Frank Touby: It’s deadly when governments work for corporations

By Frank Touby –

The multifaceted errors of amalgamation and the team that brought Toronto to this sad state of dysfunction are becoming more apparent as time goes on. Big is not best unless you’re also a big warlord like the corporations that rule North America and much of the world.

Amalgamation suits big business—and badly serves the rest of us—because the bigger the municipal government, the more it feels it needs big companies to handle its big needs. And big companies can offer top-paying “civilian” work to some municipal staff who retire or move on to the private sector.

The deadly Listeria outbreak that plagued our city and others is a result of government abandoning its responsibility in order to satisfy the desires of big business. The self-serving lie neocons promote is that government is always no good and business is righteous, well intentioned and deserving of a free hand to make a buck serving the all-wise marketplace.

Sure, a huge outfit like Maple Leaf Meats will jump to the alarm and tackle the expensive job of righting the listeriosis wrong that should have been prevented by adequate government inspection of processes and procedures. But will every company spend the money to do that if dedicated government inspectors aren’t on their tails? Doubtful.

And if you get a slavish government like the Mike Harris cabal who knelt before their big-business masters, that government inspection will be less than adequate so they can cut taxes to the rich. Corporations pay very little—if any—tax.

There’s the Downsview propane explosion scandal. That’s purely a product of the neocons who have lied and connived their way to power.

When they first took office, you’ll recall, they announced, “We’re not the government.” That certainly heralded the direction our poor province was headed. Then they added, “We’re here to fix the government.” Did they ever! Fixed it something fierce. The Mike Harris swineherd (now John Tory’s) promoted the abandonment of government responsibility for the public wellbeing to job it out to the private sector or, worst of all, to let the formerly regulated parties regulate themselves.

Thus we have a situation where the Ontario Tories in 1995 pulled a practical joke on us all. They created the (wait for it) Technical Standards and Safety Authority as a non-government overseer of the propane business. Those comedians didn’t even keep track of propane owners, says Consumer Minister Harinder Takhar. And they operated under a hilarious regulation that the private operators of such hazardous businesses must conduct self inspections every three years.

What a hoot! Neocons may not know how to party, but they sure can put on a show. In the service of their corporate masters, our governments betray the public trust, pick the public purse and underserve us to a scandalous degree. Our infrastructures have eroded to dust after decades of neglect.

Now they want to pass the repairs and remediation off to private businesses, no doubt including many that they own and that will soak us for decades.

The Harris bunch sold off Highway 407 to foreigners. Some folks today want to sell off St. Lawrence Market to private development. For a while, until we ran short of room to house all the new bureaucrats the city has hired, there was a frenzy from the right wingers to sell off Metro Hall.

There is prime retail space where the licencing department bureaucrats are being housed on The Esplanade west of Jarvis. The city has a ridiculous policy that when it owns property, it must first offer it to bureaucrats.

So for 15 years the awkwardly shaped and unfinished storefronts on the south side were empty and basically unrentable.

The city lost tons of revenue from rents and Downtown neighbourhoods lost the variety of small businesses that should have occupied those spaces if the city had finished them inside and offered them for lease. Councilor Pam McConnell told me there are plans to relocate those city workers at some point in the not-too-distant future and make those spaces available. Let’s hope it happens and that unique independent small businesses take the spaces instead of franchise serfs.

 There’s no need to sell the spaces—that’s privatizing them. Just lease them to the little folks the same way it works at St. Lawrence Market.