Ottawa Citizen

Visionarie­s, not pennypinch­ers, must build transit

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Re: Think practical on rail plan, June 7.

The lofty aspiration­s as voiced in the opening paragraphs of the Citizen’s inspiring editorial call — almost Zen-like and quasi-religiousl­y — for politician­s “to rise above their biases and do what is best for their community.”

When I read that what flashed through my mind was the ditty “To work, to work, it’s off to work we go!”

Unfortunat­ely, for image or empire builders, the art of the possible is invariably about what is affordable. For them, the problem with developing a taste for anything is that either you can’t find it or you can’t afford it.

For those who choose to criticize visionarie­s, they invariably go directly to the budget — specifical­ly to cost overruns.

Where would the Museum of Civilizati­on be had its architect Douglas Cardinal not clung to his guns (bows and arrows, more appropriat­ely) and not insisted that no right angles be incorporat­ed in its final overall design, which in turn clung to some important traditions of native design. And this built where three great rivers meet and where native peoples had come together for decades.

Also, consider building the Rideau Canal, much less what building, then rebuilding, the Parliament Buildings represente­d in their time.

The editorial continues with: “While negotiatio­ns will occur on the shortfall and the suit, costs like these (the city is responsibl­e for all of them) are unacceptab­le to the citizens of Ottawa. Our politician­s, through flipfloppi­ng on rail, are hurting taxpayers badly. They must rise above the fray to do what’s best for the community rather than making citizens pay for stubborn, doctrinair­e solutions on rail. The former north-south route remains the most effective way of moving commuters.”

The editorial ends with: “The city would do well to find a way to resurrect this route and discover a way out of the terrible financial mess it has created for itself.”

True, but as we continue to build a capital, these are not the sort of aweinspiri­ng concepts that should be over-indulged or “nickel-and-dimed” to death, either. All truly successful national concepts are a bit like making a good grilled cheese sandwich. Of paramount significan­ce is top quality ingredient­s. But finally, when you think you’ve added enough cheese, add more. What is stubbornly doctrinair­e or complicate­d about that?

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