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Calgary

Why Not Me? – Chapter Three

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34 minute read

Chapter 3

The Tools to Realize Your Purpose

Key #21
The Law of Attraction

“All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall receive them.” 

Mark 11:24

This key can be an incredibly tough pill to swallow, but it’s completely true all the same. The law of attraction has been written about as far back as written records can be found. This law, like the law of gravity, works whether you understand it or not. Several books and dozens of chapters of other books have been written about this universal law. Oprah Winfrey promoted the movie and book, The Secret, which is dedicated to sharing this amazing concept. I suggest that you go online to find the streaming video of The Secret, or get the DVD. It does a far better job of explaining the law of attraction than I ever could in a short chapter. I use this law to my advantage daily, and it has made a huge contribution to my life. 

Boiled down, the law of attraction states, “If you can imagine what it would feel like to have what you want, then you will attract this thing into your life.” You have to experience the feeling of actually having what you want for it to work, but work it does. 

From a psychological stand point, “feeling as though you already have it” is a trigger for your mind. When you pull this trigger, you put your mind into a resourceful and winning mind-set. If you already feel as though you have what you want, then it’s natural to start acting as though you have it. If you start acting as though you have what you want, then you will tap into your resourcefulness, and the actions which you choose to take will get you what you want.

Key #22
BE-DO-HAVE

As the world renowned achievement coach Richard Robbins once taught me, Be-Do-Have is the direction of the flow of life. Once you understand the Law of Attraction, Be-Do-Have starts to make a lot of sense. Here is how this works:

• You have to first BE the person that you wish to be.

• You then will naturally act and DO as you are. Your actions will reflect the person that you are being because who “you are” determines the actions that you will take. 

• As a result of your actions, you will naturally HAVE the things that you want in your life.

Most people try to go against the flow and swim upstream their whole lives. Have you ever noticed that the people who seem to have it all seem to have it easily? This is because they are going with the flow and allowing success to occur. You don’t have to chase success; you just have to allow it to happen. Who you decide to be will determine what is attracted into your life. 

“Be as you wish to seem.” 

Socrates

Key #23
Think-FeelDO

The way you think determines how you feel, and the way you feel determines how you act. We are emotional creatures, and we make most decisions based on our feelings. If your thoughts are focused on negative things, you will then feel negative, and your actions will be negative. If you are focused on positive things, you will feel positive, and your actions will be positive. This is why attitude is so powerful and why it’s so important to be conscious of your thoughts.

• If you are thinking about what you “don’t want,” then that’s what will be attracted into your life. 

• If you are thinking about “what you do want,” then that’s what will be attracted into your life. 

This is an incredibly well-researched topic, and there is a mountain of literature dedicated to this concept. The sooner you allow yourself to accept this truth, the sooner you will find peace in your life. Be conscious of your thoughts, and your life will instantly change for the better. The law of attraction is a magic pill that works instantly! All you have to do is choose to take advantage of this law, and the results will appear immediately. 

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. Therefore, guard accordingly and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.” 

Marcus Antonius

Negative thoughts blind us from opportunity. Negativity is like having a burlap sack over our heads every time an opportunity walks by. Simply remove the sack from your head, and you will see the opportunities that have always been right in front of you. This is true for everyone. Here is an example of some positive and negative states of being. 

Negative ( – ) Destructive Positive ( + ) Constructive

Pursue Attract
Taking Giving
Superior Equal
Have to Choose to
Persuade Educate
Pessimistic Optimistic
Calculating Candid
Cheap Generous
Suspicious Observant
Conceit Humble
Critical Curious
Resentful Forgiving
Entitled Thankful
Envious Grateful

If you find that your thoughts are often in the negative column, then try to replace those thoughts with their opposites in the positive column. It really is that simple. 

How you think determines how you feel, and how you feel determines how you act. 

Key #24
Vocabulary

One sure way to adjust your attitude is to adjust your vocabulary. You must discipline yourself to eliminate unhealthy words from your vocabulary. Negative words carry negative energy. These words not only harm you, but they harm everyone around you. For the sake of yourself, your family, and your friends, it is imperative that you are cognizant of your influence on others, both positive and negative. How you use your words and the words you choose matter! Whoever came up with the “sticks and stones” thing was well intentioned, but dead wrong.

Here are some examples of unhealthy words, and their alternatives. 

Negative ( – ) Destructive Positive ( + ) Constructive

Can’t Can
Lucky Ability
Difficult Challenging
Scarcity Abundance
Stupid Smart
Failure Negative Results
Failure Delayed Success
Victim Survivor
Excuses Responsibility
Try Will

Just as you have to be conscious of your thoughts, you must be equally conscious of your words. Thoughts and words contain energy, both destructive and constructive. Choosing your thoughts and words carefully is choosing to construct or destruct your life. This is also why it’s best to avoid excessive swearing. 

