No News is Good News
The expression "No news is good news" has been around for years and usually means that if you haven't heard something about a certain subject that's a good thing because if you had, it would have been bad news.
It can mean something else these days as we struggle through the fourth month of the pandemic, not sure when this will end and if our daily lives will improve. We've also had a lot of time to sit around and watch political leaders make announcements. The combination has made us more cynical than ever.
Throw in a third factor - social media. The result is, governments making announcements that should create joy, but result in a cesspool of negative responses.
A Drive to Bitterness
Last week, the Alberta government announced it would be kicking in $120 million to help fund the twinning of Terwillegar Drive in southwest Edmonton. It’s now two lanes in each direction, but after the project is done there will be four lanes both ways, plus a dedicated bus lane. A second bridge over Anthony Henday Drive will also be built. It’s a massive project that’s badly needed because 40,000 vehicles a day use the road.
Here's is a great photo to illustrate the traffic problem on Terwillegar Drive from Ward 9 Councillor Tim Cartmell’s website.
It’s interesting to note the roadway expansion was not on the list of 12 priority projects the City of Edmonton gave the province a couple of months ago, when Premier Jason Kenney asked for suggestions on “shovel-ready projects” that could help re-start the Alberta economy. It’s even more interesting to point out that there’s only one UCP MLA in Edmonton, Kaycee Madu, the Municipal Affairs Minister. Terwillegar Drive is in his riding. It’s an interesting tidbit, but I digress.
This is a great example of what goes wrong with suburban growth. Land developers want to develop land on the outskirts of the city to make money. They sell the lots to home building companies to build homes. Cities approve developments because housing is needed, then take the profits and tax revenue from the land that’s been developed for housing and commercial and retail projects that follow. Problem is, municipalities rarely have the money to provide adequate roads, bridges, fire halls, libraries and other amenities needed for what quickly becomes thousands of new residents.
That’s exactly what’s happened in southwest Edmonton. Despite the economy in the last five years, the area’s population has exploded. Unfortunately, the City hasn’t done anything to upgrade Terwillegar Drive for years and traffic just got worse and worse.
Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth
Reaction to the government’s announcement about the Terwillegar Drive expansion has been interesting to say the least.
For years, people making comments on the Windermere residents’ social media pages have complained on an almost daily basis about what a disaster Terwillegar Drive has turned into. Windermere is a rapidly-expanding community that’s right next to Terwillegar Drive. A large percentage of area residents use it on a regular basis.
Despite the good news about the decision to expand the roadway, several of the comments were actually negative. While most were positive, people questioned the timing, saying we can’t afford an expensive project now. Others were angry the money wasn’t going into education at a time when teachers and teaching assistants are being laid off. Then there were others who wondered why the money wasn’t going into health care, especially during a pandemic. Finally, there were people who pointed out that politics that played a role in the decision.
Even Mayor Don Iveson looked a gift horse in the mouth when he noted the roadway expansion wasn’t on the City’s list of a dozen priorities.
Out of nowhere, southwest Edmonton is getting a multi-million-dollar roadway expansion, that’s been badly needed for years, but for some reason it seems there’s more criticism than joy. At least there is on social media.
Power of Social Media's Echo Chamber
Perhaps I’m reading this wrong. Maybe it’s just a small but vocal core of people who will complain about anything? After all, if you’re getting the project you wanted, you may just say that’s great, but not go on social media to express your joy.
There’s a bigger issue here. Maybe it’s because of the pandemic and few people are as content today as they were a year ago, or perhaps it’s because of the heated political environment in the province, but it’s becoming tougher and tougher for government decisions to be taken positively.
Think about that for a moment. Governments work hard to determine where tax dollars should be spent. Sometimes funding decisions are made because of need, sometimes they’re related to political reasons, but if you’re in any government these days, reactions to your decisions are almost always negative, especially in social media’s echo chamber.
Check the comments below online stories these days. The Kenney government will make an announcement to help people, such as the recent decision to pump $150 million into Highway 3 in southern Alberta, and the trolls on social media will find something to criticize. Negative comments will drift from one subject to another and local politicians are probably left wondering “Why bother”?
It’s like Mom and Dad giving their kids great Christmas presents, even though the money’s been tight and none of the kids are happy. One says she knows there’s not enough money to go around because Dad has lost his job, so less should have been spent. Her brother wanted something else for Christmas and isn’t happy with his present, while the third sibling isn’t sure how their parents will pay for the presents down the road.
I miss the old days of politics when announcements about expanding roads or highways, or building new schools or libraries were greeted with happiness. We used to say things like “We really needed this”, or “Thanks for making this happen.”
I’m sure politicians miss those days too.
Photo credit: Tim Cartmell
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