EDITORIAL: Water funding questions point to what’s wrong with government

Why do we treat politicians who come to cut ribbons like philanthropists? — it's our money

Imagine trying to hold a referendum without a question.

The City of Parksville wants to ask voters in November for approval to borrow a lot of money to build a new water system. Thing is, the city presently has no idea how much it needs to borrow.

If the muddied waters don’t clear, there will be no referendum, no money for a water system and big trouble for the city with the non-elected, all-powerful group called Island Health (or VIHA, or whatever its latest focus group says we should call it).

The water system, as it has been developed and designed, will cost the city $27 million (plus $10 million for Nanoose Bay residents). In the past, big projects like this were funded from three different pools of tax money, the old one-third/one-third/one-third split between the municipality, the provincial government and the federal government.

(An aside: there is only one taxpayer, so when a government takes credit and sends a rep to cut a ribbon on any project, forgive us if we don’t get excited about saying thank-you like it’s some kind of philanthropy from the good people who work for us in Victoria and Ottawa. One taxpayer, sending many dollars to many pools, is how it works. But we digress).

The federal government has a certain $14 billion of our tax dollars sitting in a bank. It’s earmarked for infrastructure projects like, well, new water systems. However, the format and rules municipalities must use to beg for these taxpayers funds have not been established this year. Governments use jargon like “the need for framework agreements” between various levels of these tax collectors so the money can be released.

In short, the City of Parksville doesn’t know if it will get federal funding for the water system. The provincial government won’t release funds until they see the feds do it. If it wasn’t so serious in a country with failing infrastructure, it would be laughable how all these people play with our money like it’s theirs to dole out like the Queen does with Maundy coins at Easter.

It makes us wonder how anything ever gets done in this bureacracy-heavy, government-job-loving society we have created in Canada.

— Editorial by John Harding