Public consultations meaningless anyways

Paula Simons recent column on the LRT consultation meetings:

But while those who spoke in opposition to the new route outnumbered supporters two-to-one, council also heard from some two dozen people who spoke passionately in favour of the new route, residents and business people from Lynnwood and Meadowlark, Strathearn and Canora, Millwoods and Grovenor and West Jasper Place. Public hearings usually attract plenty of NIMBY sentiment, since people are far more likely to show up to city council to complain than commend.
So these consultations, Simons tells us, are already unreliable as indicators of what should be done due to those nay-saying about public decisions that affect their private lives, right. Pray, continue:
"We think this is a super system and a sensitive system for mature neighbourhoods and redevelopment," said David Kent, the developer behind the Strathearn Heights infill project. For council, this is not going to be an easy decision.

Nor should it be. The choice they make will chart the direction for this city's future development, for good or for ill. And there's probably no route they could chose that would make everybody happy. No matter where the train runs, somebody will be inconvenienced, somebody's ox will be gored.
There will be some who might be directly impacted by the decision being made, and they might raise a big public stink, but the government should ignore them in favour of the greater good.
West Edmonton community activist Andrew Knack, who's planning his own run for city council next fall, put it bluntly to the current councillors.

"No matter which route they chose, many people will be angry.

"Consensus is not possible."

But just because a decision won't' be easy, he said, that doesn't mean council should give up on LRT.

He's absolutely right. It's time for us, as a city, to put our mass transit plans back on track.

The route proposed by city planners isn't perfect -there may need to be some tweaking in response to legitimate community concern.

Yet despite the disruption and inconvenience the route will mean for some, this is a plan that offers a bold, fresh vision for LRT in Edmonton. It's time for council to get on-board -before Edmonton is left behind on the platform once again.

It sounds like a pretty open-and-shut case for pushing on with this west LRT development. There are some public consultations, but those are just for show. It sounds like if necessary, Simons would be all for just ditching the public meetings. She doesn't like what people there say, and so we will put the west LRT where government planning commissions have decided the most utilitarian route is. Public opinion of those who live in affected areas be damned. Somehow I doubt that an LRT route that would require the demolitions of both Paula Simons and Andrew Knack's homes would be so proudly promoted.

Now does this sound familiar? Lets turn to...Paula Simons:
This Monday, in the last week of the jam-packed and testy spring sitting, with tempers already running high around Bill 44, the government will introduce Bill 50, the innocuous-sounding Electric Statutes Amendment Act. The act would give the legislature responsibility for determining whether and which new power lines are needed. That's a significant shift. In a province where generators and transmission lines are built and owned, not by the province, but by private companies, it's traditionally been the responsibility of AESO, the Alberta Electric System Operator, and the Alberta Utilities Commission -- formerly the Energy and Utilities Board -- to figure out when and whether new lines were necessary. But after the debacle of the botched EUB hearings into the siting of a new power line between Edmonton and Calgary -- hearings that had to be cancelled, after the EUB hired ham-handed private investigators to spy on those who opposed the line -- the Stelmach government is centralizing control of transmission planning. The new AUC will still decide precisely where the individual lines will run. But under Bill 50, the province will specifically say which lines are built first.
Yes, thats right, the Province of Alberta is proposing to do away with the same consultation process with Bill 50 that the City of Edmonton is holding to great fanfare but literally no benefit.

So seeing how public consultations don't mean anything when the public doesn't consult in a way the political masters like, is there really any strong reason to keep the public consultation process in place? Unlike LRT lines, power lines don't require homes to be bulldozed to the ground. Unlike LRT lines, the politicians don't get a direct say into where the lines are built: AESO alone makes that determination. Unlike the LRT, there is an actual verifiable need for new power transmission lines and not some city councillors and wannabe politicians like Knack pushing for some "legacy project".

Is it too much to hope that when the Liberals and NDP [and, possibly, even Wildrose.. -ed] go hog-wild over Bill 50 somebody reminds them that you can hold tons of public consultations but unless you want nothing to get done, you will eventually have to tell those raising issues in these consultations to go to hell. That's the reality on the ground nobody wants to talk about. The merits of government agencies making LRT or power decisions in the first place may be up for debate, but there should be no illusion of a "public process" entirely made up of 100th ave in favour of 107th ave, 107th ave in favour of 103rd ave, 103rd ave in favour of 98th ave, and 98th ave in favour of 100th ave circle-jerking festivals.