News

BLIZZARD

Kathleen Wynne's re-election tactics turn desperate

By Christina Blizzard, Special to the Sun

Premier Kathleen Wynne campaigns in Walkerton in May 2014. (PATRICK BALES/Postmedia Network)

Premier Kathleen Wynne campaigns in Walkerton in May 2014. (PATRICK BALES/Postmedia Network)

Here’s how desperate the Liberals have become in this election.

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne went to Walkerton Thursday to raise the spectre of a tainted water scandal from 14 years ago.

That’s how bad it is.

She’s campaigning on the backs of dead children and the thousands of people who were sickened in that horrific tainted water tragedy.

Talk about bad taste. It’s the exact 14-year anniversary of that tragedy. At a time when families are remembering their loved ones, Wynne was using them in a cynical election ploy.

If you were the parents of a child who died as a result of E. coli poisoning, how would you feel to have the premier show up to use your town as a prop in an election?

Wynne used the Ontario Clean Water Centre in the pretty town on the Bruce Peninsula Thursday to attack Tim Hudak, who says, if elected, he’ll cut civil servants.

“It’s important to recognize that decisions have consequences,” said Wynne. “Safe drinking water is not an optional service.

“The cutbacks of the 1990s contributed to this tragedy. There was a failure of oversight, a failure of enforcement. Cuts have consequences. We need to learn from and avoid the mistakes of Ontario’s past.”

PC leader Tim Hudak said he was “disappointed,” in Wynne’s tactics — and compared it to a McGuinty strategy.

“I think we’re all sad to see the Premier of Ontario trying to take advantage of that for political gain,” Hudak told reporters.

Those of us who covered the events in 2000, when E coli contaminated Walkerton’s water supply and seven people died will never forget that town’s agony.

I remember only too clearly the people who were hardest hit were the most vulnerable — children and old people, who were unable to fight off the ravages of E. coli.

I remember the family whose toddler died — a victim of the tainted water. How they feel today being reminded of that terrible loss — purely for political purposes?

And Wynne’s rewriting history. It wasn’t about privatization.

The bottom line is two unionized workers at the Walkerton public utility were fudging reports.

They were more concerned about the temperature of the beer fridge in their office than the cleanliness of the water.

As we heard during the inquiry, they failed to chlorinate the water because they believed people in the area preferred the natural flavour of the water without chlorine. A broken chlorinator was never fixed, tests were mislabelled.

They were uneducated and unfit to do the job — and more than 2,000 people paid the price when they got sick.

Stan and Frank Koebel admitted falsifying water safety tests and log sheets and failing to properly disinfect the town’s drinking water.

Stan got a year in jail and his brother got nine months house arrest for their roles in the tainted water tragedy.

The well that was poisoned had been problematic for decades.

That’s what happens when you sink a well downhill from a barnyard.

While it’s true that Mr. Justice Dennis O’Connor slammed the Tories in his exhaustive Royal Commission report — saying the Mike Harris government’s decision not to require private labs to report contaminated water findings to the environment ministry and medical officer of health as part of its privatization program post-1996 contributed to the scale of the disaster — the tragedy still would have happened.

And Harris actually went to Walkerton after the report and took responsibility.

Now Wynne’s raking up all that heartbreak, all that pain that the people of Walkerton would like to put behind them.

The lost souls of Walkerton deserve a better epitaph than this.

If the only way we remember them is at election time, when a failing campaign needs a pit stop to slam an opponent, we’re dishonouring them and all the careful work that went in to O’Connor’s report will be in vain.

 

 


Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions