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Joe McFarland: Calgary is adopting a ‘can’t do’ attitude

A general view of the exterior of the Scotiabank Saddledome on Oct. 6, 2013, with the Calgary skyline behind.
A general view of the exterior of the Scotiabank Saddledome on Oct. 6, 2013, with the Calgary skyline behind. Derek Leung/Getty Images

I couldn’t have been more proud to be living and reporting in Calgary than I was during the 2013 flood.

It always puts a smile on my face thinking about how everyone came together in a difficult time to help clean up the mess.

When looking at the damage, it was hard to believe how quickly everything returned to normal. I mean, the Calgary Stampede rolled on despite the grounds having been under water just a few days prior to the official opening.

READ MORE: 2013: The Calgary Stampede that almost wasn’t

It was amazing to see the “can do” attitude pull through.

That was just five short years ago.

I hate to say it, but a lot seems to have changed over the last five years and it hasn’t been for the better. There seems to be an overwhelming feeling of “can’t do” in these parts.

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Want to get some sort of transit service to your area? Good luck with that.

How about a new school in your community? Someone will invariably try to stand in the way.

What about a replacement for the Saddledome or a new sports/entertainment facility? Nope.

The Olympics? Don’t even get me started.

READ MORE: IOC visits Calgary to tour legacy Olympic venues, meet with bid committee

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to dismiss the economic changes we have faced and the realities we have today. Nor am I saying that any of the questions and opposition surrounding big projects isn’t warranted.

What I am saying is that the vocal anti-everything crowd is seemingly getting in the way of this city trying to improve or progress in any way, shape or form.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re in a mess right now.

READ MORE: Oil discounts grow as CEOs lament Canada’s competitiveness gap

There is no water or mud or debris from a flood. This mess comes in the form of high unemployment, high office vacancy rates in the downtown and high political tension as we try to navigate through a plethora of issues with our bread-and-butter industry — energy.

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Instead of getting behind other avenues to get some positive feelings going about our community, some people seem bent on slamming the brakes on any kind of perceived progress. They have used every excuse in the book to get in the way of some of these projects, too.

It’s too expensive. It’s too big. It’s not big enough. It’s too Liberal. It’s too Conservative. It’s too much this and not enough that.

READ MORE: Downtown Calgary struggles with commercial vacancies while ‘burbs’ boom

The funny thing is that all of these excuses are simply delaying the inevitable. At some point, that school or transit line or new events centre will need to get built. The longer you wait, the more expensive it will end up being, because you end up having to build it under tighter deadlines. Remember the great #tunderpass debate of 2010?

As we approach the Nov. 13 plebiscite on the 2026 Winter Olympics, I’m curious about what the game-plan is if we do, in fact, vote “no.”

If we’re not going ahead with an event that could galvanize the community, we need to start thinking about what kinds of things we need to prioritize. We should be putting together our list of things that need to get done regardless of a bid for the Olympic Games. They could be as big and elaborate as a new fieldhouse or as small as community gardens and playgrounds.

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More importantly, we need to get behind those initiatives. It’s the only way we’ll get out of this rut because doing nothing doesn’t solve the problems we have.

READ MORE: Calgary council officially invites Flames to reignite arena talks

Another way to put it is by reiterating the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and over again while expecting a different result.

Here in Calgary, we like to pride ourselves on being progressive and tackling problems head on. We think we’re renegades or cavaliers or pioneers, doing things in spite of the circumstances. It didn’t seem to matter whether the barriers are Mother Nature or government.

Believe it or not, my opposition to the Olympics is based solely on the political handling of it along with the International Olympic Committee’s reputation.

If it were based solely on economics, I would be completely on-board with it. Why? Because maybe it will give this city the smack on the rump it needs to get back to feeling like it “can do” something.

We’ve spent far too long drowning ourselves in negativity and the “can’t do” attitude, and it’s time we turn things around.

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