All Potholes are Global
. A recent letter to the editor of the Nunatsiaq News got me thinking. "Worst Iqaluit Roads in 53 years", the headline raged. I suspect it was based on the state of the one hundred meters of the Apex Road directly in front of the author's house. Are all politics that local? With apologies to Tip O'Neill, I'm going to suggest it's t'other way 'round. Potholes can be global ... when placed in their proper context. Iqaluit roads have never been so well maintained. In my thirty-five years here this is the first winter that snow removal on the Apex road has begun before people went to work. It is the first time in those same thirty-five years that snow removal on the Apex Road continued after people got home safely. Somebody at City Hall re-discovered shift scheduling and applied it to the core mandate of any municipal government: deliver the water, remove the sewage and garbage, and clear the snow so the ambulance and fire trucks can get through! Not stopping there, they paved streets throughought the city last summer, nothing less than a godsend. The number of vehicles in Iqaluit has increased so dramatically over the last few years that residents were experiencing acute respiratory problems from the perpetual cloud of dust that enveloped the city from dawn 'til dusk, six months a year, especially in Apex. City officials warned ahead of time that not all neighbourhoods could be done in a single year. They even showed good sense in their selection of areas to be done later. Heeding the common sense observation that "huge trucks, fully loaded, cause a lot of the problems," City staff decided to wait until major work on the infamous sinking Arena was finished, before paving that particular stretch. Yep, you guessed it. The letter writer lives right next door to the arena. The work has since been completed. Care to guess where the paving starts this summer? The lesson to be learned from all this, of course, is that too local a context can be very misleading. Dreadful as some 2010 potholes have been in specific locations, they do not constitute the worse regime of road maintenance in Iqaluit for 53 years. Where, you might ask, is the global aspect in all this? Truth is there are very few 'local' issues these days. Even potholes occur in a wide ecological context. Impatient for global warming to reach Iqaluit, perhaps the author travelled to warmer climes this winter? He ignores this having been the heaviest snow accumulation in at least 53 years, by a huge margin. Despite this unprecedented threat, spring runoff caused only a fraction of the typical damage of recent years precisely because drainage ditches and culverts were so much better planned this time, before the extensive paving program began. As for the ridges of frozen sand and ice that accumulated at some intersections, they were presumably left for a week or two to melt naturally because any attempt to remove them using brute force and heavy equipment would indeed have damaged the brand new pavement underneath. All of which leads to the global 'local' question. Why do we so rarely bother to simply ask for an explanation? Me included! Many years ago, when I was the ignoramus shooting my mouth off cursing the state of the roads in Frobisher Bay, I decided to stop Town foreman Art Barrieau as he drove by in the truck he practically lived in. "Sir Arthur, what's up with the roads?" I asked. "Damn grader broke a blade on ice-locked rock," he replied. "The boys are welding it in the garage right now to get us through until a new one gets here." I only needed to ask. So simple. Which raises the one issue Mr. Pearson got right this time. (He's been right before by the way. He was openly laughed at for putting down the first thin layer of pavement as Mayor of Frobisher Bay years ago. The stuff lasted for decades.) Where he hits home this time is in suggesting that, with Saali Sagiattuk gone, our new and younger City staff would do well to ask more experienced folks where common snowmobile trails need to cross Iqaluit streets when returning from a long hunting trip. The evident disregard snow crews have shown for those longstanding access points when approaching Town from Imiqtarviminiq, or near the airport, or coming in through the pack ice, is disrespectful in the extreme towards the very people Iqaluit and Nunavut are all about. Next time on the global local beat, we'll revisit Baker Lake aquifers and uranium mining. .