Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Harper's Building All Those Prisons. Why Aren't We Filling Them With Conservatives?
It's not like the Conservative ranks, federal and provincial, are short of miscreants who deserve a long stretch behind bars.
Yesterday the fellow who was in command on the bridge of the BC Ferry, Queen of the North, was sentenced to four years in prison for criminal negligence causing death in allowing the vessel to run onto rocks, leaving it holed and sending the ship, and two of its passengers, to the bottom, 600-feet down. It was his duty to protect the passengers and crew aboard the ship and he didn't do it. Two people paid for his negligence with their lives. He now pays with his freedom.
Go one province over and look at the devastation caused by massive flooding throughout southern Alberta, what one scientist has attributed to "absurd hubris." Hubris is an apt term for today's neo-conservative ideology that has captured the Alberta legislature and likewise holds sway in Ottawa. Why, the guy who occupies 24 Sussex Drive, could fairly be called Captain Hubris.
At least three people have died so far in the current wave of Alberta flooding (there will almost certainly be more). Tens of thousands of unlucky homeowners are looking at uninsurable flood losses. So just what was the Alberta Conservative government doing to prepare the province and its people for this disaster? Nothing. In fact, as Calgarian Andrew Nikiforuk writes in The Tyee, they willfully and persistently ignored one warning after another.
In 2006 climate scientist Dave Sauchyn told a Banff audience that "droughts of longer duration and greater frequency, as well as unusual wet periods and flooding" would be the new forecast. Meanwhile researchers documented a 26-day shift in the onset of spring in Alberta over the past century.
Five years later the Bow River Council concluded that "Our rapidly growing population demands much of the land and water. Our climate is changing and the future of our water supplies is uncertain."
In 2010 the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, an agency that the Harper government killed last year because it didn't like its messages on climate change, reported that changing precipitation patterns were "the most common gradual, long-term risk from a changing climate identified by Canadian companies."
In particular oil and gas firms "with operations in Alberta expressed the highest level of concern. A number of them described potential water shortages due to decreased precipitation and runoff as the most significant risk from physical impacts of climate change that they are likely to face."
In 2011 the NREE published more inconvenient truths in a document called Paying the Price. It concluded that annual cost of flooding in Canada due to climate change could total $17 billion a year by 2050.
The redundancy of the reports is startling. A 2011 document on climate change's impact on the Bow River warned that events could be far more severe than modern water management has previously experienced."
And then came the kicker. In 2012 Insurance Bureau of Canada produced a report by Gordon McBean, an expert on catastrophes. It bluntly warned that Alberta "will be greatly affected by drought and water scarcity under changing climate conditions, and can expect potential increases in hail, storm and wildfire events." Spring rainfall could increase by 10 to 15 per cent in southern Alberta too.
After the "once in a century" floods of 2005, the Alberta legislature set up a flood mitigation committee that in 2006 issued a report urging action to prohibit development on flood plains. The Conservative government squelched the report, releasing it only last year. Did that government not have a duty to the people of Alberta to release that report, to give them clear and prompt warning of these dangers and then prevent further development in at-risk areas?
In Ottawa, Harper has locked down government scientists and the warnings we should be receiving from them. By what right?
It's not good enough to be able to throw the buggers out every five years (if you're lucky). The record shows that's not nearly enough to make them accountable, to make them accept their responsibility to the public. Worse yet, they can make decisions today or refuse to take essential action today, the consequences of which may not be evident according to election cycles.
And that's why we need laws that will punish those in high office for willful acts or omissions that lead to foreseeable major loss, injury or death. Just like negligent ferry skippers.