One of my absolute favorite books is The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. In this amazing book, Ruiz states that the first agreement is to “be impeccable with your word.” This first agreement alone is enough to transform anyone’s life. If your words are always positive and never meant to harm others, then you will be impeccable with your word. Ruiz emphasizes the power of the word and that it is our responsibility to be aware of the power of our words. If you wish to have positive things in your life, then you must be a positive person. Like attracts like. If you are constantly negative, then you will constantly attract negativity into your life.

“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Key #25
Act“As If”

To get what you want, you sometimes have to act “as if” you already have it.

To expand further on the Law of Attraction, we must further explore the power of our actions. 

As previously shared: 

Feeling as though you already have it” is a trigger for your mind. When you pull this trigger, your mind puts you into a winning mind-set. If you already feel as though you have what you want, then it’s natural to start acting as though you have it. If you start acting as though you have what you want, then the actions you choose to take will get you what you want. 

The Law of Attraction is also explained by this concept. 

• Feel “as if”

• Think “as if”

• Act “as if”

Acting “as if” can only be done if you have first started feeling “as if” and thinking “as if.” 

Self-doubt happens to all of us from time to time. When you doubt yourself, you have to tell yourself and everyone around you that you are well on your way to achieving your goals. This isn’t being delusional; this is having the correct mind-set to achieve your goals. It’s all about perspective and mind-set. 

In the movie The Boiler Room, Ben Affleck’s character gives a powerful speech to the new recruits. In this speech, he tells them to “act as if.” Although they were not yet accomplished stock brokers, they never would join the high achievers until they were able to “act as if” they were already a part of the club. This isn’t “faking it”; it’s a tool to put you in the correct mind-set. This is the same technique used by coaches of professional sports teams during locker room talks before a big game. The coach will pump up the team by telling them that they “already are champions” (regardless of the fact that they have yet to win a championship). The coach may say something such as:

The trophy is yours; it’s within your grasp. All you have to do is go out there and take it! The other team sure isn’t going to give it to you without a fight, so go and take what is rightfully yours, this is your time!

The coach isn’t tricking his team or manipulating them; he’s putting them into a winning mindset. We humans are emotional creatures. Sometimes we need a little affirmation that we are good enough and able to achieve what we want. If a team goes into a championship game not believing they are “champions,” then they won’t have much hope of actually winning. 

Let us sum up what we have just learned. 

• Perspective and mindset will float you or sink you. 

• A healthy, positive mindset is essential to accomplish any goal.

• With a little wisdom, we can have the strength to ignore those who would see us fail.

• If you refuse to be a VICTIM, you choose to be a CHAMPION!

Key #26
Burn your bridges and commit

Once you have committed yourself to getting what you want, jump in with both feet and go for it. If you only go halfway, if you just dip your toes in the lake to test the water, then you’ll never achieve anything worthwhile. If you want something, you have to commit totally. It’s like sky diving, you can’t just stick your foot out of the plane and test the air. If you want to skydive, then you have to jump.

I remember my first jump and the vision of the plane flying away from me—now, that is what I call a commitment! There is no turning back, no “Plan B,” just me plummeting through the air achieving my goal with no possible way to fail. Once I jumped, failure was not an option. 

The more difficult a goal, the more you have to totally commit. You can’t take half measures; you can’t live within your comfort zone and just dabble at your goal while you keep another full-time job to pay the bills in the meantime. If you are trying to multi-task too much and do a little of everything, then you will end up doing a lot of nothing. We all have to multi-task to a point. However, when you have a challenging goal in front of you, it will demand the majority of your attention and focus to achieve that goal. 

Key #27
Focus

“A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.” 

Unknown

Once you have committed yourself to achieving a goal, you cannot allow yourself to get distracted by new, interesting opportunities. If you don’t want to be a flake and a quitter, then you have to finish what you start before you go onto the next round of your life. A good example of this is a former colleague who was one course short of his university bachelor’s degree. He committed almost four years of his life to a goal that he didn’t achieve. Some people will say that a degree is just a piece of paper, but what a degree proves is that you can finish what you start. 

A degree doesn’t tell the world about how smart you are, it tells the world about your character and your strength of commitment. It isn’t easy to stay focused on a single goal for four long years. Any degree has value, regardless of whether or not you end up working in a related field. The feeling of accomplishment derived from any goal that you achieve can never be taken away from you. 

There is power in the ability to focus your energy. As Alexander Graham Bell once said about the subject:

“Concentrate all of your thoughts upon the work at hand. The suns rays do not burn until brought into a sharp focus.”

