More days of silence from the prime minister of Canada have passed while the citizens of Toronto continue to dig themselves out from under a catastrophic sheet of ice.
While putative leader of the country says nothing, 32,000 Torontonians remain without electricity today. The Globe and Mail now reports that a forecast of high winds means that number may increase again.
With Stephen Harper working the levers behind the green curtain in Ottawa, Canadians obviously need to ask themselves if the government of Canada and the government of Ontario are even talking to one another about the ice storm that hit the country’s largest city three days before Christmas.
Or maybe this question needs to be rephrased: Does the Harper Regime communicate with any province governed by a party that does not share its market-fundamentalist philosophy? Or does the Harper government talk with any provincial government at all, period? About anything?
We know that Prime Minister Harper’s Hermetic Kingdom on the Rideau doesn’t stoop to communicate with provinces or citizens about such routine agenda matters as health care funding or pipeline construction. If communicate it must, dictation from the centre is the order of the day.But most of us, this blogger included, surely assumed the Government of Canada would nevertheless play the part citizens have a right to expect in the event of a natural disaster such as the ice storm that whacked Toronto last Sunday, the effects of which continue to linger.
But perhaps this was naïve with a regime in Ottawa for which everything is ideological, and everything ideological is political, and which is known to prize giving orders and instructions more highly than its ability to communicate or negotiate.
So has there been any communication between Ontario and Ottawa, or for that matter the city of Toronto, about the ice storm aftermath? Have offers of assistance been made or discussed by the Harper Regime? What was the tone and tenor of that discussion, if any. If there was none, why?
Canadians generally, and certainly citizens of Toronto and environs, deserve answers to these questions.
Sensitive supporters of the Harper Regime have pointed out that in the normal course of events, a province must request federal military aid to the civil power in the event of a natural disaster.
While there is legislation outlining such a process (the Emergencies Act), it is far from clear constitutionally speaking that this is a requirement or that there’s simply nothing the federal government could have done without a provincial request. Indeed, it is said here that five words in our Constitution make this claim baloney: Peace, Order and Good Government.
The legal fine print doesn’t seem to have stopped a Toronto mayor from picking up the phone himself and summoning the Canadian Army to help clean up a big dump of snow. That was mayor Mel Lastman, back in 1999.
Other Harper supporters have suggested that the Armed Forces are only for war, which is an even bigger slice of baloney.
At the very least, in such circumstances, we would have expected someone in Ottawa to call someone at Queen’s Park or Toronto City Hall with an offer of manpower.
It sounds like that didn’t happen. If it did happen, and the answer was “No thanks,” we also deserve to know why.
We all need to know why because with continued global warming – even if the Harper Regime doesn’t want to believe in it – we’re likely to see more of this kind of thing in future.
Notwithstanding budgets so straightened the Armed Forces can no longer afford winter coats for cadets, surely Army brass would have jumped on the PR bonanza presented by the opportunity to send a few soldiers with shovels and power saws into the messy streets of Toronto! Any such effort, of course, would also have come with the possibility of a little handy cost recovery from the federal government.
Whatever the legal niceties of filing a request for help, it is said here that if assistance had been offered by Ottawa, Queen’s Park would have accepted it.
No, the problem here is political. And it is almost certainly tied to the alliance between the PM and Toronto’s troubled and troubling mayor, Rob Ford..
It seems clear that the Harper Regime doesn’t want to aid the people of Toronto or say anything at all about the situation in that city because helping its political ally Mr. Ford is more important.
Mayor Ford doesn’t want to call the disaster a disaster or even an emergency because … well, who knows what that man is thinking? He may be in too much of a stupor to think at all!
As for Mr. Harper, his response to the Toronto disaster is a national disgrace.
He has issued no statements since Christmas Day, when he wished us all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah and a prosperous New Year and condemned the sectarian bombers in Iraq. Members of his cabinet and caucus have also been mum.
On the ice storm story, he or someone on his social media staff appears to have issued two anodyne Tweets. Tweets!
Since then: silence.
Where the hell is the prime minister of Canada?
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.