This is kicking the can down the road and whistling past the graveyard at the very same time.
They don't want to know. If they knew they might have to tell us what's coming. If we knew what's coming we then might ask them what in hell they're doing about it. And if they had to tell us what they're doing about it - essentially squat - then we might scorn them or, worse, compel them to do something about it and there's no room in their plans for that sort of Herculean undertaking.
It's so much easier if we all gaze out over the stern and pretend that iceberg off the bow isn't there at all.
This isn't misfeasance any more. It's full blown malfeasance. It's not just doing something wrongfully, carelessly, perhaps negligently. It's deliberate wrongdoing.
They don't want to deal with this on their watch. It's too big, too scary, too fraught with political risk.
Back in June, 2014, large parts of Calgary were underwater as The World Council on Disaster Management held its annual conference in Toronto, which itself had recently experienced a freak flood. The message was that Canada's outdated and decaying essential infrastructure was vulnerable to natural disasters.
Dr. Saeed Mirza, emeritus professor at Montreal’s McGill University specializing in structural engineering, added that the monumental infrastructure costs accumulated over decades of negligence have left Canada particularly vulnerable to catastrophic events.
“The frequency and intensity of these events has been increasing at an escalating rate and what was a one-in-100-year event at one time may become the norm,” he said.
“When we look at Calgary, we had a flood there in 2005 and they called it a one-in-100-year flood, while this one according to some descriptions in the news has been three times as bad.”
Mirza estimated that Canada’s infrastructure requirements have reached a cost of about $1 trillion, while a recent survey by the McKinsey Global Institute earlier this year stated that worldwide infrastructure needs are about $57 trillion.
“In terms of funding, the amounts of money are truly frightening and there’s no government in the world that can find the kind of money necessary to bring existing infrastructure up to par,” Gordon said.
The lack of political will is one of the biggest obstacles to infrastructure funding, which is why Mirza proposed that Canada adopt a best practices solution to addressing our climbing infrastructure costs."No government in the world can find that kind of money." Okay, but what if we don't? What if we don't replace essential infrastructure,what then? Have you ever been to a Third World country?
What we do know is that the costs of not acting, the costs of waiting until that essential infrastructure fails, will be substantially greater. That's because there will be economic loss atop the costs of replacing the infrastructure. And then you'll see "trickle down" in action with the velocity and power of a sledgehammer in freefall.
The taxes our parents' and grandparents' generations invested in that infrastructure was integral to the prosperity that their descendants, us, enjoyed. Only we also liked the idea of "everyday low taxes" which meant we didn't want to pay for those same things when it came our turn. We didn't pay for routine maintenance. We didn't pay for replacement. We haven't built for the next generations as those before ours freely did for us.
Which allows me to segue into a book I'm about to read, John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Affluent Society." First published in 1958 I've picked up the 1984 4th edition. I got hooked by this passage from The Times Literary Supplement.
Why worship work and productivity if many of the goods we produce are superfluous - advertising 'needs' created by high-pressure advertising? Why grudge expenditure on vital public works while ignoring waste and extravagance in the private sector of the economy. Classical economics was born in a harsh world of mass poverty, and it has left us with a set of preconceptions hard to adapt to the realities of our own richer age. And so, too often, 'the bland lead the bland.' Our unfamiliar problems need a new approach.It sounds more relevant today than ever. The problems, perhaps novel in the post-war prosperity, are now commonplace and extensive.