Transparency and accountability. Two political buzzwords that we typically hear during an election cycle. When reading about different projects supported by different levels of government, the response is typically the same: “It’s good for the economy and it will create jobs” and “if you have any questions take a look at our website”. So, naturally, I ask myself, does anybody really know who is ACCOUNTABLE?
For instance, I look at the Telus Pure Fibre project in Leduc. I see that this system will not cost the City (taxpayers) any money. After reviewing the City’s online budget, you will see that the city had a line item of $150,000.00 for broadband/fibre optic expansion at the civic centre. Additionally, I cannot say this is directly related or exactly what it may be for, but I find it interesting that the City of Leduc will spend over $5 Million on computer services and eGovernment strategies, over 2021-2022.
Next, I read on the City’s website that the “network will primarily be built within the downtown area, business parks and Leduc common”. Yet, in my residential neighborhood, over 300 holes were dug, thousands of flags installed, and my current internet provider Shaw had their line cut by accident. I spoke to the young fella digging a hole a foot away from my 25-year-old tree and asked if the tree dies or if the lawn sinks, who I should be contacting? He gave me a number to call which led to a voicemail service in which I am still waiting for a call back from. This then led me to see if any other communities have gone through a similar experience with Telus.
An article written back in 2019 from St. Albert described that owners' yards were not put back together resulting in safety concerns that live wires were left out for kids to come in contact with, and that property owners were ultimately left to create remediation strategies with Telus. Airdrie expressed similar concerns in 2020 and noted that the installation process spanned over two years. Furthermore, a variety of online forums outline items around sinkholes, lack of follow up from Telus, and residents eventually needing to cover the cost of landscaping repairs.
This all finally leads me to question why the City decided to go forward with this in the first place. When reading the City’s website, it states that this was a request of local businesses and bringing Leduc businesses to a competitive edge with the rest of the world. I was able to find a broadband study that Leduc County created back in 2011 for the Nisku Business Park. I agree that it makes sense to support businesses located in Nisku as it is my understanding that they still struggle with internet connection today, however, operating a business downtown my whole life, we have never struggled with internet connection.
I believe when we speak of transparent and accountable decision making, we need to do better on how we are communicating decisions with our residents. On my website, I have begun to outline a few of the strategies that I would implement to make people more aware of the decisions that are happening within our City.
Lastly, Any projects that cost our residents time, energy and/or financial resources directly are not free and, in my mind, are just jeopardizing the very revenue supply that city resources rely on.