Our Gushing Wells Needs Capping Too

June 24, 2010

As the Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to gush an estimated 35 to 60 thousand barrels of crude oil per day, Americans are waiting for the day when the gushing will finally be stopped. An ecological and economical nightmare, the horrendous disaster will deprive many thousands of workers in tourism and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico their livelihood for quite some time to come and possibly cause irreparable environmental damage. Work on building relief wells which would cease the flow of oil has commenced and will hopefully be completed by this August. In the meantime, containment and cleanup procedures have been implemented to deal with the huge daily flow of crude oil. BP, the oil company responsible for the unmitigated disaster, has estimated its cleanup costs at present totals close to 1.6 billion dollars. Many more billions will be spent before this nightmare comes to an end.

Up here in Canada, we have had a different type of explosion, a figurative one, but one which has resulted in huge flows of money being sucked up into the ether. I refer to our federal and provincial governing bodies’ penchant for wasting billions and millions of taxpayers’ money, most of it in a non-accountable and frivolous manner.

The G8/G20 summits being held in Huntsville and Toronto respectively this weekend are the leading examples. Costs associated with this weekend events are almost as high as the ones for the present oil spill cleanup south of here, believe it or not. The cost for the latter of 1.6 billion US dollars is certainly higher than the 1 billion Canadian dollars for security for the summits but not all the formers’ final costs are in yet. The feds have, as yet, not released estimates of all the other costs (housing, transportation, meals, entertainment, etc) associated with the conferences. Throw in as well the unknown costs of lost income for businesses, property damage, lost tourism etc and it is fair to assume a few million more will be needed before this overpriced photo-op comes to an end and the city can be handed back to those who actually live in it. Already both the parliamentary budget officer and the federal auditor general have stated they will investigate the costs associated with the summits once they are compiled but by then it’s too late isn’t it? The money has been spent.

Both the government and parliament seem to be of the opinion that spending tax payer monies needlessly is part of their raison d’etre. They spend it on investigations and commissions whose outcome and determination could easily be provided by students taking ethical school courses across the country at no cost at all. Fourteen million dollars spent on the Oliphant Commission to come to the conclusion that former prime minister Brian Mulroney acted inappropriately in accepting cash stuffed in envelopes from Karlheinz Schreiber? C’mon, who needs to spend that kind of money when common sense tells us the answer.

The Braidwood commission in B.C. is another example of a huge leakage of money. The commission and its final report on the death of Robert Dziekanski is expected to have cost the provincial taxpayer more than 4,000,000 dollars and the final total may be as high as 6,000,000. Again, I think we all know that RCMP officers tasering a visitor who could not speak our language 4 or 5 times until he died at the scene does not require expensive pondering. We all know it was wrong and that’s all there is to it. The monies would have been better spent on bringing the officers involved to trial. In an ironic twist, the B.C. Attorney General has just appointed a special prosecutor to investigate this tragic incident, namely one Richard Peck. You may remember him as the special prosecutor who dropped into Ontario long enough a few months back to dismiss all charges against Michael Bryant without even a trial taking place to sort out guilt or innocence in another equally tragic affair. You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath about the outcome of his investigation regarding Robert Dziekanski.

Even more frustrating is that after all these expenditures, neither the Oliphant nor Braidwood commissions had the mandate to indicate criminal wrongdoings. So after all this huge wastage of money, the sole outcome was an elaborate statement of obvious conclusions that the taxpayer had already made. Nothing more.

And what about the 500,000,000 dollar parliamentary budget? Sheila Fraser, the federal auditor general, had to fight tooth and nail to finally get to see how those millions get spent. Politicians said she did not have the right to do so. Really? Last time I looked, that budget comes out of the taxpayers’ coffers and therefore, Ms Fraser, representing the taxpayers’ interests, does indeed have that right. I’m sure the results of that audit will be most interesting and quite likely most disturbing.

It’s time we demand that our elected officials spend our money more wisely and not on inane inquiries, meetings and definitely, it seems, not on summits. Why it costs Canada hundreds of millions more than other countries to run these latest summits is still yet to be determined but I’m pretty sure the audits’ conclusions will be that the money could have been put to much better use. The irony of CSIS filing a report this week stating that the G8/G20 terrorism risk is very low underlines the need for stemming this gushing flow of taxpayers’ monies from all our legislative wells.

Chidingly submitted by Distant Cousin