“Sometimes when things have been around for a while, they sort of get forgotten about. It’s a good time to review potential policies that need to change in order to rectify problems.”
— Coun. Cory Roberts (Rosser)
A few months ago, a Probe Research poll conducted for the Brandon Sun identified a few of the most important issues to Westman residents.
What topped the list was jobs and economic growth, as one in four people listed the economy as to be the most important issue facing our community.
But second from the top was concerns over failing and aging infrastructure listed by 20 per cent of the people who participated in the poll.
While the issue of affordable housing was more prevalent in Brandon, even in the city the debate slipped from 2012, when 15 per cent of people listed it as a concern, compared to only nine per cent this year.
However, 11 per cent of respondents in Brandon listed taxes compared to two per cent in the rest of Westman.
Essentially, what residents of western Manitoba told Probe was that they wanted good jobs, clean water, usable bridges and smooth roads. Affordable housing and taxation — which have been two very important topics in Brandon over the last few years — did not resonate with the general public.
When it comes to making communities efficient and livable, getting the basics right is about as important as it gets. And that involves investment by municipal, provincial and federal governments, coupled with a determination to see improvements.
In the last four years, the city administration has been hard at work planning new developments on the north and south sides of the city, laying the groundwork for new construction that is no doubt still many years away.
We have an updated downtown secondary plan as well and new building guidelines for developers to help guide the way our city will evolve in the future.
And just yesterday, the city announced that a funding application for the Brandon Municipal Airport passenger terminal redevelopment project had been officially submitted to the federal government’s Building Canada Fund, with more applications for other such projects likely in the offing. We assume funding for bridge repair will likely be among them, as we have three bridges in Brandon that need repair, renovation or replacement.
And of course, there is the downtown, which currently sports far too many empty lots and derelict buildings. One year ago, Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst confirmed that there were no solid plans in place for the redevelopment of the Brandon Inn and the Brandon Real Estate properties — though whatever will go there would have to complement the concept of an entertainment district envisioned for the city’s downtown, as per the new secondary plan.
Thus Coun. Roberts made an inquiry into the status of those two properties, in order to bring them back into the council’s field of vision. And so he should, as the councillor for the ward.
Yet when we compare the concerns of the public and the priorities of our politicians, perhaps city hall and council’s priorities need to be refocused.
Don’t get us wrong. The state of our downtown and the future development of Brandon are incredibly important issues. But somehow the condition of our streets and pipes tends to be shunted to the side when it comes to setting this city’s priorities, and always in favour of larger, more eye-catching projects.
We don’t think the less sexy problems of potholes and pipes should be forgotten about either.