Stupid spending

- January 10th, 2012

Bixi

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or the Calgary Sun newspaper, then you know that we are not fans of stupid, wasteful spending by our governments.

And it’s always nice to know we’re not alone.

Not to give another outlet too much credit, but Maclean’s magazine has a great cover piece this week titled “99 stupid things the government did with your money.”

It’s a pretty comprehensive list, including stupidity at the federal, provincial and municipal level. Calgary gets rapped for the public art expected to grace the airport tunnel, as well as the tens of thousands spent in court over a $100 ticket given to our notorious street preacher.

I’m a touch disappointed the soon-to-open Peace Bridge didn’t make the cut for stupidity. It has all the requirements: dodgy process, lack of design competition, big price tag, proximity to other bridges, and it even violates the city’s overarching policy it was supposed to help us meet.

But I digress.

While all the items should be of note to governments and citizens across the country, there was one that should give us pause.

Late last year, the Sun pointed out to Calgarians members of council were looking to spend millions on a bike share program to allow cycle commuting around the core.

This, despite repeated pleas the city could possibly cut anything more out of the upcoming budget.

As Michael Platt points out in the column linked there above, Ald. Druh Farrell suggested Calgary copy Montreal’s vaunted Bixi bike share.

The problem, as Maclean’s points out, is that Bixi isn’t a model anyone should be following.

The City of Montreal has been forced to give municipally owned, and money-losing, Bixi $108 million in loans and loan guarantees as it has run into problems after expanding into Toronto and Ottawa.

From Maclean’s:

Mayor Gérald Tremblay insisted taxpayer money would all be paid back once Bixi becomes an international bike-sharing powerhouse. Not so fast, warned the city’s auditor general. Montreal taxpayers could suffer significant losses, he said, because “basic rules of management were neglected or circumvented.”

As Calgary city audits have shown, neglecting basic rules of management is not something exclusive to Montreal.

The money needed to start up a bike share program in Calgary is far from the $108 million bailing out Bixi, but it would be stupid to spend anything on a program that isn’t in any way a necessity to make Calgary a better place.

Beyond that, proponents of the program haven’t managed to dig up anyone pining for such an extravagance.

When the item was up for discussion at a city committee in December, no one interested in the plan was present to pitch for it.

In my first column of 2012, I asked people to resolve not to be so stupid this year. Killing the bike share discussion would be a step in the right direction.

Categories: Politics

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