A singular mind is what has been responsible for all of the world’s great achievements throughout history. Think of focus as having a one-track mind. If there is only one track for the train to go on, then there is only one destination that the train can possibly reach. Each time you are distracted by an unexpected crossroad that comes up, you will be steering away from your original goal. If you make the decision to never take your eyes off the prize, then you will stay on track and reach your destination far more quickly. 

If you are on the right track (your Dharma), then you won’t have much trouble staying focused on the task at hand. The more you travel along a track that doesn’t suit you, the less you will be able to stay focused on the task at hand. 

Key #28
Sacrifice

You can’t always have your cake and eat it, too. To get what you want, you will likely be faced with the decision to let go of something else. 

When you are faced with this choice, simply ask, “What do I want more?” When you have to let go of one thing to achieve another, do it with determination and certainty. Once you let go, don’t dwell on the “what ifs.” “What if I woulda?” is a question that will distract you from your goal. All that matters is what is to come, where you are going, and how to get there. Instead of looking at what you are letting go of as something that you are going to miss, look at it as something that is holding you back. This way you will be happy to let it go, and it won’t feel like a sacrifice at all. If you don’t do this, then you will miss what you’ve lost. If you miss what you’ve lost, then you may well abandon your goal in order to regain what it is that you have given up. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a world champion bodybuilder because of the following four key things:

• Determination

• Commitment

• Sacrifice

• Focus

Arnold didn’t worry about all of the things he was missing out on, such as partying with his friends, chocolate ice cream, or his social life. He knew that if he was to be the best, everything else would have to wait until he achieved his goal. Anyone or anything that stood in his way became an enemy that he would simply defeat so that he could continue in the pursuit of his goal. There were no excuses, and failure was not an option. He was completely committed, and he was successful as a result. Critics would say, “Arnold was just lucky that he has such good genetics.” Yes, genetics are a factor, but they are not the most important factor in wining a bodybuilding competition. Arnold uses the same determination, commitment, sacrifice, and focus in all aspects of his life. As a result, he continues to live a life that is filled with enormous accomplishment. 

What advantage does an Austrian with a thick accent have when trying out for movie rolls as a secret government agent? How many people told Arnold that he was “crazy” if he thought he would ever be a star? Despite enormous obstacles, Arnold has been a success at almost everything he has ever pursued.

Key #29
Advice

To get what you want, listen only to those that already have it! 

I cringe when I think of all the conversations I’ve had with people who will start their justification of a decision with the phrase, 

“I was talking with my mom about this, and…”

There is nothing wrong with Mom’s advice on certain topics, but is she really a credible expert for every topic or issue? As mentioned later in this book in key#36, Mom has lots of wisdom to offer. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t ask a poor person for financial advice or a couch potato for “work out” advice. I wouldn’t hire a dentist to build me a house or an electrician to look at my plumbing. 

A good mechanic always gets the right tool for the job. A successful person always gets the right advice for the topic at hand. 

I know of which I speak! Although my parents are well-meaning and love me very much, they have discouraged me from achieving most of my favorite accomplishments. If I had let them influence me negatively, here is a partial list of things that I would not have done:

• Graduated Battle School (Infantry Soldier)

• Six month UN Peacekeeping tour of Croatia (the former Yugoslavia)

• Rope Rescue team member

• Search and Rescue team member

• Rock Climbing Instructor

• Stealth Rope instructor for the RCMP

• Successfully marketed my own invention

• Got married (they thought it was too soon)

• Built and still maintain a successful business (they thought I should have kept my old sales job)

• Taught “Adult Literacy” for three years as a volunteer (thought I should get paid)

• Regularly contribute to several charities (save my money)

• Buy my dream house (thought it was over-priced)

• Speak basic greetings in several different languages (waste of energy)

• Write this book (need more credibility)

Had I listened to any of my parents’ well-meaning advice, I would not have accomplished any of the above things from which I derived great enjoyment. Deciding to not follow every word of their advice wasn’t disrespect but only a choice to disagree. 

Key #30
Courage

It takes courage to follow any of the advice in this book. It takes courage to change habits, to grow, to learn, or to walk a new path. Until you are able to find your own courage, use the courage of others (leverage). Knowledge and wisdom is all you need to find your courage. With self-education, you will feel your confidence grow. As your confidence grows, the possibilities will start to grow, and your life will begin to flourish. 

One of the keys to finding your courage is to realize that it’s okay to be uncomfortable or fearful of the unknown. Every time you move your life forward, you will be in a new place, in uncharted territory. Every time you grow, you will again be somewhere that you’ve never before been. You must accept this discomfort with the unknown and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Once you acquire this new habit of being comfortable about being uncomfortable, you will again accelerate your rate of growth. 

