The trouble with austerity-obsessed politicians is their inability to resist stealing from the future. Wary of upsetting the voters, these morally-lacking pols, try to shield them from cuts by paring money from essential infrastructure projects. We were greeted to a stellar example of this in Montreal with its crumbling bridges and water mains. Other Canadian cities aren't far behind. Even Angela Merkel's Germany is feeling the neglect and it's hitting the country's economy.
The once-soaring bridges are sagging. Some trains’ switching equipment, once top-of-the-line, haven’t been updated since the time of the kaisers. Well-engineered canal locks are succumbing to silt and neglect.
Germany’s network of roads and railroads is one of the densest and most developed in the world. But the bottlenecks are starting to crimp Germany’s export-driven economy, experts say. Even maintaining the status quo will require nearly doubling current levels of spending, according to a recent report issued by a government commission.
“Germany is the second-largest of the world’s exporting nations, but only if our transport system is functioning. If not, our economy will be in a dangerous situation,” said Kurt Bodewig, a former transportation minister who led a federal commission that recently recommended that Germany needs to spend $9.7 billion a year more on infrastructure just to maintain its current network. Merkel’s new coalition agreement increases spending by a fifth that much.
In Canada, not only is our infrastructure crumbling but it's outdated, incapable of withstanding climate change impacts. In June, as Calgary was reeling from its second, "once a century" flood in 8-years, the World Council on Disaster Management held its annual conference in recently-flooded Toronto. Dr. Saeed Mirza, professor emeritus at McGill in structural engineering, estimated that Canada needed to invest upwards of a trillion dollars to upgrade and update our essential infrastructure across the country.
It is each generation's responsibility to maintain their nation's infrastructure for the next generation. In other words, we owe our future generations a trillion dollars in infrastructure repairs and upgrades. Yes we'll have to raise taxes to cover the costs. That's how government pays for things. Yet we'll pay a good deal more down the road if we don't meet our responsibility today. That's simply cheating the future.