Thursday, 14 May 2020

Of pandemics and politicians. (Opinion)

by Larry Powell
Politicians need to be judged, not by their words, but their actions. Ontario Premier, Doug Ford has been generally well-received for his press conferences during the pandemic. Sounding good. Saying the right things. But it was under his watch, after all, that inspections of Ontario's personal care homes were slashed to save money. And we all know how tragic and deadly the situation has become within such homes in Ontario and elsewhere. Sadly, Ford's actions are consistent with a neo-liberal agenda that has dominated the world, notably since the Reagan/Thatcher era. Cut, slash. Get governments "out of the way," Contract out. Lay off. Throw your jurisdictions "open for business" while shrinking public services like education and health. Let the market rule! (Music to the ears of the likes of Mike Harris, former Tory premier of ON. He seems to have done alright assuming the helm of one of the for-profit, private home-care companies in that province.)

Then, there's Alberta. Premier Kenney appears, in some ways, to grasp the gravity of the crisis and what's needed to counter it. Yet his government has shamelessly and heartlessly directed (no doubt at the behest of its rich, powerful and American-owned owner, Cargill) the re-opening of a big meat plant which has seen the single largest outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in North America! This is shameful and outrageous. It flies in the face of warnings from the Union there, that a re-opening would only lead to a resurgence of the pandemic, putting its members under even greater risk. Many of those members are vulnerable foreign workers, forced by economic necessity to live in crowded housing and work in dangerous, cramped condition in the plant.
It was also under Kenney's watch that an "inspection" of the plant was carried out via Skype! This, too is in keeping with neo-liberal philosophy. Its leaders view most any regulation as nothing more than "red tape" to be done away with, no matter the consequences.
 (Just look at Manitoba, where a Tory regime - with positively Trumpian zeal - has done away with "pesky" rules which once kept at least a partial reign on a now-runaway, high-maintenance, costly-to-the-public-purse, cruel and polluting, "factory-style" pork industry.)
As long as we keep electing leaders who care more about political expediency and cronyism than science, nothing will change.

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