There are a lot of elements to building a healthy and vibrant community.
And it means different things to different people.
How money gets spent is a matter of prioritization for municipal governments, but it is also a balancing act.
Big projects, such as the new Smithers Library-Gallery, are always controversial.
Why, the argument goes, are we not spending that money on real, pressing needs such as water and sewer infrastructure, or health care, or housing.
There are both practical and philosophical answers to those questions.
Read last week’s editorial:
On the practical side, the $12.8 million the Town is seeking for the new cultural centre is not available for other kinds of projects. The application was made under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure.
This program exists because of the philosophical position that amenities such as the proposed Library-Gallery are important to communities and build capacity for the future.
The estimated $15.8 million price tag of the centre is not something Smithers could entertain on its own. The project was important enough to Harvey and Corry Tremblay that they pledged to match up to a million dollars in community donations. It was important enough to a dedicated group of volunteers and all the businesses and individuals who have donated so far to raise more than $700,000. And it was important enough to both the current and previous town councils to create a borrowing bylaw to finance the Town’s $1 million share, providing it is ratified by referendum.
Read more editorials:
If the narrow view that only critical infrastructure needs should be addressed or should be prioritized to the exclusion of cultural and recreational amenities prevailed, we would have a pretty poor community. Good roads, water, sewer, hospital etc., are necessities, of course, but what allows us to have these things is population. And what attracts businesses and people to Smithers is not just critical infrastructure, but all the amenities the town has to offer.
If the Town had not supported the development and maintenance of the golf course, for example, there would be no Celebrity Golf Tournament that raised $125,000 last summer for charity. If we had not built the second sheet of ice, Smithers would not have been able to step up and host the Houston Figure Skating Club’s big event in November, when that town’s arena was out of service.
Those kinds of events also have all kinds of spin-off benefits. Whether we personally use specific amenities or services, we all benefit from having them.