Public Values

Thirty-year campaign against government smashes against reality

Financial crisis and listeriosis outbreak have shaken the foundations of the neo-Conservative campaign against all things public.

Ish TheilheimerExcerpted remarks by Straight Goods publisher Ish Theilheimer at the launch of PublicValues.ca.

OTTAWA, October 07, 2008 — We are here today to announce the official launch of PublicValues.ca and its sibling site Valeurspubliques.ca. We being StraightGoods.ca and the Straight Goods family of news websites. We've been around since 1999. We launched in January 2000... and in the last year we've launched a couple of specialty news websites which are an important new direction for us.

There has been a concerted campaign in the last thirty years or so, since the days of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, against government and against an important role for the public in the delivery of services, and in protecting consumers and citizens. There's been an ongoing attempt to disparage the role of the public. And the campaign has been a fairly successful one in many ways. Ronald Reagan and Thatcher and many others since have been elected on the premise of reducing government, reducing the role of government and putting business in charge of things.

The extraordinary events of the past few weeks in Canada and around the world have put a real focus on these issues of the role of government and the public sector as opposed to private sector. I'm thinking specifically of a couple of issues. One is the listeriosis outbreak following the deregulation or re-regulation of food inspection. This has basically enabled food producers to police themselves. Bob Kingston of the Agriculture Union will speak on that.

The other huge event on everybody's mind around the world is the global financial crisis, which has to a very great extent been a product of laissez-faire capitalism and letting the market run things. So what we're saying here today is that this election campaign has put a real focus on issues concerning the role of government, the push for a greater role for the corporate sector in governance, and the impact of that push. Economist Mel Watkins will speak on this issue.

A close look at Stephen Harper's record reveals that his entire career has been about reducing the role of government. This is what the guy believes, and it's what he's always believed, since being a founder of the Reform Party.

If you look back to all the founding documents of the Reform Party and the National Citizens' Coalition, which Harper headed up for a couple of years in the '90s, it has been the main theme of the man's political career. What surprises me as a journalist who has followed his career and his party and his government, is that more attention isn't being paid to these questions in the course of the election campaign. The whole "blue sweater guy" concept serves to literally cover up the ideological thrust of Harper and his party.

Ish Theilheimer is editor-in-chief of PublicValues.ca.

Posted: October 09, 2008

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