Back in May of 2000 the water supply of Walkerton became contaminated by manure spread on a nearby farm. The result, seven people were dead and 2,300 ill as a result of the contamination. The inquiry into the issue found that one of the key components was the cost saving incentive of Ontario’s then Conservative Government.
Because the government was no longer going to be directly responsible for testing the water, it was up to the municipality to test and secure it’s water supply. When the government closed its eyes to public safety, a series of mismanagement resulted in catastrophic results.
But thanks to the inquiry we learned our lesson – or did we?
While government control returned to Ontario water safety, a similar federal cost saving initiative has begun to come to light, this time regarding our food production. It appears to save money the federal government left the food industry responsible for maintaining it’s own safety standards, with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) only providing intermittent overseeing, allowing the CFIA to oversee more food production facilities with fewer employees.
Now in eerie parallel to Walkerton, 12 people are dead, 38 are ill with Listeria. Another 25 cases are being investigated for this bacterial contamination that has been traced back to a Canadian meat production facility under the new streamlined inspection rules.
An investigation will have to be conducted to find out if a government’s attempt to distance itself from regulatory duty has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of Canadians once again.
Even at the municipal level we are seeing this distancing, this shirking of responsibility towards the general public. Here in London we are being invited to participate in a public participation meeting regarding the potential sale of London Hydro.
That’s right, City Council does not seem to want to be responsible for providing it’s citizens with hydro, not if they can sell off the utility for a profit, leaving someone else responsible, not the people we voted in to protect and oversee these very services.
The argument for selling the utility is simple: immediate wealth for the city; money to put into repairing our failing infrastructure; money to build the double overpass right next to the single overpass on Highbury; money to make the current elected officials look great for not raising taxes next year.
This argument is completely flawed. It confuses money with wealth. Money is an object; wealth is measured on your ability to create money. Remove the source, and the money is no longer a renewable resource.
After this council spends the profit on its projects, taxes will rise again, but this time the $6.2 million a year that London Hydro contributes will be gone, never to be seen again.
Londoners will be expected to pay additional taxes to make up the loss each and every year that follows. While at the same time the 127,538 households and 12,000 businesses who count on London to provide them hydro, will be paying someone else for the service, hoping that they don’t cut services, raise prices or simply not maintain the delivery level, as seems to happen when government turns away from its mandate. Remember the first duty of government is to protect it’s citizens, everything else is secondary.
On Thursday, September 18, 2008, at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, you will have the opportunity to remind City Council that we elected them to maintain our city, not sell off it’s profitable utilities for a quick buck. They, like the provincial and federal government have a responsibility to community, and selling those responsibilities off to look good for a year or two is unacceptable.
Politicians are long term guests of the voters, when their term of office ends they should have left the nation, province or city in better condition than when they arrived, or they will not be invited back for another visit.
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Daniel O’Neail is a London political figure, environmentalist, and public speaker. Opinions are those of the author. Contact Daniel by e-mail (see link).