Saturday, July 12, 2008

On hidden dangers

Pogge and impolitical have already weighed in on the substance of the Cons' plan to gut food safety inspections. But there's an equally important story to be told in how and why the changes are coming about:
The new system, part of a push to trim the agency's budget by 5%, was approved last November, but a public announcement "has been deferred owing to significant communications risks," according to the confidential Treasury Board document obtained by Canwest News Service.
Just from this limited description of the process followed by the Cons, a couple of points stand out.

First off, let's note that while pogge is right to point out that the SPP-based push toward corporate regulation was supported just as much by the Libs as by the Cons, the picture is slightly different for this story. After all, this particular move is a direct result of the one of the Cons' policies which has received far too little discussion.

As noted in the article, the cuts to monitoring and regulatory changes are both an immediate consequence of the Cons' arbitrary demand for cuts in the federal civil service. And while the results in the case of food safety may have a particularly obvious effect on Canadians, the Cons' plan is to ensure that the same is done - with similar outcomes sure to follow - in other departments as well.

Mind you, the difference between the Libs and Cons in power doesn't reflect at all well on the Libs' actions in opposition either. From my standpoint, the story also offers an important reason why any strategy such as the Libs' which involves lengthening the amount of time Harper and company stay in power can only be considered a dangerous one in terms of policy as well as politics.

Moving on to the process that made the changes public, the article also highlights why some of the damage done by the Cons may not yet be known - and indeed may not become clear until long after they're removed from office.

It's bad enough that the Cons didn't bother to consult with affected parties before approving the change. But it's especially significant that eight months after the Cons actually made the decision to radically revamp food safety inspection, they still had no apparent intention of making that fact public based on the "communications risks" which would follow from having to actually defend their choices to Canadians.

As a result, but for a media inquiry into something which the Cons concealed, consumers who count on effective federal regulation as part of their assurance that food products are safe may have ended up making choices based on a system which the Cons had already gutted.

Faced with such a stark example of the type of decision which is verifiably being concealed because the Cons perceive the avoidance of "communications risks" as more important than actually allowing Canadians to be informed as to what the federal government has done, there's all the more reason for concern about what else the Cons have done in office which they see as too harmful politically to disclose. And the only way to push for a more reasonable standard from future governments is to make sure the Cons pay at least as much of a political price for their deception as they would have if they'd tried to push the same policy with appropriate public input and knowledge.

No comments:

Post a Comment