Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lack of foresight: Dangerous like driving in the Rocky Mountains

It is sometimes quite embarrassing to be an Albertan. I've just come across an article that is just sadly funny. We can call this funny because it's been filed under "entertainment", so we have the all clear!
Seeking out new business opportunities, he came to Alberta looking for stable, routine work with the oil industry. He wasn’t planning to deal with accidents on the highway at all. “We didn’t come thinking we’d see crashes. We didn’t come to work on the accident side of the business. We were going to be servicing the oil and gas industry, not the highway. We didn’t really understand what (Highway) 63 was until we got there.”

Albertans, of course, know how deadly some Alberta roads can be, especially those connected to the oilsands industry. Take the untwinned portion of Highway 63 to Fort McMurray, commonly referred to as “Death Highway” because of the huge number of fatal crashes that occur. Much of its traffic is oilsands-related, be it heavy equipment operators or speeding, tired shift workers. The province is now working to twin the road, a reaction to public outcry about its safety.

The carnage Davis saw floored him. “It’s something of the likes I’ve never seen before. We were shocked at what happens on Hwys. 63 and 881. It was very comparable to what happens here in the mountains.”
That's right, a very twinnable, manageable highway in the prairies is "comparable" you know, in terms of carnage, to a mountain drive. Let that sink in, then ask yourself what the difference is between the two? If you answered that one is dangerous because it runs along an immovable mountain and the other is dangerous because the government didn't think ahead and didn't want to spend money you'd be correct.

I have zero faith in the Alberta government's ability to foresee problems that they themselves are creating. I've covered Highway 63 here before in this manner, to me it is the poster child of everything else that is even more serious the government is failing to plan for as well. It's always a reaction with them.

The Alberta government knew the oilsands would be generating the amount of traffic they do. The Alberta government knew what roads would be used. This shit isn't hard to figure out, especially if you have all of the plans and leases of everything that's going to be created. Right? Yet they've waited fore the carnage to ensue and "public outcry" before addressing the problem.

While the Alberta government wasn't twinning highway 63 they were also denying that the oilsands had any impact on the surrounding environment at all. Now today, in reaction to "public outcry", we are implementing the bare minimum of monitoring possible and already are on world tours about how "world class" our environmental standards are. This is a reaction to all of the bad P.R. the government's head-in-the-sand approach to not spending even more money to address the very real problems they knew (but wouldn't admit) existed created.

Do you see a pattern in the Alberta government's behaviour? The only "plan" they have is "money". Their default mode of operation is "damage control". This is very real damage mind you, real deaths, real destruction, that they're covering up and playing down. There is still today no foresight, they're addressing the past problems that couldn't be swept under the rug anymore but what about the future problems they continue to ignore? The water usage, the power consumption, and oil industry's complete inability to reclaim tailings remotely on schedule. Can a government that is indebted catching up to it's own incompetence even afford to address these problems?

I have a daughter, and I worry for her future everyday. In Alberta my primary worry comes from knowing that her health and safety is dead-last on the Alberta government's list of priorities. Her future is in the hands of people who couldn't foresee (or chose not to see) that the main highway to their pet project would have a lot of traffic on it, and that alone is terrifying.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

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