Confidence: revealed by a positive reaction to negative events.

• Problem-solving attitude. 

• Non-defensive to criticism. 

Non-confidence: revealed by negativity

• Defeatist attitude.

• Defensive to criticism. 

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new…There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” 

Alan Cohen

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave.” 

Mark Twain

“Each of us is a pioneer in our own lives. We’re each charting new territory every day. The people I admire are the people who willingly go forward, no matter what the odds.”

Hillary Clinton 

“Confidence is the hinge on the door to success.”

Mary O’Hare Dumas 

Key #31
Desire

To get what you want, it helps to REALLY want it bad

Desire has a way of finding solutions. If you have a clear desire, then you will tend to see the solutions more than you will see the obstacles. The more intense your desire, the sharper your focus tends to be. 

Desire coupled with the faith in yourself to attain that which you desire is a powerful force indeed. 

“A shot glass of desire is greater than a pitcher of talent.” 

Andy Munthe

“A strong passion for any object will ensure success, for the desire of the end will point out the means.” 

Henry Hazlitt

“Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.” 

Bill Cosby 

“Desire creates the power.” 

Raymond Hollingwell

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal—a commitment to excellence—that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” 

Mario Andretti

Key #32
Action

All of the good intentions in the world will just sit on the shelf collecting dust without Action. It’s not enough to simply have a goal or dream. You must put one foot in front of the other and get going toward your goals. 

Actions and authentic intentions are co-dependant. Each is virtually meaningless without the other. You can do all the right things for the wrong reasons, and your result will not be what you want. You can do all the wrong things for the right reasons, and again you goal will not be realized. Doing the right things for the right reasons means that your actions are aligned with your authentic intention. When your actions and authentic intentions are in alignment, the results are certain to be positive. 

Seeing your goal creates a dream—a dream of attainment. What is far better than dreaming of achievement is remembering it. The difference between dreams and memories is action! 

By having the keys of courage and faith, there is no excuse to not act. Acting alone does not guarantee success. However, if you fail to act, especially when opportunities reveal themselves, your inaction is guaranteed to be rewarded with regret. 

Deciding to act is deciding to avoid regret. Which you would rather have, poor results or regret? Some opportunities never come around again. You don’t always have the opportunity for a second chance. If you understand how to frame “failure,” then your actions will never result in regret. Regret is only possible if you fail to jump on an opportunity. 

Opportunity will always appear to the person who is ready to jump on it. However, opportunity is content to stay hidden from the person who isn’t ready to seize it. 

“The longest journey begins with a single step.” 

Chinese Proverb

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” 

Robert Browning

Key #33
Understanding Excuses

Excuses are tools used by people to avoid responsibility for an outcome. Excuses are also a sign of insecurity and immaturity. A mature person realizes that they are responsible for how things turn out. It may not be your fault when your venture takes a wrong turn, but it is your responsibility. This gets us back to a lack of self-esteem. When you are already feeling crappy about yourself, the last thing you want to deal with is admitting that you goofed up. This same discomfort is a part of the fear of failure. You must recognize excuses for what they are and replace them with responsibility. Excuses state that it’s “someone else’s fault.” You can’t fix other peoples faults; you can only fix your own faults. If you want to make progress, you have to admit to yourself and all around you when you screw up, then take responsibility for the outcome. If this is a new thing for you, it will be really uncomfortable the first few times, but with consistency, it will become easier. Being successful without being responsible for your mistakes is highly unlikely. It’s a matter of maturity. 

Father, Professional Development Trainer, Author

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Alberta

Malign Neglect: What Calgary’s Water-Main Break Reveals about the Failure of City Government

Published on

From the C2C Journal

By George Koch

The rupture of Calgary’s biggest water main revealed more than the problems of aging infrastructure. It showed a civic bureaucracy unable to provide basic services or fix things when they break, and a mayor eager to blame others and scold citizens for their selfishness in wanting city services in return for their tax dollars. Above all, it laid bare the increasing tendency of governments to neglect their core responsibilities in favour of social policy fetishes, and to sidestep accountability when things go wrong. Clear, competent, mission-focused public servants are a vanishing breed, writes George Koch, and governing a city is now mainly about keeping city workers, senior officials and elected politicians happy.

As the enormous task forces of the U.S. Navy steamed westward across the Pacific Ocean in the final year of the Second World War, aiming ultimately for Japan but with some of the most vicious fighting still to come on islands like Okinawa and Iwo Jima, commanding admirals issued orders that any man who fell overboard would be left behind. No ship was to slow down for search-and-rescue; nothing was to get in the way of the mission. Several weeks ago, during one of the Stanley Cup semi-final games, a player was hit hard, fell to the ice, got up with difficulty, hobbled towards the bench and disappeared down the “tunnel”. The game went on, uninterrupted. Here too, the mission – entertaining millions – took precedence.

