Friday, March 5, 2010

Flaherty's Not so New Red Tape Commission is Code for Deregulation

In a post the other day on Paul Calandra, Reform-Conservative MP for Oak Ridges-Markham; I mentioned that I was surprised he would boast of his involvement with the Red Tape Commission; a scheme introduced by Mike Harris that was devastating for Ontario.

As much as the term 'red tape' has negative connotations, it is really just a clever way of saying deregulation.

Ulli Diemer wrote extensively on the subject back in 2000, when the Walkerton tragedy was directly linked to this horrendous bit of government hanky panky.

Contamination: The Poisonous Legacy of Ontario's Environmental Cutbacks

This is a story about fanaticism and death. The dead are buried in fresh graves in the cemeteries of Walkerton, Ontario. The fanatics are very much alive, going about their daily business in the Premier's office and the cabinet room in Queen's Park ... Investigators are still working to determine exactly how deadly E. coli 0157 bacteria found their way into Walkerton's water in May, causing at least seven and perhaps 11 deaths, and leaving hundreds seriously ill.

The story of the Walkerton tragedy is not, however, primarily a story about Walkerton at all. This was no unforeseen accident. It was the predictable - and predicted - result of deliberate policy decisions which gravely compromised the safety of Ontario's drinking water. The broader story of Walkerton is the story of repeated warnings, from many different experts, officials, and agencies, that the Harris government's environmental cutbacks were putting public health in jeopardy. And it is the story of how those warnings were dismissed ...

Devastating cutbacks, media manipulation and calculated photo-ops, defined the Harris government, and his was a legacy of deceit. Sound familiar?

Well so does this:
The chain of events begins in June 1995, when Harris's Progressive Conservatives take office, and start ramming through their "Common Sense Revolution." The phrase was concocted by the party's election strategists, but it captures perfectly the attitudes of Harris and his inner circle: The private sector can do everything better. That's a fact. That's common sense. Obviously, then, anything which interferes with the private sector - environmental regulations enforced by busy-body inspectors, for example - is nonsense and needs to be dismantled. You don't need public input or so-called "expert" advice to figure that out.

Armed with these certainties, the Tories set out to slash Ontario's "bloated" public services and "red tape."

Environmental programs and agencies are attacked with particular savagery. The Ministry of the Environment loses 42% of its budget. Front-line staff, charged with monitoring, testing, inspection, enforcement, and research, are decimated: 900 of 2,400 front-line staff are laid off. Regional offices are closed. Environmental agencies set up over the years to respond to complex environmental problems are dismantled in days. What remains of the Ministry is in total disarray. Similar cuts hit other ministries, including Natural Resources and Agriculture. A number of industries formerly regulated by the government are told they can now regulate their own environmental performance.

This sounds very much like Stephen Harper's "risk management" scheme with double the death toll of Walkerton, when the Listeriosis outbreak exposed that he was to blame.

In Harper's plan, created with George Bush; the industries could inspect themselves, but if anything went wrong, they must do the PR clean up. Remember all those Maple Leaf ads, portraying themselves as a company that cared?

That was simply part of the agreed upon clean up. This is a tragedy waiting to happen.



  1. Notice all the ads we are getting now on how oil sands is improving its envirenmental record. That is a Harper PR clean-up too.