The mosquito invasion: did saving $200G cost us our summer?

I’m sitting on my backyard deck as I write this, listening to a generic Top 40 hit radio station. I’m not listening voluntarily, mind you. A house next to mine is having a new roof installed, and the roofers have chosen to blast execrable radio station Hot 107 from the roof for everyone to hear. Thank you, roofers.

It’s a little bit amazing that I can do anything outside right now, whether it’s writing a blog or involuntarily listening to prattle from Ryan Seacrest (why does an Edmonton radio station play Ryan Seacrest?).  This seems to be the time of day when the shocking, ravenous hoards of mosquitoes are resting, waiting to spring from their daytime hiding places to attack innocent Edmontonians.

This year’s mosquito infestation is being called the worst in 10 years, but frankly, I think that’s being conservative.  It’s the worst I can remember, ever. There was one year worse than this, but I was living in Red Deer at the time. Red Deer city council got all wrapped up in the new wave of environmentalism, and opted not to do any spraying. The result was a ruined summer, where it was almost impossible to go outside, even for a few minutes. Needless to say, council came to its senses the next year, and nuked the buggers into history.

So this year’s invasion is one of the worst, but not THE worst in my memory. Still, it’s bad. Terrible, in fact, and it makes me angry. We suffered through one of the worst winters in years, and a damp and cool spring. Now that summer is here, and we’re into a lovely spell of 25C weather, it’s almost impossible to enjoy. Does God hate Edmonton?

The city’s mosquito control people have been pretty good at predicting the invasion, less successful at preventing it. Why has this happened? According to the city, it’s the result of a perfect storm of a very wet June, followed by a very warm July. And, after years of drought, zillions of mosquito eggs that have lain dormant for years have sprung to live.

If it’s any comfort, we are not alone. Mosquito numbers in Western Canada have spiked pretty much everywhere, for the same reasons. But I have to ask if city council has to bear some of the blame.

Remember during budget deliberations, when the city opted to slice $194,000 from the mosquito-spraying budget? The reasoning was that it had been years since the city had a serious problem with mosquitoes, and the department had come in under budget for 10 years.  Only Kerry Diotte — who is rapidly becoming my favourite councilor thanks to his single-minded dedication to watching over every penny the city spends — raised any objections.

“It’s kind of like rolling the dice to say it was good this year so we’re going to assume it will be good next year,” he said. “That’s fairly short sighted.”

Was Diotte right? It seems like it on the bite-ridden surface, yes. Take away $194,000 from the mosquito-fighting budget, mosquito population explodes. Ergo, cutting the budget resulted in more mosquitoes. But we don’t know that for sure. It may be that no amount of money, no amount of spraying, could have prevented this infestation.

But it’s a good question that I hope someone on council will ask. I think we’re far too willing to just shrug our shoulders and say “oh, well, these things happen”. If this is just nature doing her thing, that’s OK. You can’t fool Mother Nature. But if the mosquito swarms are the result, at least in part, of cutting the budget, we should know this so it doesn’t happen again. Somebody on council should ask the mosquito control people if the missing $200,000 would have made a difference.

Hey, I’m all for prudent use of taxpayer money. But I will happily give my OK to the city to spend $194,000 to make our city more livable during our too-brief summer.

One thought on “The mosquito invasion: did saving $200G cost us our summer?

  1. This mosquitoes crisis reflects that our City Council is totally insensitive to residents needs.It is crisis and city council is still planning.It will be better to live in African forests rather than in Edmonton.Edmontonions wake up and start peaceful protests and never vote for your respective councillors again.Please wake up and protest against this lousy bureaucrats of Edmonton .

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