But when two municipal workers on a crew attempting to repair a catastrophic infrastructure failure in a major North American city are injured, the work immediately halts. Although the broken item serves a function vital to civilization and life itself, the mission of restoring water supply as quickly as possible becomes secondary. This happened 10 days ago, a week after the rupture of a high-pressure water main in Calgary had sent water shooting up out of busy 16th Avenue, triggering frantic 911 calls and initiating a “one week” repair saga that as of this writing is still weeks from completion.

Mission failure: The rupture of Calgary’s high-pressure water main on June 5 flooded 16th Avenue and threatened the city’s water supply; repairs were halted for a day after two workers were injured, an excess of caution that led to anger and frustration over the city’s basic competence. (Sources of photos: (top) Acton Clarkin/CBC; (bottom) CTV News)

The two injured workers were taken to hospital (thankfully, with non-life-threatening injuries) and the repair work eventually resumed the next day. But the interruption, piled atop days of confusing, contradictory, self-serving and at times seemingly false explanations and promises from senior city officials and embattled mayor Jyoti Gondek, generated further mistrust and anger among Calgarians over their city bureaucracy’s inability to operate the basics and get things fixed when something breaks down. The safety stand-down came on the very day the city had originally promised to restore water service, a time when every hour was precious, when the sacrifices by city residents and businesses were still bearable, when a return to normality seemed imminent. So why imperil the mission with nearly 24 hours of navel-gazing?

Though soon forgotten as new problems arose, the decision is emblematic of governments’ misplaced priorities, subordination of their core mission to their social policy fetishes and confusion over whose interests they exist to serve. Governing a city appears to have become primarily about keeping city workers, senior officials and elected politicians happy. Above all, to shield them against real accountability. Residents and businesses – the people who vote and pay the bills – are basically problems to be managed.

Built in 1975, the Bearspaw South feeder main draws from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Facility on the Bow River (bottom) and supplies 60 percent of Calgary’s drinking water. (Sources of photos: (top) The City of Calgary Newsroom; (bottom) Environmental Science & Engineering)

A few key facts for readers distant from Calgary. The 2-metre-diameter Bearspaw South feeder main burst its concrete casing on the afternoon of June 5. Installed in 1975, it draws from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Facility on the Bow River in the city’s northwest, and normally supplies up to 60 percent of the city’s drinking water. The break required the city to rely on a much older but very reliable plant drawing on the Glenmore Reservoir, which dams the Elbow River in the city’s southwest. The rupture prompted Stage 4 water restrictions with various bans and recommendations (more on that below), including a call for Calgarians to collectively cut the city’s water consumption by 25 percent, to 480 million litres per day. People immediately responded and, within several days, the city was reporting a water surplus. (For those seeking more details, the Calgary Herald has logged the key daily events.)

From the beginning, the city’s attempts to explain things did not quite add up. The water main had been inspected and tested regularly, officials said, or at least once for sure, and had received “maintenance” as recently as April. Most people probably assumed this involved physically examining it from the inside, then subjecting it to excessive pressure to see if it would hold, and patching up any weak areas. But all that would require first draining a pipe that, after all, 1.6 million people depend on every minute of every day. Later it came out that the line had last been drained and inspected in 2007.

So then it was explained that sophisticated external sensors had not detected any leaks in the most recent inspection. But then someone pointed out that catastrophic failures of an entire multi-layered structure of inner concrete core, steel piping, wire tension coils and outer concrete don’t usually begin with small leaks. And then someone else let slip that the line’s robustness had been confirmed by modelling, i.e., relying on theory.

“This pipe is only at the halfway point in its life cycle,” lamented Sue Henry, Chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. “By all accounts, this should not have happened, but it did.” But others pointed out that the 100-year-lifespan claim was itself bogus. Lines of this type, said Tricia Stadnyk, Canada Research Chair in hydrologic modelling with the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, are rated to last 50 years. And the Bearspaw South line was built…49 years ago. (The lifespan issue gets even worse – more on that below.)

