I still find political attitudes towards growth puzzling, to say the least. What kind of growth, you ask? Economic growth? Population growth? Well, it doesn’t really matter. Our politicians want it, in great dollops, as if it was the key to the Kingdom.
I attended a forum a while back for the Agassiz Riding in the upcoming provincial election, attended by three of the candidates. To a person, they praised growth as the ultimate goal. But it mustn’t come from government. Government is there only to create a “climate” for private investment. Private industry is what we need, although none had a specific proposal as to how that sector could be “tapped” for more job creation.
All this at a time when the Neepawa Chamber of Commerce (which sponsored the event), itself noted that our population growth is “putting pressure on job availability.” To which one candidate responded, “A good problem to have!”
Meanwhile, enrolment in local Kindergarten to Grade Six classes has been growing so much they are bringing in temporary classrooms (I believe they are called “huts”). If two more “huts” can’t be found by September, places like the school library and computer room will have to be pressed into service. More teachers need to be hired and there are even plans to add a new “middle school.” This, in turn, is putting pressure on playground space, where the equipment is growing old and needs to be replaced, likely at considerable cost. (What all of this is doing to the quality of education is anyone's guess.)
Then there’s a new hospital.There’s little doubt that such a facility has been needed for some time. But, if we get one, what will a steadily growing population do? Bump up the time when we’ll need yet another?
While these may be “good problems to have,” I doubt they’ll be solved by private “entrepreneurs.” They’ll be solved as they usually are by taxpayer dollars from you and me. The same goes for infrastructure. One candidate promised that, in government, her party would spend a billion dollar a year on crumbling roads and bridges. Not much “entrepreneurship” there!
I’m not sure what a burgeoning population will do on that front either, except put even more pressure on that crumbling infrastructure, leading to more and earlier replacement again down the road; All at a time when the provincial debt and deficit continue to grow and politicians like these scream for restraint and austerity.
Call me crazy, but I kind of like driving downtown, being able to find a parking spot where I want, not having to fish for change to pay a one-armed bandit and to leave my car unlocked or walk down a street at night without undue fear of being robbed or mugged; Or for that matter, navigating Highway 16, whether by car, on foot or on bicycle, and not having to deal with even more semis whizzing by than there are now.
So, if you don’t mind, I won’t be bowing down at the altar of the Great God of Growth quite yet!