I shouldn’t have to open this post with I’m sorry for Flaherty’s family’s loss. That is a given. In fact, I can empathize. I have lost people recently. I really hope Flaherty’s family finds the strength to continue with their lives. It’s one reason why I haven’t really spoken of it on Thursday on social media. In fact, I was going to wait a week before writing a post like this. However, after all the hero worship Flaherty has been getting since he passed on last Thursday has been getting tedious, nauseating and beyond.
This post will simply be an expansion of this article.
Even Thomas Walkom of the Star, a writer I ordinarily enjoy reading, I felt, attempted to go out of his way to find nice things to say about Flaherty. Let’s not kid ourselves. It was what it was and still is; a finance minister of both the Mike Harris years and subsequently the Harper years who played large roles in Harper’s path of destruction. We no longer recognize Canada largely because of him. Even worse, he came from a working class family, and so obviously forgotten where he came from. Many of humble beginnings sadly forget where they came from. Whatever good things he did were so few and far between were obviously due to ulterior motives.
For openers, his Registered Disability Savings Plan. A good measure, but a cynic capable of critical thinking must realize that there was a personal stake in it for him–one of his own children is disabled. Had it not been for this fact, would a pro-austerity, deregulation and pro “free market” hard liner have even considered something even remotely resembling compassion?
Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star erroneously pointed out that both Harper & Flaherty deserved credit for putting out a stimulus package in 2008.
Yes, he and Harper had the good sense to back away from austerity in the midst of the 2008-09 economic meltdown. Instead, Canada took part in an international effort to stimulate jobs. Both men deserve credit for that.
Uh, the only reason they put out stimulus packages, kicking and screaming, I might add, was thanks to the threat of that “Liberal party being propped up by socialists and separatists”. Yup, the threat of that evil coalition that sent many for the fainting couches. If one recalls what really happened back then, Harper & Flaherty made an economic statement that they were not going to do anything to stimulate the economy — the only country out of the G-20 that was not going to do anything. In fact, both Stevie and Flaherty were arrogantly in denial over the Great Recession of 2008. Almost immediately afterward, the threat of that dastardly coalition of sorts came and Harper prorogued and Flaherty had no choice but to implement stimulus. So no, neither Flaherty nor Stevie Spiteful deserves any credit for that.
Once they got their coveted majority, when there were recent calls to stimulate the economy, both Stevie and Flaherty did the exact opposite — they plowed ahead with their austerity measures. Many of the most hideous measures hidden conveniently in multiple page omnibus bills. Many measures that had nothing to do with budgets, but all the material essential for a destructive path to take a country. Sure they had help from their henchmen, but it’s Flaherty and Harper’s names on those omnibus bills and budgets. For that they must wear it.
Speaking of austerity and eulogizing a finance minister, who will remember all those irreversibly harmed by those very austerity measures?
The inquiry into the Walkerton E-Coli tragedy where 7 people died and 2,300 became seriously ill in May, 2000 revealed that the provincial government of the day — Mike Harris’s “Progressive” Conservative Party was to blame.
Underlying the failures of the Walkerton PUC and the MOE, however, were government of Ontario cutbacks. How deep were the cuts? In the years leading up to the Walkerton tragedy, the MOE’s budget was reduced by 68 per cent and its staffing by 40 per cent.
O’Connor’s report on the Walkerton tragedy is scathing in its assessment of the provincial government’s role: “Before the decision was made to significantly reduce the MOE’s budget in 1996, senior government officials, ministers and the cabinet received numerous warnings that the impacts could result in increased risks to the environment and human health . . . The decision to proceed with the budget reductions was taken without either an assessment of the risks or the preparation of a risk management plan.”
The report says the system failed on several fronts. It says:
- The government failed to put proper safeguards into place after privatizing the water supply
- The men who ran the town’s water supply, Stan and Frank Koebel, lied and cheated to cover their tracks
- A weakened Ministry of Environment failed to detect the problem
- The local health unit didn’t issue a wide enough boil-water alert
- The town’s water officials didn’t respond properly to quality concerns raised by the environment ministry in 1998
“This could have been prevented,” said O’Connor, unveiling the report before a crowd of residents and the media in Walkerton.
“One of the things that should come from this is that we should be learning the lessons of what went wrong in Walkerton and we should design our system dealing with the different aspects of delivering safe drinking water so as to ensure that people in Ontario never face the tragedy and the trauma that the people of Walkerton have had to endure,” he said.
