City council has to make difficult choices as to what capital projects and other activities it is going to fund, but doing so behind closed doors does not increase public confidence in the process.
It is also maddening for the members of the library board who must try to plan for the future without any idea of where their project stands in terms of council’s fiscal and political priorities.
Complicating all capital spending decisions in the city for the coming years is the fact that the Old Bridge continues to rust away and will have to be taken down before it collapses into the river. The estimated cost of simply demolishing the old girl, without building anything in its place, is a staggering $5 million, which is three times the projected cost of moving the library into the old Field’s building on Cedar Avenue.
Wrestling with a number like that, for which Trail and it citizens will get absolutely nothing in return, is what makes old city councillors even greyer.
With the New Democrats continuing to lead the polls by a good margin, it looks like Trail will be represented on the government side of the legislature for the first time since 2005. The city has some renewed hope of convincing the province to assist in taking down the bridge, which the province built and operated before handing it over to the municipality when the new highway bridge was constructed.
But that seems to be a faint hope at best. Provincial finances are mired in the red, the New Democrats have plenty of spending priorities of their own and, after a dozen years of pro-business Liberal stewardship, the provincial economy is no more buoyant than when they took office.
While the New Democrats were last in power, low commodity prices dragged down the resource dependent provincial economy. After the Liberals took over, commodity prices boomed internationally, so did real estate, and times were good for a while.
A dozen years on, commodity prices are sliding again, although they are still far above the trough of the 1990s. The world-wide economy has still not emerged from the downtown of 2008 and in some European countries, such as Spain and Greece, a quarter of the workforce is unemployed.
In British Columbia, the unemployment rate at 7.3 per cent is slightly below the national average but well above that of the other western provinces, where the figures range from 4 to 5.1 per cent.
In Trail, local food banks are “in crisis” according to a recent headline in The Times. The unemployed, the working poor, and the hapless and the hopeless are turning up at Trail’s three food banks in greater numbers while the supply of goods is not there to meet the demand.
Meanwhile, the provincial election campaign drones on, with the party leaders attacking each other’s driving and public transit records and making vague statements about the economy.
New Democrat Adrian Dix is falling all over himself trying to find ways to prevent votes leaking to the Green Party while Premier Christy Clark claims to be the piper for liquid natural gas gold, a tall claim given her appallingly vague and vapid performance on the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
If British Columbia is ever going to be able to feed all of its hungry citizens, someone is going to have to acknowledge that this is a resource-dependent province and the Pacific gateway for a resource-dependent region, and stop dreaming that tourism and organic vineyards are going to replace mining and forestry as generators of jobs and prosperity.
Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer had a nice term the other day for the deadening political force that prevails in this province – BANANA, which stands for “build absolute nothing anywhere near anyone.”
This sentiment results in the unbelievable phenomena like the 20 years over the reins of both left- and right-wing governments in this province it took to make a decision on the Jumbo Resort proposal.
Whether you think that building another ski area on a pristine glacier in the East Kootenay is a good or bad idea, any reasonable person would have to conclude that taking two decades to say “yes” or “no” to the project does not offer much encouragement to those with an entrepreneurial bent.
If this keeps up we will have to change the provincial slogan to “Beautiful and Hungry B.C.”
Raymond Masleck is retired Trail Times reporter.