Opinion: Decision to build new $789M museum is out of touch with reality

Opinion: Decision to build new $789M museum is out of touch with reality

There’s an old Romanian saying: “satul arde și baba se piaptănă” — meaning, ‘the old lady combs her hair, meanwhile the town burns.’

This is what swiftly came to mind when the province announced its grand plan to spend just shy of $800 million to replace the Royal BC Museum.

What makes the phrase even more ironic is that it comes at a time when far more pressing issues are hovering ominously over Greater Victoria Area and Vancouver Island, and have been so for several years now.

Let’s start with our infrastructure.

Take the notorious Colwood Crawl for instance — the soul-sucking experience many of us don’t even wish on our worst enemies; the arduous and snail-like creep west of the city that has surely knocked off a few years of life expectancy in some folks. It’s not like an entire book of ideas hasn’t been floated yet before the province – there have basic suggestions, from an LRT to a ferry, to more buses, even a monorail.

Or a man named Greg who ferries people back and forth for a pack of cigarettes on a home-build raft.

Same goes for the Malahat. How does anyone in the Ministry of Transportation sleep at night knowing that, even in 2022, a major accident or calamity on that critical piece of road can still sever the south and north parts of the Island? Whether it’s the resurrection of the much-debated Island-wide E&N Rail Corridor, or digging tunnels, or adding bridges, it doesn’t really matter – just do something. After all, sky’s the limit when there’s money, right?

Next up, our health care system.

Currently, the Vancouver Island Health Authority is struggling to maintain staff due to shortages and burnout, largely following the pandemic. There are also countless people right now who cannot find a doctor or a specialist anywhere; adding more months, or even years, of pain and worsening health conditions as they wait for that phone call. Entire clinics are running without a single doctor present because there are none to be found.

Or what about mental health? Even now, B.C. does not cover the cost of a counsellor, forcing people to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket. Meanwhile, existing counsellors, psychologists and mental health therapists are struggling with an immense input of clients, and community-focused organizations, such as the Cool Aid Society, or Our Place Society, operate on budgets so paper-thin, that they’re almost transparent.

A walk along downtown Victoria paints an equally grim picture of how well our city is handling inflation and cost of housing, which by the way, has spiralled out of control, burst into flames and is now a burning carcass on the side of the road. Average rent in Victoria is pushing $2,000+ for a one-bedroom apartment, while a crappy house leaning more than the Tower of Pisa goes in excess of $800,000. Gentrification is slowly killing Victoria’s communities, while, ironically, construction is in full swing across the Island.

But the new museum will be “state-of-the-art and seismically-safe” you guys!

RELATED: B.C. to spend $789 million to replace Royal BC Museum

OK. Let’s not be crude here; this isn’t to say that it doesn’t need an upgrade, or that we as Victorians don’t deserve a modern museum. We do; after all, we’re not a city of uncultured peasants. Culture, art, and history are all staples of who we are as a city and as a community.

That being said, the big question remains: why now? The money is clearly there, so simply put, why not use it to solve the problems that we face at this very moment, not in 2030?

Let’s not become the old lady, shall we?

Octavian Lacatusu is a journalist, writer, photographer and marketing specialist. He worked as a reporter and editor throughout Canada for more than 10 years, and his work has appeared in a variety of news outlets and magazines, including CTV News/Bell Media, Toronto Observer and Black Press. In his past time (and to stay relatively sane) he builds LEGO creations that move and drive, and daydreams about cars he can’t possibly afford.

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