A story full of holes: City officials said the water main had been inspected and tested regularly, and that no leaks had been found; experts pointed out a catastrophic breakage of the line’s multi-layered structure would not likely begin with small leaks – and it emerged the line had not actually been drained and inspected since 2007. (Sources: (left photo) The City of Calgary Newsroom; (right image) The City of Calgary Newsroom)

Gondek, for her part, extended her track record of blaming anyone but herself by claiming the disaster could have been averted if only Alberta’s UCP government had “paid enough attention” and not denied Calgary the money it desperately needed for preventative maintenance and repair. The implications of her claim didn’t quite gibe with city officials’ assurances that the line was considered just fine. And Alberta Premier Danielle Smith shot back that Gondek “has never asked us for funding to repair their water supply infrastructure,” and that the province is providing the city with $224 million to allocate as it pleases. Others noted it was never a question of money at all, because Calgary has generated successive annual budget surpluses but either spends those funds on more congenial pursuits or carries them over into future years.

Still, for a few days it seemed as if water service would be restored within, or very soon after, the promised one week. But on June 15 it was announced that line inspections (which apparently had occurred in the physical world and not merely in city officials’ media narrative) had found five more “hot spots” – i.e., potentially calamitous weaknesses. The repair timeframe was abruptly extended to three to five weeks, well into July. And with that, the City of Calgary declared a State of Local Emergency.

Pointing fingers: Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek blamed Alberta’s UCP government for denying Calgary the money for maintenance and repairs; however, Calgary had never asked for such funding, and in any case received $224 million this year to allocate as it pleased. (Source of screenshot: The City of Calgary Newsroom)

There is an emergency in Calgary – and virtually every city across North America and the Western world. At least two types of emergency, actually. The first type is the open, at times almost gleeful refusal to focus on the basic responsibilities of municipal government. Such as paving roads – Calgary’s are notoriously cracked and potholed – instead of removing lanes from busy thoroughfares and lowering speed limits in order to create still more unused bike lanes. Or ensuring that public transit facilities are clean and safe for law-abiding users, as opposed to all-but abandoning buses and C-Trains to drug addicts, while still pushing for funding of the next multi-billion-dollar transit line.

Many Calgarians have grown exasperated at such neglect and indifference, and quite a few are paying close attention. One letter-writer to the Calgary Herald pointed out that aging water infrastructure is a well-known problem in civic government circles, noting that the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association in 2014 set the goal of getting “unaccounted for” water down to 10 percent of total treatment plant outflow. While that figure seems unsettling enough, five years later a third-party engineering report estimated that Calgary was losing 17-28 percent of all its treated water. While some of that was for fighting fires and some was theft, the majority was believed to be leakage. That makes it sound like very few of those “100-year-rated” lines had ever been inspected, tested and confirmed sound.

Core failures: As in many Western cities, Calgary’s leadership refuses to focus on the basic responsibilities of municipal government, like fixing potholes, clearing snow or ensuring public transit is safe and effective; it prefers building bike lanes people don’t use and planning the next multi-billion-dollar transit line. (Sources of photos (clockwise starting top left): Dave Gilson/CBCRachel Maclean/CBCPostmediaMatt Scace/Postmedia NetworkNick Blakeney/CityNewsRebecca Kelly/CBC)

The staggering water volume implied by that percentage range – and worse, the toleration of the problem for at least a decade – evokes a deeply disturbing decrepitude analogous to the massive leakage from oil pipelines in the dying years of the Soviet Union or the chronic tapping of oil pipelines by thieves in Nigeria. Neither is a place Calgary should emulate. The 17-28 percent range is also, coincidentally, similar to the amount of water Calgarians are now expected to conserve. If Calgary’s pipes didn’t leak, we’d hardly have to conserve water at all even with the city’s biggest water main down. “It’s time,” declared attentive letter-writer Guy Buchanan, “to rethink projects such as the Green Line LRT project and concentrate the $4-billion of reserves that council is hoarding to fortify life-sustaining infrastructure.”

This fiasco is, unfortunately, just one example of an operating mentality averse to focusing on dreary real-world problems. The City of Calgary also hates clearing roads in winter and, every year, whenever it snows hard, the warming Chinook winds fail to arrive on schedule and streets remain snowbound, chaos erupts and the excuse – every single time – is that the city lacks the money and equipment needed to plough its roads and, in any case, does not have a “bare pavement policy.” These words come out of the city spokesperson’s mouth right about the time that private-sector operators wrap up clearing streets and sidewalks at private condo developments and old folks’ homes, have restored Walmart and Safeway parking lots to pristine expanses of black pavement, and can all head to Timmy’s for a well-deserved round of late-morning dark roasts and crullers.

The second type of emergency is what has been termed the “crisis of competence” that is afflicting not only governments but utilities and complex systems in general. Put simply, two generations of experienced technical specialists, managers and tradesmen have been gradually retiring, quitting in disgust or getting purged from organizations that now prioritize adherence to internal process and conformity to progressive ideology over the nuts and bolts of keeping systems running, heeding numbers that don’t lie and respecting unforgiving physical reality. The incoming cohorts, meanwhile, often don’t know what they’re doing and don’t want to learn, hiding their ignorance behind a veil of virtue-signalling arrogance.

