Telling the story of my life in my home - Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fort McMurray, Ticker Tape Parades and Cynicism

On Saturday two ministers with the Conservative federal government popped into Fort McMurray to make an announcement. I had hoped to be there in person, but was tied up with another commitment and so I watched from home, vicariously through Twitter, as Ministers Kellie Leitch and Rona Ambrose took the podium at Keyano Theatre to announce some funding.


The funding they announced during this road trip for Fort McMurray-Athabasca, which included funding for the arts and infrastructure projects, totaled just over $400,000, with $56,000 for Keyano Theatre and the remainder for infrastructure and other projects in the region.
And the crowd went wild! Cheering and high-fiving, slapping each other on the back with glee, confetti flying in the air, carrying Ambrose and Leitch out into the streets for a ticker-tape parade of celebration down Franklin Avenue as the populace rejoiced in the significant investment the federal government had just made in the economic engine and backbone of our country........or not.


In fact what followed sounded a lot like this: (insert dead silence coupled with disbelief)
Yes, the “announcement” was greeted with crickets, not rejoicing, as to call it an "insulting" amount of investment is to be entirely too kind.


$56,000 for the arts? Not a tiny figure but not exactly substantial. And the remainder, totaling less than $380,000? Less than my mortgage, and less than the mortgages of most who live in Fort McMurray.
If I was Ambrose and Leitch I would have headed back to Ottawa and said “Thanks for sending us out to insult the people of northern Alberta and almost getting us lynched in the process”, because the announcement was insulting and demeaning to a region that generates the economic power of this country. It was an announcement that speaks to the kind of complacency being displayed by the federal government when it comes to this by-election.


One could have hoped they came to announce that the government had cut through the red tape on the Willow Square property, expediting the process so that construction on an aging in place facility could being immediately – but no. Rumours I heard indicated that the ministers weren't even fully aware of the Willow Square issue, which if true indicates the level of disconnect this road show had with our community.
One could have hoped they came to announce that the government had decided to pursue a significant investment in our new airport, a development destined to bolster our economic strength and further generate revenue for the Canadian economy – but no, although they are apparently ever-so-kindly considering it (insert huge eyeroll here, the kind my kid gives me when I suggest doing the dishes).


One could have hoped they came to announce that the government was going to begin to seriously invest in this region and constituency, providing the kind of support we need from our government.
But no.


What we saw instead seemed to be a pathetic ploy to grab some headlines and attention with an announcement of too little and too late, and, while I don’t mean to seem ungrateful as I appreciate the token show of faith in our region, it is completely inappropriate given what this region needs, and what it means to the economy of this country.
One could think the only reason the ministers were trotted out here to make these token announcements was because Justin Trudeau, a charismatic man who is generating his own kind of power, was in the region as well this weekend to support Kyle Harrietha, the Liberal Party of Canada candidate in the upcoming by-election. One could think they came only because the by-election was finally called on Sunday, and that this paltry amount was an attempt to purchase some votes. One could think those things, but that seems rather cynical, doesn’t it? And what reason would we have for cynicism, given that our region has been fundamentally ignored by the federal government in their complacent belief in their stranglehold on this seat in Parliament, and our former MP who was more concerned about generating crossword puzzles for newsletters than generating good results for his constituents?


Nope, no cynicism here, even though on May 3 Conservative pollsters dialing voters in this region had no idea there was a Conservative candidate in the riding (as evidenced by a friend who asked them if the by-election had been called and their response that it had not due to the lack of a Conservative candidate – several days after the candidate had, in fact, been selected, on April 26). 

Nope, no cynicism about the commitment the government has to this riding, as evidenced by their own pollsters not knowing they had a candidate several days after one had been selected, and inadequate funding announcements made on the fly and in a seemingly reactionary way.
Okay, I am lying. There was no ticker-tape parade on Saturday, and no one reacted to the announcement with glee.


And frankly, I am cynical as hell.

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