Right in the centre - ‘Good enough’ isn’t good enough


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

“That’s good enough,” is an often stated message. It’s also not true. It’s a cop out, an excuse to avoid excellence. Excellence should be the goal, good enough is a fall back position when you can’t achieve, or perhaps can’t afford, excellence.

I do not believe in over achieving or killing ourselves in pursuit of perfection, but in so many ways, we fall short of excellence when it could be achieved. Columns could be better written, stories better researched. Roads could be built better and made smoother. Maybe potholes could actually be filled in. Urban planning could be done better. No, “good enough” is not good enough.

Our education levels could be higher and better. Our buildings could be more efficient and more economical. And speaking of buildings, makes me think of housing. We can’t really say we are short of housing in Canada when many people have two or three houses. We can’t legislate against that situation, but I do cringe when people say we are short of housing and they may own two or three. They can only live in one at a time. I don’t have a solution, maybe somebody else does, but at least, mathematically speaking, in Canada, we are not short of housing.

As for towns and municipalities, the question they are always facing is, “Are we doing all we can? And if so, how to pay for it?” Having been a member of council on two occasions and having covered municipal politics for over 30 years, I have a bit of an insight as to how things work. There is never enough money to get everything done that needs to be done. Sometimes there isn’t enough money to even complete the urgent projects. One thing councils could do is to apply more pressure through the Association of Manitoba Municipalities on the senior levels of government to implement “one envelope” funding. That would mean that, instead of providing project-by-project funding on a piece meal application basis, municipalities would get funding on a predictable, annual basis. As it is now, everything from recreation centres, to flood damage, to water, sewer and road construction is dependent on applying for funds and hoping you get to the serving pot before the food runs out. It makes for a very wasteful and messy process. In many cases, senior levels of government insist on over-engineering projects. Two examples are the Park Lake bridge at Neepawa and a bridge at Neepawa Golf Course. Millions are being wasted on those two projects alone due to over-engineering.

A regular letter-to-the-editor writer, Fred Tait, questioned me when I said we may have more civil servants than we need. I suggest that he look at the provincial and federal government and ask if we had “one envelope” funding from senior governments to municipalities if we would need so many people overseeing and complicating project applications.

As a province, we certainly fall short of excellence. Manitoba is still a have-not province. One internet chart shows that the feds send Manitoba over $2 billion in transfer payments. We should hang our collective heads in shame. That Manitoba, rich in people, resources, land and market opportunities, has to be on the federal welfare roll is mind-boggling. “Good enough” is clearly not good enough for us as a province.

Just being “Good enough” failed us immensely in our provincial response to COVID-19. We fell far short in the care of our elderly. What we asked of our care workers was wrong at many points, as well. The biggest shortfall was provision of ICU beds. North Dakota has far more than Manitoba and that just doesn’t seem right. Some would ask why we would need more ICU beds. We were “good enough” before. Were we? We didn’t have enough for COVID-19, we may be short again. If we have another pandemic, or a disaster in the future, we will be short again. Just imagine if we had a major hotel fire, gas explosion or an air crash in Manitoba. We simply aren’t prepared for a major incident and COVID-19 proved that point clearly.

At all levels of government and business, we could do more. We could be better, faster and more productive. And with less stress. We could grow more of everything, process more food, mine more minerals. There is no limit to the potential for Manitoba and Manitobans.

The biggest challenge for us all is that we could do more. Yes, “good enough” has to go as we continue to strive for excellence.

Manitoba should spend less time on re-jigging slogans and more time on actually re-jigging our policies, procedures and planning. Excellence has been achieved in Manitoba not nearly often enough. Let’s hope we can get where we need to be so that excellence is achieved far more often than just “good enough”.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.