Crisis of competence: Experienced technical specialists, managers and tradesman have been leaving or getting purged from organizations that prioritize conformity to progressive causes like ESG and wokism over the nuts and bolts of keeping systems running. At bottom, engineer James Buker, a retired city waterworks employee. (Source of bottom photo: Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia)

The National Post’s Jamie Sarkonak had a good column on this over the past week. “Today’s students can’t read as well as their predecessors; workers are increasingly hired on non-meritocratic basesmedical errors and aviation ‘safety issues’ are on the rise,” Sarkonak wrote. “Meanwhile, decision-makers are often so risk-averse they struggle to decide anything. At small scales, everything still works. But at large scales, the effects can be disastrous.” His piece also references a more detailed description of the phenomenon in the Palladium online journal.

As luck would have it, Calgary’s water main debacle produced an archetype of that vanishing breed. James Buker was an engineer in what used to be called the Waterworks division from 1975 to 2016, serving as head of water transmission and distribution for much of the period. Following the Bearspaw rupture, Buker told journalists that such an event became foreseeable after a similarly catastrophic though less damaging water main rupture in 2004. Excavation revealed that pipe had deteriorated to “talcum powder”, as Buker described it, in barely 20 years. This in turn led to the conclusion that the precast concrete used in an entire generation of city water infrastructure installed between 1950 and 1990 was insufficiently resistant to corrosion from soil. Buker was present for the installation of the Bearspaw South line in 1975. The problem, in other words, was well-understood. By some, at least.

But the inversion of priorities that sees the city authorize spending on ugly cactus-like plants for roundabout verges or cartoon-like bas-reliefs of leaping trout in dank freeway underpasses, and the extirpation of men with a mindset like Buker (or another retired city engineer who revealed that 2007 inspection date mentioned above), are not the kinds of emergency Gondek or other public officials have in mind when they declare one. Their kind of emergency mostly involves increasing their powers to boss the rest of us around. In their minds, the critical task is getting the citizenry good and compliant, in this case focusing us entirely on water conservation, so that we don’t ask too many questions about how the work is going and we blame ourselves when “we” fall short.

Hectoring and lecturing: When the state of emergency was declared, local media focussed increasingly citizens’ compliance with water restrictions; the mayor lectured Calgarians on the need to “dig in and do a little bit more”. Shown at bottom, people filling their water jugs at the city’s emergency supply trailer. (Sources of photos: (top) Helen Pike/CBC; (bottom) The Canadian Press/Jeff Mcintosh)

This is more than a rhetorical flourish. Following the state of emergency declaration, local media coverage shifted emphasis from the situation’s technical aspects to water conservation and more water conservation. Multiple articles were devoted, for example, to showcasing how residents in bedroom communities like Airdrie, which draw their drinking water from the city, were “rallying” to cut their water use.

Gondek has been lecturing Calgarians as if we are schoolchildren or simpletons, noting “how well you’re doing” and “when you need to dig in and do a little bit more.” She urged businesses to ask employees to work from home because this, after all, “would save them the time of having a shower in the morning and no one has to worry what they look or smell like, for that matter.” The mayor, though, always turned up looking good, and there were no reports she didn’t smell good.

Going by the city’s rhetoric, the crisis was largely about our failures. As if a construction company owner worrying he’ll have to shut down the jobsite and lay off his workers because the “Stage 4” water restrictions have forbidden welding, applying hot tar or even using glue due to the purported fire hazard is being narrow-minded. As if the costly disruption to thousands of businesses employing tens of thousands of people can just be shrugged off. As if a retired business owner who laboured for 40 years to afford a decent house in a good neighbourhood and now wants to enjoy gardening – and who, after all, pays many thousands in property taxes and water fees every year – is being selfish in worrying that her plants will die. As if receiving water from the City of Calgary is a gift, a privilege the city has every right to withdraw.

Water, water everywhere: The clampdown was based on a fear the city would not have enough water to fight a single major fire, this in a city posting daily water surpluses of 100 million litres, with two rivers (including the Bow River shown at top), two large reservoirs (including the Glenmore Reservoir shown at bottom) and multiple small water bodies to draw from.

Governments today appear to have only two basic states: immovable indolence and unchecked panic. When the first state trips over to the second, a machinery of absurd over-reaction kicks in, including costly campaigns to eradicate phantom risks. The clamp-down on industrial fire hazards was so severe that a reported 800 Calgary construction jobs were at risk of shutdown. The city feared it would not have enough water to fight even one major fire. This despite posting daily water surpluses as high as 100 million litres and having available two rivers, two large reservoirs and dozens of smaller water bodies to draw upon with pumps. The blanket ban on outdoor fires wasn’t lifted even when it rained four days in a row.

