Thursday 25 September 2008

How many more people must die?

Poison food crisis shows Harper’s contempt for government

The entire handling of this emergency demonstrates callous
incompetence. Worse, it reveals a lethal contempt by Harper for the
most basic role of government - ensuring public health and safety. It
also reflects a hostility of government as a constructive force in our

Since his first days in office in 2006, Harper has steadily cut
funding for food safety programs and inspectors, shifting ever greater
responsibility to the food companies themselves.

According to current Treasury Board of Canada forecasts, funding for
food safety programs will have declined by almost 30% from $359
million in 2006-07 to $254 million in 2010-11 under Harper's watch.

At the same time, a secret government document recently brought to
light by a government employee reveals that the government has been
planning to let the foxes further guard the henhouse by expanding
industry self-policing of food safety.

The listeriosis crisis is reminiscent of the poison water scandal that
rocked Walkerton, Ont., in 2000. That disaster was caused in large
part by government cutbacks and a deliberate weakening of provincial
inspection and safety procedures by the Ontario regime of Conservative
Premier Mike Harris.

Harper's cabinet now includes some of the same ministers who were part
of the Harris government, ministers who should have learned the
obvious lessons of the Walkerton tragedy.

That they did not makes an even more chilling point: the ineptitude
now apparent in Ottawa is not merely a failure to learn the lessons of
Walkerton. It bespeaks an ideological contempt for anything and
everything that government can do to better society.

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