Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
A health care system in crisis. A $300 billion debt. Yet this government is worried about climate change.
I reside in Ontario – Canada’s most populous province. The 13.5 million people who live here comprise 38.5 percent of this nation’s population.
Last week, a hospital social worker advised me that Ontario hospitals are in “crisis.” Large numbers of in-patients are elderly people who should be in nursing homes, but the nursing homes are already full, with waiting lists three to five years long.
As a result, an elderly relative of mine is going to be transferred to the only nursing home bed available. It’s located 140 kilometers (90 miles) distant from his home, in a community of less than 1,000 people.
That relative knows no one in the community in which he will spend an unknown number of months waiting for a nursing home bed closer to home. In order for his geographically nearest relations to visit him, they will need to drive 2+ hours in each direction. It is possible he will breathe his last in that remote facility.
Yet the same week I learned how ill-equipped we are to care for our aging population, my provincial government launched a 45-day public review period connected to a new climate change discussion paper. The government web page begins thus:
Climate change is the defining issue of our time.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is engaging the people, businesses and communities of Ontario in a dialogue on climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering strong economic growth.
That feedback will help inform a strategy and action plan to be announced later this year. [bold added]
We have a severe health care crisis on our hands. Here and now, involving some of society’s most vulnerable members. But rather than focusing on that crisis, my government thinks climate change is the defining issue of our time.
My government is going to develop an action plan. It’s going to distribute glossy publications, hold press conferences, and draft new laws and regulations that will, no doubt, lead to the disappearance of even more manufacturing jobs. Then it’s going to pat itself on the back and preen about how green it is.
All in anticipation of a hypothetical climate crisis that is unlikely to seriously effect anyone in this province for decades to come.
The money that will be lavished on this file won’t do a thing to alleviate our nursing home shortage. Nor will it make any difference to the climate. We 13 million people represent less than one quarter of one percent of the world’s population. Every one of us could drastically curb our CO2 emissions by turning off our heat in this sub-zero weather and never using a car again – but it still wouldn’t matter.
I want my government to concentrate on things for which it is directly responsible. After it has addressed the nursing home shortage, balanced the budget, and vanquished our $300 billion debt, I might not mind so much if it turns its attention to climate change.
Until then, how dare it behave as if a hypothetical threat is more important than the well-being of my elderly relative.
A government that has already declared climate change to be the defining issue is unlikely to be receptive to public input that thinks otherwise. Nevertheless, Ontario residents have until March 29th to submit comments online here about what should be done about climate change (full details here).
Make no mistake. Green activists will express their point-of-view during this process. If the rest of us remain silent, our government will find it easy to pretend our perspective doesn’t exist.