Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Vancouver vs. Winnipeg


It's one of those compelling match-ups for a Vancouverite… a competition most of us feel our city takes hands down. Well…

On Sunday I had the opportunity to travel through the brand new terminal at Winnipeg's Richardson Airport. Even as a Vancouverite (and therefore being accustomed to what, in my opinion, is the most exceptional airport in the world) I have to admit that this new building is beautiful. (Note: it's true that modern, beautiful buildings are better with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, as were on offer during opening day in Winnipeg.) This is not an airport review however, (ours wins - sorry Winnipeg) - it is a comment on infrastructure, and more specifically, our ability as citizens to get behind investment in it.

During the conference I attended over three days in Winnipeg I had no less than 6 locals express excitement and pride over their new airport and our fortuitous timing to be amongst the first to use it on opening day. They spoke about it like it was a renovation to the guest suite of their own home – only with more pride.

How refreshing.

Sitting in the sparkling new Air Canada Lounge on my way out of town (more champagne and strawberries) I decided to google the following terms:

"controversy over new Winnipeg airport terminal" Scroll down page 1 - Nothing. Scroll down page 2 – Nothing.

"protest over new Winnipeg airport terminal" Page 1 – Zip. Page 2 - Zero.

A 10 minute search revealed only articles that were positive! Apparently nobody in Winnipeg complained about this $560 million investment. Sure, they went over the original budget but even that was barely criticized.

This story about the Winnipeg airport brings me to Vancouver (literally and figuratively).

Why is it that in Vancouver someone, or some group, ALWAYS needs to protest, analyze (negatively), or lament the millions of things money can be spent on other than infrastructure? As Vancouverites we've grown used to this endless natter in the background – the way one grows used to static on the radio. Imagine how much controversy would ensue if a similar project were undertaken in Vancouver. Actually, nevermind, no imagination required – Whistler Highway expansion, Highway #1 expansion, SkyTrain lines, BC Place renovations, Olympic infrastructure of ANY kind – not one of these was granted a free pass by media or citizens as a good thing? Each one suffered some sort of protest or opposition.

In Winnipeg I experienced what it is like to take away that undercurrent of negativity. Sticking with the radio analogy, it was a bit like hearing that favourite song or the day's news without a distracting buzz or crackle. Or maybe it was like having chocolate-covered strawberries and bubbly at the airport, compared to not having them… In other words it's WAY BETTER.

Maybe in Vancouver we're spoilt by the perfection of our natural surroundings, or our superior hockey team - this inexplicably creating a need to complain bitterly about any project that costs money? Maybe it's the rain that makes people grumpy? Winnipeg isn't known for stellar weather so I doubt that explains it.

Vancouverites, if you have an explanation for our city's negativity click "Comment" below and share it with our readers so that we might be able to figure out how to take a page out of Winnipeg's book.

- MJ

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