Yesterday, Norbert had a column on the inadequacies of our mass transit system in Moncton. I thought he had a good point. I thought his analysis was shallow, and his remedy non-existent. But he had a good point. Then I saw today's paper. Norbert had another column on the same topic.
The editorial was on the same topic. (Wasn't that true of yesterday's editorial, too?) And the cartoon was on the same topic. Well, this looks like a full court press. But why?
It's for a reason that has nothing to do with Codiac transit. Nor will any other of heir suggested issues (however delightfully vague they may be) matter a poop. So what's it about?
It's about the civic election. The editorials and Norbert's column and the cartoon are about taking the heat off at least two issues that are far, far, the most serious issues facinig this city. (Norbert gives a list of the big issues he thought we should be discussing - discarded drug needles, more frequent sidewalk clearing,more small green spaces around town...) He makes this nonsense into a fighting speech. Yessir. Make this a fighting campaign for the politicians. Sure. Hit them with those feather pillows.
What's going on?
The Moncton Times and Transcript wants to bury the real issues. There are at least three issues that tower way over anything I have seen in this big push to improve transit. In no particular order, they are
1. Moncton High School 2. the building of a hockey arena (oops - sorry -events centre) 3. The failure of city council to produce a credible plan for the future development of Moncton.
That final point should come long before we even think about a hockey arena. How can anybody with half a brain even think of borrowing a hundred million or two hundred million or more to build such a centre with no plan of how people are going to get to it.? With no realistic forecast of the economy over the coming years or even next year?
Events centres don't create mass transit to get to them. It's the other way around. That's the history of the whole world. We already have shops and boutiques. They're in shopping centres because shopping centres are easy to get to, and easy to walk around. Sticking up an events centre with no easy, convenent and comfortable access to it - summer and winter - isn't going to work.
Moncton's first priority for planning for the future is mass transit. And the key word is future. And what are key problems we have to face? Hint - the high price of fuel, the inconvenience of bus service in winter, Has council even thought of those?
What are the problems of heavy borrowing for an "events" centre? Well, for openers the world is in a recession, and nobody knows where this is going. What a great time to borrow a hundred million of more! What a great time to stake the future of downtown on the hope of lots of big conventions and expensive attractions - including hockey games.
Has it not occured to anybody that if there were a profit to be made in building the centre, the Irvings would build it? Do the Irvings have a long history of passing up profits so that we can make them?
You want a vibrant centre to downtown? You want people to live downtown. And you're moving the high school to the boondocks? You're moving it away from the city library? You're moving it away from the new museum? You're moving it was from a gem of a theatre like The Capitol? You're moving it away from the art gallery you should have and could have for far less than the cost of a second hockey rink?
I was lucky. I went to a school in the heart of Montreal's downtown. There was a magnificent art gallery just down the street. the McGill museum was just across the street. We went to a theatre much like The Capitol a short walk away. It was called Her Majesty's. Our teachers took us to plays, to concerts, to readings I shall never forget a magnificent reading by the Hollywood actor, Charles Laughton. Sprawled on a chair on stage, he held a thousand normally rowdy high school kids spellbound - while he read from The Bible.
Going to a downtown high school, I learned what kids in Moncton seldom get a chance to learn - that standing on a hillside with a plastic cup of beer to listen to an aging rock group is not life's only enjoyable experience.
The Moncton Times and Transcript is trying to lay a smokescreen over the civic election.
The issues are Moncton High, the waste and immaturity of a new hockey rink, and a realistic plan for Moncton's future developoment.
Moncton is not a vibrant city. If it were, nobody would read The Moncton Times and Transcript. It's library is way underfunded. A cultural event means somebody with a guitar. Art scarcely exists. Discussion means a home and school meeting at which nobody says anything much more than hello, and how much coffee to we need?
There is a lot that this city needs to encourage enquiry, a broad range of interests, stimulation. But, instead, we have a city obsessed with yet another hockey rink, with a convention centre to produce profits for the hotel industry,and with standing on a hillside with beer in a plastic cup while listening to aging rockers, and saying "We're haviing some fun, eh?"
And that's the way The Moncton Times and Transcript intends to keep it.