Public Values

Flaherty plans Walkerton medicine for Canadians

Defends his record in Ontario that led to water contamination, hospital and school closures, cuts to protective services.

Seven people died in Walkerton after water contaminationCanadians can expect to see programs that protect their health and well-being cut if Jim Flaherty remains Finance Minister for long.

The politician whose set the Walkerton tragedy in motion has laid out a similar plan for Canada nationally, and he is in a position to carry it out. Flaherty told the Toronto Star in a year-end interview that he expects broad program cuts and privatizations - and no tax hikes - to bring down budget deficits.

"I've done it before. I did it in Ontario," he told the Star. Walkerton, where at least seven people died following municipal water contamination in 2000 became a symbol of the dangers of public service cuts and privatizing of vital protective services. Dalton McGuinty's Liberals rode to power in Ontario in 2003 and were re-elected four years later by framing themselves as pro-public and opposed to the Conservative agenda.

Meanwhile, Ontario, where McGuinty is musing about his own round of privatizations and service cuts, is still saddled with the outcomes of Flaherty's time running the province's treasury. Hospitals are saddled with debt and cutting services. Schools have shut. Urban infrastructure needs festered. Few of Faherty's service cuts have been restored since he went federal.

Those who support and believe in public services and good government need to prepare to fight for it in 2010. One of the most powerful weapons they can use is to summon up the memory of Walkerton. There, at least seven deaths and up to $150 million in expenses were incurred due, at least in part, to deregulation of water testing and cuts to the Ontario's environment ministry, according to the subsequent public inquiry.

Posted: December 23, 2009

  Health care
  Public services
  Front lines

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