It is, perhaps, only natural to expect a fundamentally good economic-development idea in this province to fall prey to petty, partisan politics, posturing and breathtakingly vast buckets of bovine effluent.
Still, that doesn’t excuse the jaw-dropping imbecility that both the Grit-dominated Government of New Brunswick and the Tory-ruled Government of Canada seem determined to manufacture in their respective (and predictably doomed) efforts to win friends and influence people over yet another municipal turf war.
In this instance, the turf in question is a demolition zone where a mall once stood, and where a downtown, mixed-use sports and entertainment facility may one day occupy (if, course, our pols manage to get out of the way of their own wrecking balls to consensus).
As it happens, I live not five minutes from the proposed site in Moncton’s west end; and as much fun as it is to show my grandkids how “Bob the Builder” likes razing the old almost as much as he enjoys raising the new, it’s a trial to explain to my IQ-enhanced three and five-year-old compatriots why the Hub City might not actually see a new, galvanizing civic centre in their good, old Poppy’s lifetime.
Well, you see, boys, we have a member of parliament who likes to issue statements that sound suspiciously disingenuous from time to time: Why, of course, we’re all for a new downtown events centre. Why, you must know, this has been a singular preoccupation of mine and the Government of Canada’s, for. . .oh. . .you know. . .forever, it seems. It’s just that we’ve been waiting for our friends in the New Brunswick government to get on board.
On the other hand, fellows, we have a new premier of the province who seems to have been asleep over the past year whilst in opposition, when all of the forward economic forecasting, cost analyses and return-on-investment calculations definitively stated that if such a facility were to be built in Moncton’s downtown, it would generate more than $12 million for the feds and $7 million for the province in sales tax on construction outlays, even before the blessed facility’s doors open for regular business.
Still, Premier Gallant is on record, saying: “We’re not simply going to continue a project because expectations were given by the previous government for the wrong reasons.”
To which Mr. Goguen has replied (recently, to the CBC), “The province has to sign in on this, so if they don’t put their share in, we don’t put our share in.” Quoting from the public broadcaster’s report last week, the minister added that “the only thing standing in the way of federal funding is for the provincial government to agree to pay its share of. . .six infrastructure projects (road, water and sewer). ‘So, yes, they (the projects) have been identified, they have been submitted, we studied them and we’re to the point where we’re waiting for the sign-off from the province.”
Meanwhile, the only progressive moves appear to involve the steady dismantling of the old Highfield Square property and adjacent structures, which is, of course, both necessary and to, certain young acquaintances of mine, absolutely awesome.
“Can we go in there?”
“How much longer will it take?”
“Is it going to stay empty like that, or will they make a big snow fort in the winter?
Probably and probably not, in that order.
“So, then, why don’t they build something? Like a building or something.”
Good question, I muse. Hey, I venture, maybe you two should become Premier of New Brunswick or even Prime Minister of Canada some day. That way, you can make sure things get done for the benefit of an entire community, and not just a couple of narrow, vote-getting interests. You know what I mean?
A quick pause ensues as I toss one over my shoulder and grab the other one, sack-of-potatoes-like, at my hip, and head off to Grandma’s house, where sausages and maple syrup await the hungry inquisitors.
“What’s Premier of New Brunswick, Pops?”
“Yeah, Pops,” the spud bag joins in, “What’s Prime Minister of Canada?”
Exactly, men, exactly.