Saturday, August 16, 2014

Where Do People Stand In The Harper Hierarchy?

The answer would seem to be, "Nowhere near the top." As discussed in yesterday's post on CETA, leaked documents confirm that Canadian sovereignty, something all citizens should have a right to expect, will continue the erosion that began under NAFTA. Specifically, the dispute-settlement mechanism that enables investors to sue governments when they pass legislation that impairs their ability to make profits (as in environmental regulations, drug regulation, etc.) will be a centre-piece. As well, Canadian governments on every level will see their efforts to locally source good and services severely curtailed.

The corporate state has clearly arrived.

But its arrival affects other areas of our lives, not the least of which is public safety. Industry self-regulation has accelerated under the Harper regime, in part a response to trade liberalization but also a reflection of an ideology which believes government involvement in the affairs of state and commerce should be minimal. Hence the disasters of Walkerton, Maple Leaf Foods, etc. Air disasters, god forbid, seem likely in the future as well due to changes at Transport Canada.

Then of course, there was the entirely preventable tragedy of Lac-Mégantic, which recently observed the one-year anniversary of the deaths of 47 people and the destruction of a significant portion of the town.

Despite those grievous losses, third-party proprietary rights are being invoked as the reason we Canadians cannot know the specifics of that massive failure of safety. As reported in today's Toronto Star, the paper's access-to-information requests resulted in only some information being released:

Safety inspections of the rail company implicated in the Lac-Mégantic train disaster found defective equipment, problems with locomotives, and sections of rail lines so rundown trains could not exceed speeds of 10 miles per hour.

But Transport Canada is blocking the release of information detailing the majority of the problems and their severity, saying the inspection reports cannot be provided in full because the information is “third-party” — confidential, and belonging to the rail company — or was prepared or obtained in the course of an investigation.

[T]he majority of the more than 1,000-page compilation of inspection documents was withheld or heavily censored.

These inspections, by the way, were not performed by Transport Canada, but by the railway company's own crews.

The unredacted portion received by The Star is damning enough:

- employees told investigators the company was using poorly maintained locomotives, and that instead of repairing worn train tracks, ... the company just lowered the speed limit.

- the company performed minimal maintenance on locomotives, and said locomotive 5017 (the one that caused the disaster) was in particularly poor condition.

- Transport Canada repeatedly flagged safety concerns and non-compliance with rail standards by the now-defunct company

Equally disturbing is the fact that the rail companies establish their own safety management protocols:

The arrangement allows rail companies to draft and enforce their own safety regimes, which are then audited by Transport Canada. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is considered third-party proprietary information, and hence the embargo on truth about the disaster.

All Canadians should be outraged by yet another failure on the part of the Harper regime to protect its citizens while simultaneously extolling and elevating the world's corporate denizens.

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