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On crumbling bridges and high taxes

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No one needs to be lectured about the bridge tragedy in Minneapolis. It is a horrible, ugly event. And the only good thing that comes from horrible ugly events is a pledge to make sure it never happens again.In coverage of the bridge disaster, The National Post included a story that touched upon a recent study by the Canadian Federation of Municipalities which attempted to tally up the entire tab for infrastructure repairs and replacement needed in Canada right now. The total? A whopping $100 billion.And what kind of money is Ottawa putting on the table to deal with this so-called infrastructure deficit? According to the Post story, about $16 billion over five years.To be blunt, what happened in Minneapolis should be wake up call to governments in developed countries about the perils of putting off today what should have been done yesterday. Tax cutting programs have put more money in people's pockets, but at what cost? Everyone wants lower taxes, but there is a threshold beyond which government cannot pay for everything it needs to pay for. Like bridge repairs.Unfortunately, infrastructure is one of those government services we take for granted. As long as the bridge stands, we think it's okay. We ignore the effects of age, weather and heavy usage and put off maintenance and replacement programs in the name of keeping taxes down. Then the bridge fails and everyone asks 'what happened?'This is undoubtedly the story that will come out of Minneapolis. We know this because it is the story that came out of New Orleans, where we learned that pleas for upgrades to dikes went unheeded by federal and state officials. It's what happened in Montreal, when the city and province fell behind infrastructure replacement and repair programs and a bridge collapsed. It's what will happen in other communities if we continue the way we are continuing.When Prime Minister Stephen Harper starts talking about removing another point from the GST, remember Minneapolis, New Orleans and Montreal. And remember that the next time a bridge collapses, you might be the one driving across it.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.

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