Around the world countries, counties, states and cities, large and small, design and build bridges. Throughout British Columbia we have outstanding examples of the engineering skills required for innovative design and construction.
We have majestic spans crossing harbours, rivers, spectacular ravines or modest rivers. Most are of aesthetic design, as pleasing to the eye as they are practical.
In other countries we pay top tourist dollars to admire the bridges across the Seine in France, Tower Bridge and modern London Bridge spanning the Thames in England; and the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge down in California.
Bridge building is not exactly new when spans are needed to cross a stream or an ocean. Which leaves me wondering why the crossing of the whiff and spit at the foot of Johnson Street is taking so long to design and build at seemingly ever increasing cost?
Is it because Victoria has a city council that appears to be, at the slightest hiccup, framing apologies for decisions almost fearfully made? Do we have here a council too timid to make key decisions until it receives guidance from “the people” who elected it to govern on their behalf but who now want to run the show?
Or is it because in Greater Victoria we appear to have an abundance of citizens who, lacking expertise, wade into any new major program with advice based on emotion rather than reason? They demand public hearings to air their “concerns” and appear at those hearings to claim expertise they don’t possess. They become “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals signifying nothing”, but those elected to govern tremble and appear to waver on decisions already made.
It’s time, I think, for governments to end the vaudeville of endless public hearings, not just on bridges, and do what we elected them to do – govern. Better, I think, that elected governments should lurch to an occasional mistake than they should shamble along, hesitant, and failing to exude the confidence their people seek.
As former PM of England Clement Atlee, once said back in 1957: “Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking.” It takes courage to tell people to shut up – but it’s time local and provincial governments started.