Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Harper Government's idea of Transparency

I have been watching, like many people, all the apparent breaches of transparency in this government over the last..let's say six months. I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not having a bad dream. This is a Prime Minister who's early political career, and even his rise to office, were all centred on the populist Reform Party. Born in the prairies, Reform was meant to address all the undemocratic ills of the Federal Government, and return civility (or start some) and transparency to Ottawa. Am I the only one that remembers this? I doubt it. Yet in the last six months we have witnessed, amongst others: the proroging of Parliament; the refusal to release documents regarding the Afghan Detainee issue;  the apparent political summary execution of the Minister of...well Jaffer's wife; and the public announcement from the Commissioner of Access to Information that her Office was being muzzled. Wow, Reform you say. I don't think even Mulroney got away with that - not that he necessarily sought to.

That brings me to today's blog. As some of you may or may not know I have been fighting with the Federal Government, as well as the Chateau Lake Louise ( the big high-end resort in Banff National Park) over the environmental abuse of Lake Louise. Lake Louise is internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful and prestine lakes in the world. It has been given World Heritage status by the United Nations, and is a protected site by both National and International law. That being said, Lake Louise has been environmentally abused by the Chateau Lake Louise now for atleast a decade. Apparently, according to a Senior Warden in the Park, the Chateau was caught dumping sewage into the Lake in the 1970's, and fined. A recent access to information request on anything to do with this incident resulted in a nil return from the government. According to Parks Canada in Ottawa no such records exist. Interesting. Could be that the Warden, a life long employee at the Park was mistaken, I guess, although you would think that someone would  remember something like that.

Then, as a member of the voluntary Advisory Development Board for Banff, Kootenay, Yoho national parks I discovered massive water losses from the Chateau's operation over the last ten years. Essentially, the Chateau takes water from the Lake, treats it, and then consumes it. The production number should be very close to the consumption number or there are water losses somewhere in the system. I found that, by the Chateau's own numbers, that 510,000 m3 of water was missing as of 2008. To put it into context, that is over 25,000 semi tanker loads of water in seven years. During the following stories in the Globe and Mail, and then other National and International media another allegation arose. Several previous employees of the Chateau's water department came forward with the revelation that the Chateau was dumping waste water (treated water not put through the sewer treatment plant) directly into the Creek. Well that is the quick version of events.

Then yesterday my first set of documents finally arrived from Parks Canada under the Access to Information Act. The request was simple: Any and all documents on the water and sewer distribution systems at Lake Louise. One wouldn't think National Security was involved. Sounds like a fairly straight forward request considering the history of the ongoing struggles to get the Chateau to stop abusing the resource. Apparently not. What I received was an 10" by 14" envelope with 43 pages of documents. Unfortunately, 39 of the documents were completely blank. Nothing. Not even a sentence. There was more ink on the Afghan detainee documents shown on TV. What an absolute slap in the face to Canadian Democracy. Reform you say. Transparent you say. What a mockery. Of course I will appeal to the Commissioner, and hopefully some sense will be seen. Apart from the issue of "who is wagging who's tail?", apart from where is the protection for such a site as Lake Louise, where are the basic Canadian's rights?

Mr Harper if this is your idea of democracy, freedom, and liberty - well, your time of accountability is coming. Hopefully, the cost to this country of ours, not just yours, won't be too steep. As the old saying goes:
"Power. Use it, but abuse it, lose it."

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