Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Winnipeg a Template for Calgary

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Winnipeg a Template for Calgary

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Winnipeg a template for Calgary

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published June 25:

Calgary's immediate goal is to clean up the mess left by the flood last week; pump out the basements, repair the roads, restore the electricity and water services and get the city running again. Once that has been achieved, the Calgary and Alberta governments will have to improve the city's flood defences at great cost.

The whole world now knows Calgary can be suddenly put out of business by a downpour of rain on the high ground west of the city. This doesn't happen often but it just did. Calgary's central business district stands on the flood plain right beside the Bow River. Why would you put your business in such a city when you could just as well put it in Edmonton, whose central business district stands at the top of the banks, high above the flood plain of the North Saskatchewan River?

As long as that question stands, Calgary's economic prospects will be blighted by the memory of this flood. Likewise, Winnipeg's economic prospects were blighted by the memory of the 1950 Red River flood until the Red River Floodway was built, opening in 1968. We still get floods in southern Manitoba, but they don't stop the city from growing and prospering.

The solution in Winnipeg's case took almost 20 years. It had to wait for a provincial government that clearly saw the problem and found the consultants who could propose a solution. It had to wait for governments that were prepared to invest what then seemed like vast sums of money in one of the largest earth-moving projects ever undertaken. The solution works so well no one today complains of the time and the expense involved.

An early step for Calgary and for the Alberta government will be to document what happened this time. People soon forget what the storm was like after the sunshine returns. Eventually a great deal of money may have to be spent on a solution. People will need to be reminded how bad it gets when you don't solve the problem. …

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