Monday, December 10, 2018

The High Price Of Willful Ignorance

The other day I wrote a post entitled The Cost of Disengagement. Today's post might be considered a companion piece, inasmuch as disengagement and ignorance often go hand-in-hand. And sadly, much of that ignorance is willful.

I have been a lifelong reader of newspapers; my first memory of them is when my mother would read the comics to me. As soon as I mastered reading, because our house always had a newspaper, I naturally gravitated toward them, initially only in a superficial way that, over the years, grew to include reading stories on local, provincial and federal politics. At about the age of 12 I started what became a lifelong habit of writing letters to the editor. Engagement for me was never a problem.

It therefore pains me that this latter stage of my life has been witness to the decline of news journals. Many have abandoned them in favour of newsfeeds on social media that reflect rather than expand their worldview; others feel there is no need to pay for the news, that it somehow materializes out of the ether, gratis. And still others say that their lives are so busy, they have no time for either politics or any form of news, a complete cop-out for most, in my view. (Even at my busiest as an English teacher, I always took time for papers, either at breakfast, at school, or after work - it is the price of responsible citizenship.)

These sorts of thoughts go through my mind almost every morning over breakfast as I read my print edition of The Toronto Star. Almost every day there are stories in it that are of importance on either the provincial or the national level. Today is one such day, as the implications become clearer of the impending Bill 66, the so-called “Open for Business” act that, in typical Doug Ford hyperbole, will create all kinds of jobs. They are jobs, however, that will potentially come at a very high cost.

Jennifer Pagliaro reminds us of an earlier period of deregulation that led to disastrous results in Walkerton, Ontario:
The tainted-water scandal in Walkerton in the spring of 2000 devastated the community, with thousands falling ill and seven people dying. It was one of the worst health epidemics in the province’s history.

According to the conclusions of an inquiry into the Walkerton tragedy, in May 2000, some 2,321 people became ill from two types of bacteria, including a type of dangerous E. coli, after heavy rainfall caused flooding that flushed the bacteria from cow manure near a farm into one of three groundwater wells that was the source of water for Walkerton.

The number of people who fell ill represented about half the town’s population.

It was concluded after much investigation that the water coming out of the taps in Walkerton had not been properly treated so as to kill off the deadly bacteria, and the tragedy could have been prevented if proper monitoring, protections and oversight had existed.
And now, history seems prepared to repeated itself under Ford's Bill 66:
The stated purpose of the proposed bill, called the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, is to cut “red tape” around planning approvals for businesses looking to invest in local communities.

Under the proposed legislation, if a development has the support of both the municipal government and the province and can demonstrate it would create 50 new jobs in areas with populations under 250,000, or 100 jobs for bigger cities, it could get the green light despite possibly being detrimental to the environment.
One of the key problems with the bill is that it will roll back protections legislated in the Clean Water Act, which came about as a direct result of the Walkerton tragedy.
On Friday, Theresa McClenaghan and Richard Lindgren, respectively the executive director and counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) ... said the attempt to prevent a particular section of the Clean Water Act from applying to certain types of new development is both “objectionable and risk-laden.”

The particular section of the act that would not apply to new developments approved under the “open for business” rules is not some “obscure” provision in the law, but the key part of the act that requires land-use planning decisions in the province to protect safe drinking water, they said.
So that's what I got today from reading a newspaper to which I subscribe. I could go on and tell you how Bill 66 also imperils Greenbelt protection, as Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, writes in the same paper today, but I'll let you read that for yourself.

That is, if you are one of those willing to pay for the news.


  1. .. I certainly hope Stephen Lautens reads your essaying.. !
    A truly delighful recovering lawyer.. is Stephen
    And I recall his father's column very well ..

    1. I remember his dad's work as well, Sal, and I follow Stephen on Twitter.

  2. These days, Lorne, everyday is Ground Hog Day. We keep repeating mistakes we should have learned from decades ago.

    1. It seems to be the curse of our species that is leading to a point of no return, Owen.

  3. It's coming at us, hot and heavy, from every direction and in a dizzying variety of forms. It's hard to keep abreast of how many conventions essential to maintaining democracy are being subverted, how freely the public interest is being subordinated to private interests. That's the key to creating "bought and paid for" governance whether it's the US Congress or some state house or provincial legislature. The worst part is that it's so difficult to see how this can now be turned around.

    1. All I know, Mound, is that as long as people keep burying their heads in the sand, the chances of remediation are zilch.

  4. I disagree.. Problem solving (as per Edward de Bono) really needs to arrive laterally. Not head on. Thus the beating our heads against the wall of indifference is a strategic failure. An outdated mode

    If Canadians cannot out think Andrew Scheer, or Ontario solve Doug Ford and Charles McVety.. well, we'll get what we deserve. Currently, Canadians are being fed talking points.. 'Nation Building' - 'Growing The Economy' .. what exactly is that ? Our politicians with economic watering cans ? What are they 'building with' ? What is 'tidewater' ? How is systemically extirpating caribou or wild salmon, 'building the nation' ? Why does the current Minister Of Environment talk & pimp more about pipelines than security of our inland waters ?

    Our job (as I see it) is to capture and direct the media. Shame them as required. The holier than thou 'christians' ? Shame them too.. Pound the lazy media, pound the evangelicals.. get them in harness and our job becomes easier. Public servants.. easy target ! They're fat, overpaid, and fail to deliver.. in short, most of them are liars or closet kinks.. What has Tony Clement done for Bala Muskoka lately ? How about ms Rempel .. ? Poilievre ? What Senator is reminding us daily how special they are, how neccessary ? Ms Batters.. ?

    Hope I don't 'offend' our politicians (whipped) or their political parties.. but 95% are full of it, bullshit artists, purportedly 'working for us' - 'For The People' yada yada... when really they are already engrossed with fundraising.. for their future prospects.

    I say, assail the supply chain of mainstream media.. the money train. Go with guerilla art propaganda, a la Franke James.. be 'do'ers' like Alicia Morton does for wild salmon, or Desrocher re polar bears or Andrew Leach re big energy. Identify exemplars, expand their message or knowhow.. Folks like me need to be lower rung enablers.. I am not a star. Pass the puck to proven scorers and impressive up n comers. Find your role.. and star at that !

    1. There are, without a doubt, many journalists who willingly toe the line of their corporate masters, Sal. However, I consider The Star to be an exception. Their hard hitting investigations and gifted columnists (Martin Regg Cohn is one of them) and indefatigable reporters like Daniel Dale shame the others with their passion for accountability and truth. That being said, while they provide more than enough combustible material to blast politicians from their complacent and self-serving ways, it still requires a critical mass of people to light the fuse. It is that critical mass that seems all too often to be absent in the world today, the current ructions in France being a notable exception.

  5. .. all any Ontarion needs to consider re Doug Ford
    is how they perceive Charles McVety's role in our government
    What churns from Doug's mouth is likely just that.. churn ..

    However, any juvenile ideological synchronized bedwetting
    performances by Ford & McVety is just that
    and tells Ontario plenty

    Mulroney, Elliott et al need to immediately determine
    how they see this unholy alliance or dalliance..
    McVety is one 'way out there' twisted evanagel nutcase
    and thus we can see more clearly how disturbed Ford is