Monday, December 8, 2014

UNSAFE DRINKING WATER A TORY LEGACY

Folks keep telling me that Progressive Conservative M.H.A Calvin Peach is going to be hard to beat no matter how strong the Liberal Tsunami of 2015 is going to be.

They cite his common man approach, his ritualistic attendance at high school graduations and fireman's balls (he usually comes with a government cheque) and the unconvertable fact that he is a gentleman. His biggest strength in the past two elections in the traditionally liberal district has been that he was on the government side.

The results of the past eight-by-elections has certainly turned that political equation up-side down over the past twenty months. If he is re-elected he will not be on the government side and it looks as if people are tired of being bought with their own money.

However the fact remains that Peach enjoys a good reputation as a constituency man. How well earned is that reputation? It is certainly no secret that I have been approached by some liberals and friends to consider running on the Burin Peninsula. One of the seats that was of interest to me was Bellevue, after all my home town is there and after 12 years of tory rule, one of the most significant issues in many communities throughout the district remains unresolved.

 If there's one thing we can take for granted in Canada it's that the water coming out of our taps is clean and pure. Right!

In fairness, the issues are not the creation of the Progressive Conservatives, but their abject failure to address the primary issue of good, clean drinking water for a majority of the residents in that district astounds me and borders on neglect.

As the era of plenty comes to a close with those petro dollars squandered, The Federation of Municipalities has released a 92-page report, Exploring Solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water Systems which paints a particularly bad picture of the condition of drinking water systems in communities located Trinity, Placentia and Fortune Bays. 

How can that be, after all don't they have a great constituency man?


Apparently budgeting to repair, fix, operate,  enhance broken or sub-standard water systems is not a priority for government MHA's. The lack of funds to make necessary repairs or upgrade for drinking water systems has long been an issue. It was really contentious prior to 2003 when we were on equalization and the financial taps were dry.

I can remember an occasion when I was the Executive Assistant to the Minister of Environment  when the department came under fire from the supreme beings that inhabited the Premier's Office about the results of an internal province wide water quality report. Apparently the departments of health and municipal affairs did not like the "alarmist language". I was tasked with finding every single copy that had been distributed and ensuring that the department softened the language. 

In opposition the PC's railed the government on the issue in Question Period and members were zealously presenting petitions about the issue. Ironically, the environment critic for the opposition Progressive Conservatives in the lead-up to the 2003 election - Tom Osborne is now the opposition Liberal environment critic.

However, for the past 12 years there has been money for just about every conceivable infrastructure program. There has been at least two economic stimulation programs and a couple of federal-provincial municipal infrastructure programs but the simple matter of safe drinking water for dozens of communities in Bellevue District has gone unaddressed. Drinking water should be a basic right in this province but community after community has had boil orders in place for years.

The federation study can be backed up easily enough with a quick search of the boil orders update found on the governments webpage. There is no denying the prevalence of the issue or the lack of solutions over the past decade. Simply put, it has gone from bad to worse.

When I was a kid, I loved the water from our taps in St. Bernard's. It came from a natural spring located beneath our house. It was always cold and refreshing. The spring was destroyed when the town was blasting to put in a new water and system. For years now my parents run down to Bay L'Argent to fetch spring water to drink because of the boil water ban on the town's water supply. The same story can be told in dozens of towns in Bellevue district and throughout our province.

So, when those great constituency men who got elected on Danny Williams coat tails show up at your door in Terrenceville, Bay L'Argent, Bellevue, Blaketown, Dildo, Goobies, Swift Current, Southern Harbour, North Harbour...to name but a few, looking for your vote in 2015,  why not pour a bucket of unsafe drinking water on their ambitions and ask him if he feels that public health officials - and governments more broadly -  have an obligation to ensure the public has safe drinking water?



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