If the year of the Sheep (according to the Chinese Zodiac) doesn't fit for you, 2015 can more aptly be named the year of the Bridge in Trail. After several years of public debate, a referendum, inter-municipal negotiations and financial strategizing - the yet to be named Pedestrian Pipe Bridge is now under construction. Watching the largest infrastructure project in Trail's history rise into the sky and across the Columbia in 2016 will be a sight to behold. It is worth mentioning that this landmark project is also being captured by the City with time lapsed video as it takes shape. A big thank you goes out to our regional partners for their contributions in this massive undertaking and also to our residents for their patience while this process played out.
As Guy Bertrand of the Trail Daily Times noted in one of his columns earlier this year, the metaphor of building bridges between communities is certainly not lost on keen political observers across our region and if year one of this municipal term is any indication of things to come, I am also quite encouraged for what we may be able to collectively accomplish over the next three years.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the final approval of the Victoria Street Bridge Lighting project which has just gone out to tender and will complete in time for the re-launch of Silver City Days in Trail this coming May.
Regionally: Wildfires …
The Wildfires of 2015 were the dominant story throughout the long days of summer across the province and throughout the Kootenay Boundary Regional District. The community of Rock Creek felt the full effect of this tragedy. Over 30 homes were lost, along with livestock, wildlife and family pets. The devastation was hard to fathom by mere description and could only be fully understood by visiting the sight post recovery. A scene I won’t soon forget. The Stickpin fire in Washington State, which consumed more than 20,000 hectares of forest in its wake and spreading right up to the Canada/US border, left the communities of Grand Forks and Christina Lake on the edge of evacuation for weeks. With the help of the Red Cross, The Trail Memorial Centre was set to receive several thousand evacuees from the Boundary area. Fortunately, this next step was ultimately not required. If a silver lining can be found in a tragedy of this nature, it has to be that our emergency management systems worked exactly as planned. I can’t stress enough how well this tragic event was handled by emergency responders, decision makers and community volunteers. They are all to be commended for their tireless efforts and professionalism as they helped our communities through this tumultuous time.
Provincial: Liquid Natural Gas or Hot Air?
On a provincial level, the big story in my opinion would have to be the non-story of LNG. The development of the Liquid Natural Gas industry in BC has been the focus of 2 provincial election campaigns and has yet to materialize in a significant way. With the slowdown in the oil patch and many workers returning to BC unemployed – a move forward for the LNG sector would be a long overdue and welcome boost to our provincial employment picture. If not now...then when?
National: Election vs. the TRC Report
While the election of a new national government after nine years is a headline grabber, it is hardly surprising. All long tenured governments eventually take on an air of invincibility and fall victim to their belief in their own infallibility and the electorate ultimately shows them the door. The Federal Liberals were no different after a decade of PM Chretien and a brief stint of Paul Martin’s small L liberal view of the future – the sponsorship scandal ultimately ended the Liberals reign of power. This is why I see the national story of the year as being the delivery of Justice Sinclair’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (TRC) and not the election of a Liberal majority. It puts an end to the debate about the moral correctness of our Government of the day’s actions with respect to their treatment of First Nations Peoples and the deliberate effort to eradicate their culture. It happened ... and all of the horrors that came with it - fell under the banner of officially sanctioned government policy. This ugly truth must be accepted by those in power today and sincere efforts to reconcile must begin now. If you don’t know what this document is and its historical significance, I encourage you to click the link below and read at least the Executive Summary now. It is sobering.
Global: Migration & Terrorism
The global story of 2015 has to be the Syrian/Middle East mass migration into Europe and around the world. The civil war in Syria has displaced hundreds of thousands and has resulted in a mass migration of people not seen since WW2. The cultural impacts of this massive population shift will be felt most in Eastern and Western Europe where the bulk of the migrants have made their journey. Assimilation will be challenging to say the least under these circumstances. Infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, rental housing and other necessities simply do not currently exist in sufficient quantities across rural Europe to effectively absorb a population spike such as this one. This entire situation is further complicated by the ongoing threats of the radical terrorist group (ISIS) to infiltrate the waves of migrants in an effort to slip past conventional security measures and evade detection. In the case of Canada, our federal government has agreed to take in 25,000 refugees across our nation by February of 2016. An effective screening process is a must as we undertake this humanitarian effort. The recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, CA further highlight the need for sensible security measures to protect the innocent. This (in my opinion) is and will be the moral struggle of our generation, to balance security and sensibility amid human conflict. Ultimately, It was public calls from current Premier’s, and former statesmen from across the country that led the Liberals and our newly minted Prime Minister to rethink their/his approach towards the vetting process we will employ as we offer refuge to the asylum seekers of a war torn region. I can't remember another time in recent memory when our nation's values were so challenged by the complexity of circumstances and our desire to do the right thing. The effectiveness of this screening process as undertaken will now be judged by the passage of time.
On a personal note, I certainly lay no claim to Sainthood; however with each passing year, I do try to improve in all areas of my life. Personally, professionally, health wise and in the quality of the relationships I choose to focus on. Some years prove better than others, but I always endeavor to learn from my successes and more importantly from the failures. To learn - is to live. To refuse to learn is an act of self-condemnation. In the ever increasing pace of our wired world, we must be open not only to new ideas, but also to the notion that some of our old ideas may no longer work and now belong in the discard pile. This can be a bitter pill to swallow sometimes, but a necessary part of personal growth. What was I wrong about in 2015? The answer to that question is best left to a column all of its own.
In closing, I leave you with this thought; it is impossible to start fresh in a new year if we are carrying the complaints, woes and wounds of 2015 into the next. Do yourself a favor and leave them behind as you embrace the possibilities of 2016 and move forward.
Happy New Year!
The Jolly Blogger
“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let every New Year find you a better man”.
- Benjamin Franklin