongering.

Instead it highlights the need for a plan to provide consistent and substantial cash input into public works, especially sewers, waterworks and roads.  The report calls for the federal government to invest between $3 and $5 billion a year into municipal infrastructure so that the pace of maintenance will not be outstripped by the pace of decay.

The report also criticizes the way infrastructure money has been distributed in the past.  It describes a public works lottery where municipalities hold off on making infrastructure investments in the hope that the federal government will write a cheque to take care of the problem.

Did anyone notice that Canada hit the $600 billion dollar deficit mark this past weekend?  I suspect that the odds of winning the public works lottery just became a little worse.

If anyone takes the time to go through the minutes of village council they’ll find that various councillors have called attention to the problems that lay hidden underground in Burns Lake.    A lot of what exists underground isn’t accurately locatable with current maps, and projected costs and repair timelines are not collected in a unified way that managers can use to confidently plan infrastructure investment.

The concern is that the federal government cannot pay for municipal infrastructure upgrades.  You can sense the unease in a room when people try to discuss an unseen problem developing at an unknown rate that has vague but high and essentially unknown costs associated with it.  The only thing that’s known for sure is that it’s all getting older and more problematic every day.


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