Tories engaged in conspiracy of silence

There was a collective gasp of disbelief across Ontario when Premier Mike Harris insisted at the Walkerton inquiry that he was right to risk the lives of Ontarians by slashing environmental protection in the name of tax cuts for the wealthy.
And another gasp when he insisted he was right to keep citizens in the dark about the life-threatening consequences of Conservative cuts.
Under questioning at the Walkerton inquiry, Harris said it was right for his government to conceal warnings about increased risks to health and the environment caused by his virtual dismemberment of the Environment Ministry.
This despite the fact that seven people died from tainted water, 2,300 were sickened, and many will be permanently disabled while the premier and his entire caucus remained silent.
One of the most shocking revelations to come out of the inquiry has been that Conservative MPPs were told behind closed doors that their cuts to the Environment Ministry “would increase risks to health and the environment.”
Not only did these supposedly responsible MPPs not reverse the cuts, they deliberately concealed the dire warnings from the public.
This conspiracy of silence continued as seven people died. And the premier last Friday continued the denials and evasions of previous environment ministers Brenda Elliott and Norm Sterling.
He claimed he didn’t know about various documents, he couldn’t recall conversations, and he says he and his cabinet were never told that the cuts were a risk to public health.
As the inquiry has very clearly documented, the premier and his government were warned over and over of the dangers of putting tax cuts for the wealthy ahead of safe water and clean air.
They were warned over and over that privatizing water-testing labs was a disaster waiting to happen because there were no safeguards and it was done too quickly.
And it wasn’t just ministry officials who were raising alarms. The NDP caucus repeatedly warned the government about the dangers of the Conservative cuts. In fact, the commission lawyer last Friday quoted NDP Environment critic Marilyn Churley asking Harris pointed questions in the legislature about the dangers of privatizing water testing.
There can be only one conclusion: the Conservatives decided tax cuts for the wealthy were more important than safe water.
They knew the severe cuts to the environment ministry were a threat to the health of Ontarians. They knew about it, they concealed that knowledge from the public, and seven people died.

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