It was once considered the proper role of government to ascertain the general will of the people, and to advance it. Citizens could expect their lives to be more secure, even to improve over time. Today, citizens may be excused for believing that role has been re-cast, mandating government instead to set fire to each of the rooms of their home, leaving them scrambling for a way out.
Nothing acquaints you with your mortality quite like a pandemic. Fortunately, the Martin Government, by Order in Council, created the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) - an entire arms-length health bureaucracy to prepare us for it. We counted on it. The world counted on it. It wasn’t there.
Over time, its mandate expanded and became so muddled, PHAC shut down the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) – Canada’s pandemic early warning system - scant months before Covid-19 appeared. According to the Globe and Mail, GPHIN represented 20 per cent of the global pandemic surveillance machine. It ground to a halt.
As our Chief Public Health Officer explained her philosophy that our main line of defence would be our hospitals and not our borders, we saw health facilities near paralysed with over-worked front-line workers, insufficient personal protective equipment, and important medical consultations and procedures modified or delayed. It is difficult to think about the conditions in our nursing homes or the state of vaccine rollout. Looking at the global death toll of Covid-19, PHAC is probably the most disastrous example of mission creep in the history of the Government of Canada.
Closer to home, many life-long residents in our community can scarcely recognize the place. Not for its ongoing progress, but for a forced amalgamation that went spectacularly wrong. We undergo a social breakdown that history will record has made us one of the most addicted and lawless cities in Canada.
We respond to a collapsing legacy economy with modern day bread and circuses: urban tourism - a gambling casino, sports and event centre, and a mega art gallery along with soup kitchens and homeless shelters to define Thunder Bay of the new century.
The ongoing plea of residents to suspend construction of a $40 million soccer plex until after the pandemic is over and our finances understood have no power against council’s preference to pander.
Sodium hydroxide has done for Thunder Bay residents what Covid-19 has done for Canadians: searched out and exposed the weaknesses in the pipeline for all to see. Just as the federal government endeavours to shield the Cabinet and bureaucracy from the consequences of obvious incompetence, Thunder Bay city council has characteristically refused to comment on the cascade of pipeline leaks and service line connection failures occurring subsequent to their modification of our city’s water chemistry.
Devastation has been ruinous with repairs to copper pipes reportedly soaring sometimes into the tens of thousands of dollars – likened by some as the legal vandalizing of their home and principal asset. City hall can hardly conceal its disdain for any suggestion of responsibility. Our interests are subordinated instead of respected. Our helplessness exploited.
In Thunder Bay, misfortune and injustice collide. Government doesn’t care what we think – they do what they want. Our house is on fire. We are unsure if there is a way out.