More horrifying than what happened in Walkerton was the intense ideological hunt for the guilty that began almost before the first victims were buried.
Anti-Mike Harris commentators like paleo-red-tory Dalton Camp were convinced “downloading” and “privatization” had caused the tragedy. Pro-Harris-ites fingered communication breakdowns and called for more government regulation.
You’d think people would have the decency to clam up until a few more facts were revealed and not turn this calamity into an occasion for political spinmeisters to strut their stuff.
The “Big Questions” for any public inquiry into the Walkerton tragedy will be:
How did Walkerton’s water get contaminated?
Once contaminated, could the tragedy have been avoided by either the Ontario government or Walkerton’s water utility?
How can future disasters like this be averted?
As these questions are answered, people should realize that governments which both own and regulate public utilities have a fatal conflict of interest. Ownership of services such as water-testing is not the key question. The rules under which the testers operate is the issue.
If governments are to be credible regulators, they must first divest themselves of ownership of those businesses they regulate. Accordingly, private water utility ownership may be the only way to go – provided the Ontario government only regulates and has no other function.
Who knows? A little common sense might produce an Ontario regulatory revolution. Then, those who perished in Walkerton will not have died entirely in vain.