Saturday, August 18, 2018

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StephenVance 540If you haven't hit one already in these early days of Spring, give it time, you likely will. With the winter snow all but gone, sunny skies have found their way into our daily lives, but so have those frustrating potholes.

In my 30-plus years of driving experience I've found that there are good potholes and bad potholes. The good ones you can see from a kilometre away and you're given plenty of time and space to weave around them. The bad ones on the other hand either sneak up on you, or jump out at you when you least expect it, often in the darker hours when you feel a jolt on your steering wheel along with a banging sound in your vehicle's front end.

Obviously there are no 'good' potholes, perhaps I should have written 'bad' and 'not quite as bad' instead of 'good', but I think you get the point.

I had an encounter with one of the bad potholes over the weekend – but not in this municipality (gasp); yes, it is true, Meaford is not the only municipality with some bad roads here and there.

When I hit the pothole, one of my kids said, 'Uh-oh, Dad's about to give a lecture on infrastructure' – my kids know me so well.

We've got two elections coming up this year. A provincial election in June, followed by a municipal election in October, and I would suggest that before beating down municipal council candidates over the state of our infrastructure, whether roads, bridges, or the pipes in the ground, we should all have some tough questions for the candidates for Ontario's legislature.

If there's one area of frustration I share with Meaford Councillor Steve Bartley it's this: where the heck is the long promised infrastructure support for municipalities from upper levels of government? Councillor Bartley regularly asks that question at council, and I think he should continue to do so, as should we all.

Infrastructure funding from upper levels of government has been painfully slow at finding its way into municipal coffers in spite of all of the infrastructure promises we hear coming from Queen's Park and Ottawa. True, the municipality was able to announce this week that grant funding has been received for the rehabilitation of the Sykes Street South bridge, likely the most travelled bridge in the municipality, but that's one bridge out of 80 that this municipality is responsible for, and though the grant is for more than $800,000, that's just a fraction of the estimated $50 million in bridge repair and rehabilitation that this municipality has in its future.

As Councillor Bartley has pointed out, municipalities are responsible for more than 60 percent of all of the infrastructure in this province, yet they have the smallest pool of funding to draw from in the form of property taxation. Given the importance of much of that infrastructure to commerce and industry, not to mention the general safety of citizens, it would be nice to see more funding flowing from upper levels of government to municipalities in order to get a handle on the growing infrastructure deficits facing all municipalities in the province.

So when a candidate from one of the major parties knocks on your door in the next few months, ask them what their plan is to support and help solve the municipal infrastructure deficit, and ask for specifics, don't let them off the hook – this is their problem too.

I'm fairly confident in saying that the largest volume of complaints received by municipal councillors is related to infrastructure, most often the condition of roads, and I'm also confident that the most common response heard from municipal councillors is that they'd love to fix all of our roads and bridges, but they simply don't have the money. Both things are true – residents are fed up with crumbling infrastructure, and municipalities truly don't have the resources to properly address the issues, so either help must come from upper levels of government, or municipal ratepayers across the province should brace themselves for hefty property tax increases combined with the curtailing or elimination of 'frill' services like parks or cultural initiatives for decades to come.

In this municipality we've got hundreds of kilometres of roads, 80 bridges, and untold kilometres of pipes in the ground, much of it built five or six decades ago (in fact we've still got pipes in the ground from the 1890s), and much of it in need of funding and attention: let's ask our provincial candidates what they plan to do about it.


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