Writing the Wrongs
Walkerton - All the confidence of his ignorance
By Sydney White
Ignorance is no excuse under the law, but that was the main defence of Premier Harris as he gave his testimony on the Walkerton tragedy. The word "ignorant" does not mean "illiterate", as many assume; it comes from the verb "ignore". It means that you may be educated and aware of what is going on, but you choose to look away. That is why ignorance is never a valid excuse legally or morally -- especially when it results in death. Ironically (and typical of this government), while Mikey is defending the tragic results of his cuts with defiance, his "government" is condemning the "violence" of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) for "trashing" the office of Finance Minister Flaherty. OCAP removed the furnishings of the office and put them on the pavement as a guerilla theatre response to the thousands of unwarranted evictions taking place in Ontario. None of the office workers were indisposed in any way.

"Violence!" screamed the bought media. John Clarke, the leader of OCAP, was picked up by two plain clothes policemen, placed in leg irons and kept in jail for a month before his bail hearing. During that period, notorious child abusers were let out on bail the same day they were arrested. The unequal treatment under the law was noted and broadcast by union leaders and other activists. The government was accused of keeping Clarke as a political prisoner and it wilted under the outcry of "hypocrisy!" Clarke was finally released on the condition that he not lead nor attend any more protests..

The right wing media (is there any other kind?) were quick to point out that Clarke had to be punished because he had "destroyed property"; he had "broken the law". The pertinent question is: "What about laws that break people?" The Harris crowd have been prolific in passing hundreds of dehumanizing bills without any public hearings or citizen input whatsoever. The Ontario legislature is a one-party presidium that ignores the other parties with gusto. Janet Ecker's screech across the floor would be the envy of any hog-caller.

Ontario's regressive social structure is now as bleak as a moonscape. If that is the effect of the "law", then we must agree with Dickens that "The law is an ass". On the other hand, at the Walkerton hearing, Mikey's eerie Bilderberg responses cleared the runway with no obstacles! His testimony was a textbook rendition of how to plead the Fifth. The leader of a top-down, "it's my way or the highway" government suddenly knew nothing about the circumstances leading up to the deaths of seven people and the debilitation of 2,000 others. Mikey knew nothing of any water inspections or warning reports. Despite documented evidence that Harris was warned of the dangers inherent in the budget cuts, the premier could not recall being advised of this. He could not recall many things. His contrariwise responses could have been authored by Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. "I think I've made it clear that I accept full responsibility for actions or lack of actions," he said. "I am the leader of the government, whether I knew about it or not". With his back to the wall (a position new to Mikey), he bottomed out when he fished for sympathy. Sounding just like George Dubya, Harris concluded that "Government is a very, very big business." (Goll-y, what to do now?) As Lenny Bruce used to say: "Deny it, even if they have pictures." (Or bodies).

At the hearing there was evidence given that the Harris secret business plan contained warnings that there would be risks to citizens' health, but that the public got a severely edited version. Harris said that this was not misleading as "the risks were only potential in nature and implicitly manageable". It's a no-brainer that all risks are potential, or they would not be risks, they would be events. The phrase "implicitly manageable" is military speak for "The goal is important; let's risk it". The goals, Mikey boasted on the stand, had been reached with more efficiency (job losses), less regulation (health hazards) and lower taxes (for the wealthy and corporations). He added that the public didn't need to know about possible risks arising from cuts because "that was information for decision makers". I rest my case.

If ever Harris testifies regarding the murder of Dudley George, will we be told once more that we are out of the loop and don't need to know the circumstances that led to his murder because we don't participate in decision making? I say "if ever", because Mikey's mouthpiece is bringing a motion to remove evidential affidavits from the record -- affidavits that allege destruction of information by the government. Eleanor Cronk, the government solicitor, will also demand that the George family lawyer pay more than $10,000 to her client. She has also threatened that the other defendants, Robert Runciman, Chris Hodgson and former attorney general, Charles Harnick, will "seek similar costs". Justice, though blind and impartial, has been beaten into submission once again.

In the distance, a figure slouches towards us. His brown shirt is emblazoned with the words: "Yours is not to reason why". You know the next line.