Expect more stories like this one out of Montreal in the years to come (a 25 ton concrete beam collapses in a Ville Marie Expressway tunnel). As we’ve reported before, cities across Canada face a huge ($123 billion according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities) infrastructure deficit. Part of the problem stems from off-loading of formerly federal and provincial responsibilities onto cities, and too many antiquated public programs and policies that have failed to address the increasingly urban nature of Canadian society.
But another big problem is the poor design of our cities. At a time when we need to repair and replace the roads, bridges, sewer and water systems and whatnot that we already have, and boost density to help our cities run more efficiently, too much of our development focus is on suburban expansion and bedroom communities that will only add to our infrastructure deficit down the road.
And don’t be too quick to demonize some of the ancilliary programming and facilities that cities provide for citizens. Things like sports, culture and recreation are integral to quality of life, and provide all sorts of economic, social, health and educational benefits to our communities. And the amount that is spent on those facilities and programs, in comparison to the billions and billions that we need to spend on infrastructure, is a pittance.
Promises to close libraries, art galleries and community centres might appeal to a certain segment of our population, but the cost-savings that will be achieved are a proverbial drop-in-the-bucket as far as covering our infrastructure deficit is concerned. The only way that can be done is through smarter planning and more realistic lifestyle aspirations for Canadians as right now, with our fetish for car dependent suburban enclaves, we are clearly living beyond our means.