Friday, October 21, 2005

Still happening at home

CTV reports on the state of the Kashechewan First Nation's water supply. And it's tough to believe there's still such neglect in Canada:
The fly-in community about 450 kilometres north of Timmins, Ont., has been under a Health Canada boil water advisory for more than two years. Now, with a broken sewage levee and a water plant held together with rope and a plank of wood, its water supply is contaminated with E. coli.

The situation flared up last week, when federal officials warned of the potentially deadly bacteria in water flowing through the taps of the community's 1,900 residents. E. coli can make people ill, and even prove deadly for young children, the elderly and those already sick...

A federal study released in 1995 concluded that approximately 25 per cent of water systems on reserves posed a potential health and safety risk. In 2001, another study found three-quarters of the systems tested posed a safety risk to the drinking water.

The Auditor-General's report estimated the cost of replacing the water systems at $1.4-billion.

The problem hasn't been a complete lack of funding. The system itself is only ten years old, and the federal government spent $500,000 to renovate Kashechewan's system last year. But there's no explanation for why the system was built so poorly in the first place, and the renovation didn't bother moving the intake area away from a sewage release point.

In other words, the issue has been the Liberals' typical lack of focus on making sure the money gets spent for useful purposes, rather than merely to make the party look good.

A more visionary government might consider the long-term benefits of using a portion of one year's surplus to tackle the problem across the country. Hopefully the people most affected by third-world living conditions in Canada recognize which party is most likely to put that type of vision into practice - and other Canadians will recognize the value of making sure no Canadian has to live in such conditions.

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