Justice Dennis O’Connor’s report is here.
There you have it. Flaherty held key portfolios under Mike Harris’s government at the time. He of all people, should have learned what deregulation and such cuts would do from the Walkerton disaster. However, fast forward to the 2011, Flaherty’s budgets saw to growing cuts to environmental regulations. In the latest budget, Environment Canada would see its’ budget cut in half from 2007. Cuts to Environment Canada were and are surely to deal the final death knell to the agency. See Bill C-45, the second everything but the kitchen sink bill that sparked the Idle No More Movement. The omnibus bill that implements all such cuts to the environment. It cut protections to our millions of lakes and rivers. Bill C-45 also means the violation of First Treaty Rights. Bruce Hyer, former NDP MP now sitting for the Green Party had this to say:
“the first nations of northwestern Ontario are concerned that their rights have been trampled by Bill C-45, the government’s omnibus budget bill. Concerns include leasing of reserve land, on-reserve voting rights and scrapping the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which reduced protection of millions of our lakes and rivers to less than 200. No longer protected are northwestern Ontario rivers like the Kaministiquia, or the Nipigon River, home of the largest speckled trout in the world. “
“neither has the Prime Minister consulted with scientists, academics, small businesses, Canadian workers, NGOs, provincial premiers, or Parliament, including his own backbenchers”
~ Bruce Hyer- MP for Thunder Bay
Cuts to food inspection and deregulation led to increased diseases such as E-Coli and Listeria and will continue to do so. The largest food recall (Maple Leaf Listeria scandal) in history happened under this government’s watch. Twenty-Two Canadians died as a result. I believe that is when we heard Agriculture minister at the time, Gerry Ritz, making the sick joke of “death by a thousand cold cuts”. Who could also forget the scandal at XL Foods? Sure one can blame the ministry of agriculture for this, but ultimately, these cuts were written into budgets and omnibus bills with Flaherty’s name on them.
Who can also forget further cuts and deregulation to rail inspections, thus the laissez-faire attitude of letting the rail industry regulate itself. These deregulations and cut to inspections led to more serious rail disasters such as the ones we’ve seen in Alberta and the disaster in Lac-Megantic last summer which saw about 50 people killed. So many who lost their homes and their livelihoods because of this disaster.
Let’s rewind back to the Kimberly Rogers incident, a pregnant 40 year old woman, placed under house arrest for welfare fraud who ended up dead, alone and destitute in her own apartment in Sudbury. It is believed that she committed suicide. Her death led to a public inquiry. As many now know, it was Mike Harris’ massive cuts to welfare and social housing that led to this tragedy. Again, Flaherty was in his government, holding key portfolios, thus, like the rest of them, he owns it.
Again, fast forward to the Harper years.
Flaherty was also part of cuts to healthcare at both provincial and federal levels. As the Council of Canadians wrote last week in an article titledBroken Promises and Abdication: Flaherty’s Healthcare Legacy, “March 31 marks the end of the 2004 Health Accord and the last day Canadian health care will have equalization payments to have-not provinces, national standards, and federal funding tied to achieving set benchmarks. March 31 is also a day to mourn the fact that we remain the only wealthy country with a universal health-care system and no national pharmacare plan.” Healthcare cuts kill, including the Tories’ inhumane cuts to refugee health–denying basic health care to people who had fled rape, torture and war.
The Bill changes the definition of “danger” to “imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person”.
- Bill C-4 removes the concept of danger as a potential occurrence. It removes the language of a “potential hazard”. (Subsection 122(1))
- Bill C-4 removes the idea that workers deserve protection from activities or conditions that could cause them danger in the future.
- When you marry this up with the removal of the word “illness”, workers will likely not be able to claim protection from potential chronic or slow developing illnesses based on exposure to carcinogens (such as asbestos).
- The new definition of danger also removes the concept of complaining about unsafe work based on its impact on a worker’s reproductive system. The existing definition of danger permits complaints based on the impact to someone’s reproductive system. The new definition eliminates that as a basis for complaint.
Workers, thanks to the help of labour unions, had fought long and hard for health and safety standards in the work place. Bill C-4 is a regressive omnibus bill, just like the Harpercons’ other such kitchen sink bills, that seeks to take us back to a time where occupational illnesses and injuries will cause irreparable harm on the working class.