One of Canada's first experiments into neoconservatism, was the Mike Harris government (1995-2002) in Ontario. And it was an experiment that failed and failed badly, on many levels.
But one of the most devastating failures resulted in the deaths of 11 people in a place called Walkerton.
And the cause of their deaths can be attributed in a large part to something called the "Red Tape Commission."
Look Out For Neocons Running With Scissors
When Jim Flaherty, a former Mike Harris cabinet minister, brought down his latest budget; he mentioned that his government was looking to cut down on some of the bureaucracy by establishing a "Red Tape Commission." This was presented as a cost cutting measure, but in fact it has little to do with saving money and even less to do with public interest.
It's just a nice sounding term for deregulation.
And for a government that has already deregulated this country to the point where many Canadians are now just "future victims", we need to start paying attention.
Like Stephen Harper and his free marketeers, Mike Harris and his inner circle believed that the private sector knew more than the bureaucrats and " ... anything that interfered 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." (1)
As a result, environmental programs and agencies were attacked with a vengeance and the Ministry of the Environment lost 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. (1)And despite repeated warnings that the cutbacks were compromising the safety of Ontario's drinking water, the priority was business and for Harris it was business as usual.
Until tragedy struck, when a deadly E. coli bacteria found it's way into Walkerton's water, killing eleven people and leaving hundreds more seriously ill.
And in a case of "Deja Vu all over again", the Harper government is also moving toward doing away with environmental assessments.
OTTAWA - Environmental groups and opposition politicians say the federal Conservatives are trying to gut environmental assessment laws by sneaking in new rules in budget legislation."This is a big step backward about 20 years," John Bennett of the Sierra Club said Wednesday.A big step backward indeed. Right back to the dark days of Mike Harris, that included not only Jim Flaherty, but John Baird, Tony Clement and Peter Van Loan.
Can You Count the Jelly Beans in the Jar Not Laced with PCBs?
In 2007, Stephen Harper met with then U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Montibello, Quebec; to discuss the product standards of the three nations, and how to remove them. That wasn't officially how the meeting was sold to the public, but it was the end result of intense bargaining.
Well not really intense bargaining so much as Bush saying these are our regulations and you two must match them, end of. And since Bush had reduced government regulations to the point where they could fit on the head of pin, this meant that Canada was forced to pretty much dismantle our own safety standards, to meet those of the U.S. President.
So too did Mexico, and many believe that this was the cause of H1N1, now dubbed the "NAFTA Flu."
But while these connivers were inside scheming, a large group of protesters had gathered outside, well aware that Canadian sovereignty was on the line. So to silence the crowd, Harper appeared with his cohorts to put them at ease. Looking a little tipsy (Watch at about 45 seconds and 1:25 of this video .... I'm just saying), he asked the humble masses: “Is the sovereignty of Canada going to fall apart if we standardize the jelly bean?”
'Jelly Bean' must have been some kind of cute word association (wink, wink), for something they called "risk management."
On April 1, 2008; the Harper government began putting their new "risk management' plan into place, beginning with meat-processing companies who were no longer required to alert Canada's food safety agency about listeria-tainted meat.
"At the heart of both systems is a reliance on industry reporting and monitoring, rather than independent government testing, and an emphasis on cleaning up the mess (to the environment or human lives) caused by bad products after the fact. They call this “risk management,” an about-face from the “precautionary principle” of better safe than sorry." (2)
This resulted in the death of 22 Canadians, but Maple Leaf foods kept up their end of the bargain, by launching a series of "Maple Leaf, we care" ads.
See how this works?
And ironically, it is now the U.S., under a different president, who is demanding that Canada cleans up it's act.
But look on the bright side. It gave agricultural minister, Gerry Ritz, a fall back career in stand-up comedy, if the whole politics thing doesn't work out for him.
So please join Canadians Rallying to Unseat Stephen Harper, and help us get rid of this destructive force. Because jelly beans should only rot your teeth; not take your life.
1. Contamination:The Poisonous Legacy of Ontario's Environmental Cutbacks, By Ulli Diemer, Radical Digressions.
2. The Jelly Bean Summit, Council of Canadians, Autumn 2007