Our Gushing Wells Needs Capping Too

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

Course of Justice Denied

It has been determined by B.C. special prosecutor Richard Peck that Michael Bryant is innocent in the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard. Peck’s decision to have all charges withdrawn against Bryant means no preliminary trial will take place. This has caused, as it should, heated discussions amongst Torontonians and others beyond this city’s borders.

There is no need to review the details of the tragic incident of last August 31st. They have been noted repeatedly in news accounts and on the internet since that fateful night. And they are being rehashed constantly since the news of the charges against Bryant being dropped was revealed.

The disturbing outcome of that evening is that Darcy Allan Sheppard died during his altercation with Michael Bryant. Disturbing not only because of the senseless nature of his death but because, had he lived, chances are he would have had his day in court in one way or another. By being dead, this has been denied him.

It turns out, in the mind of prosecutor Peck, that it was not actually Michael Bryant facing any charges but rather Darcy Allan Sheppard that was on trial. This is the gist of Peck’s executive summary revealed to the court on Tuesday. Sheppard’s troubled history and past incendiary actions made him responsible for all actions that both he and Bryant undertook that night, relieving Bryant of any potential accountability in the resulting death (my underscores).

And there is the major rub in this very sad affair. A case tried in the courts of public opinion and in the mind of one person but one that never made its way to an Ontario court of law. A judgement or verdict reached but only in the mind of Mr. Peck, not by a judge or jury which is usually the process followed especially in a serious incident resulting in death.

I do not know what, if anything, Bryant is guilty of. Or what Sheppard may have been guilty of before he died that evening. But I am truly enraged that information that may have shed light on this most deadly scenario is now unavailable to me and the rest of the Toronto public. Peck refers in his summary to confusing eye witness accounts and forensics reports, the latter indicating Bryant was not accountable for Sheppard’s fatal injuries. Due to a lack of a preliminary trial, no one, especially a judge or jury, will be able to hear or judge for themselves how confusing those eyewitness accounts truly are or decide for themselves how informative and definitive those forensics reports are. What should have been a perfunctory legal process has been denied by the opinion of one person. And that is just not right.

If bringing in a special prosecutor from B.C. to oversee former Ontario Attorney General Bryant’s case was to create transparency and avoid optics of any ‘special treatment’ by Ontario police or judicial officials, not allowing a preliminary trial in this matter has negated those intentions. The undesirable language of ‘the educated rich versus the poor’ and a ‘law for the rich and a law for the poor’ is now swirling about like a typhoon within the city. Cyclists, justified or not, now feel that their safety while navigating city streets is even more imperilled than before the incident. None of these statements are representative of what is actually at stake here (the guilt or innocence of actions that lead to a death) but the lack of a judicial process, not surprisingly, has sadly fed the flames of mistrust and discontent amongst cyclists, motorists and the rest of the city’s inhabitants.

These rumblings and grumblings could have been avoided if the course of justice had been allowed to proceed within an Ontario court room. A trial would have revealed that this case was about road rage, not about cyclists versus motorists nor about couriers versus lawyers. The court would have looked at both men’s actions equally to decide what, if any laws, were broken by either party. The judge or jury would have decided if either party’s actions during those adrenalin-filled 28 seconds imperilled the safety of the other. In other words, the court would have done its job with the public present. If Bryant had been found guilty or acquitted of any charges by means of a judicial decision, we Torontonians would have been privy to the information provided that resulted in that decision. Bryant would not have this spectre of preferred treatment and doubt now forever attached to him. Darcy Allan Sheppard, through testimony (favourable or not) of witnesses at the scene that summer night, would have had his day in court as well.

Because, you see Mr. Peck, I don’t know about B.C. but in the eyes of the Ontario judicial system, every accused, including Sheppard and Bryant, is considered ‘innocent until proven guilty’. In this case, thanks to you, we will never know.

– judicially submitted by Distant Cousin