All hail another day, another means test for the, as yet, unrealized Moncton Event Center. How has this facility become a white elephant even before it’s been born? For an answer, look no farther than the New Brunswick government and its new “major projects funding policy”.
This policy stipulates, among other things, that a “major project” must be financially sound, socially efficacious, internally fire-proof from failure (either acts of a capricious God or the mendacities of His human agents) and, most importantly, pervasively good for the community in question, the province the community occupies, the country the province calls home, the world the country must endure, and (though not stated explicitly), the cosmos Carl Sagan talked about when he famously called all of us “star dust”.
Specifically, the new policy stipulates the following as law:
“To facilitate regional cooperation and ensure proposals for new recreation infrastructure and major renovations are both feasible and sustainable, the principles outlined below will be used when reviewing projects seeking government funding:
“Applications for recreation infrastructure projects seeking RDC funding must (1.) Include a Needs Assessment Consideration – should be given to the following: a) location of the proposed new as well as existing infrastructure; b) Infrastructure in adjacent communities; c) demographics of the community and surrounding area (both past and anticipated for the future); and d) community plans.” Then there’s “(2.) Include a Business Plan – a Business Plan that demonstrates the viability of the project is a requirement.”
Blah, blah, blah. . .
Here’s the kicker anyone actually needs to know as reported by the Moncton Times & Transcript more than a week ago: “Another policy criteria states successful projects must leverage funding or investment from federal, local or private sources and must demonstrate all required financing is in place before receiving money from the province.”
So, then, what exactly has changed? Isn’t this precisely the same circumstance Moncton faced before the provincial government introduced its newly vaunted Regional Development Corporation Guiding Principles for Recreation Infrastructure Investments (or RDCGPRII, to, you know, just shorten the long hand a tad)?
The story rarely changes in government relations. One level starts with a proposition that it can’t possibly behave responsibly until and unless another does. The second one, in due curtsy-cue, insists that it can’t act appropriately until the first one comes forth with its hand and begs for a minuet around the dance floor. Since both are, essentially, wallflowers, the band plays on, the parents and chaperones get depressed (or drunk), and everyone wakes up with hangover in a giant hole in the ground where an event center ought to have been built before politics became the true name of the tune.
Hey, kids, I have a few ideas. Now that summer threatens, why don’t we, in the Hub City, repudiate any idea of petitioning governments or their factotums.
That vast, ugly, dirt-strewn, 11-acre tract of land in the middle of Moncton can be repurposed in a variety of efficient ways. As the city owns it, thanks to our municipal taxes, so do we. By extension, we could. . .well, just occupy it.
Call it a commons, but don’t bother sodding it over. No, no, we like our suburban mansions far too much to also pay for a downtown park. Let’s just transform it into a free parkade, a place to spin our wheels and, when we’re done, moor our Ford 150s and Ram 1500s until we’re good and ready to take them home to our various “Pleasantvilles”.
It beats letting government tell us what to do with our very own elephant graveyard.