The postmodern world’s inability to rationally assess risks and balance possible risk-reduction measures against foreseeable costs and benefits includes a blindness to the principle that too much caution itself creates danger. Every additional precious hour lost during the water main repair process – such as through that nearly day-long safety stand-down – placed additional weight on the 92-year-old Glenmore facility. It was considered an engineering marvel of its era and its feeder main has proved better-built than anything installed in the last 50 years. But if it failed too, Calgary would be without safe drinking water. People might actually die.

Of course it is great – stirring, in fact – how Calgarians rallied almost as one and did what needed to be done under inconvenient circumstances. Limiting water consumption has been a topic in every conversation; people really do care. The same civic-mindedness was shown during a brutal cold snap last winter, when southern Alberta’s electrical grid became overloaded and the system operator was on the verge of ordering rolling blackouts. People responded within minutes to an urgent request to shut off unneeded lights and electrical devices, and the problem passed. But if a whole city’s population can instantly do the right thing on more than one occasion, why can’t that city’s government also do the right things, like paving roads and inspecting aging water mains?

They don’t make ‘em like they used to: The water main break forced the city to rely on the 92-year-old Glenmore Water Treatment Plant (right), built on the north side of the Glenmore Reservoir (left), an engineering marvel of its era.

In the same spirit, I’m certain there still must be dozens, hundreds, even thousands of earnest and well-meaning city managers, tradespeople and technical specialists who know what they’re doing and would love to focus on just getting the job done, if the internal culture would only let them. The repairs are getting done – even if it’s with the help of a small army of private-sector “partners” – so the entire city payroll can’t be incompetent.

But if the Bearspaw South rupture had been felt and not merely declared to be an emergency, then the repair work wouldn’t stop for two injured workers. As Star Trek’s Mr. Spock liked to intone, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” All good progressives used to nod in rhythm to that line; but either the present-day City of Calgary is from a different other planet, or the “many” whose needs must be met aren’t actually the city’s residents.

It’s worth noting that the same progressives who now worry about two injured workers more than 1.6 million city residents were happy to destroy anything and anyone who got in their way during Covid-19. Those questioning the narrative were cast aside like used Kleenex or crushed like cockroaches. The (futile) mission of “stopping the spread” took precedence over everything: the economy, the individual, religion, social relations, common sense, basic rationality.

“Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” said Star Trek’s Mr. Spock (left); the same progressives who used to nod in agreement to that line seemed more worried about two injured workers than the mission to repair infrastructure critical to 1.6 million Calgarians. Shown at right, a Japanese kamikaze pilot in a damaged single-engine bomber over the U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Essex, off the Philippine Islands, November 1944. (Source of right photo: Rare Historical Photos)

But when it comes to civic infrastructure, the mission doesn’t top the priorities list. Unless the real mission is something other than what is stated. If the mission is to avoid accountability, to go back to the way things have been for the past 30 or so years, and to save the faltering political career of a deeply unpopular mayor, then it all makes a kind of sense. Bringing in specialists from the private sector (from the oil and natural gas industry, no less) to help get them out of the mess, as they quietly announced about 10 days into their week-long repair job – “our best and brightest”, as Gondek put it without any apparent self-awareness – should be seen as confirmation of their desperation, not as a hopeful sign they’re about to change their ways.

George Koch is Editor-in-Chief of C2C Journal.

Source of main image: @cityofcalgary/X.

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Alberta

Protecting the right to vote for Canadian citizens: Minister McIver

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Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver issued the following statement in response to Calgary City Council’s vote to extend the right to vote to permanent residents:

“Yesterday, Calgary city council passed a motion advocating for permanent residents to be extended the right to vote in civic elections. Alberta’s government has been clear since the beginning: only Canadian citizens are able to vote in civic elections. That will not be changing.

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms affirms the right of every Canadian citizen to vote and to run as a candidate. This right extends to voters in municipal, provincial and federal elections.

“Protecting our democracy is of the utmost importance. Our provincial election legislation, like the Local Authorities Elections Act, has also been clear since its inception that voting is a right of Canadian citizens.

“Alberta’s government is also ensuring that voting is accessible for more Albertans. The Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act proposes to enable special ballot access for any voter who requests it, without having to provide any specific reason such as physical disability, absence from the municipality or working for the municipal election. The ministries of Seniors, Community and Social Services and Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction are also making it easier for individuals to obtain the identification Albertans need for a variety of services, including the ability to cast a ballot.

“Our government will continue to protect the integrity of our elections and make sure voting is accessible for all Albertans who are Canadian citizens.”

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