Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Water's for fighting (Central Canada edition)

It's the smallest of the five North American Great Lakes and the fourteenth largest in the world.   Lake Ontario, which provides drinking water for millions in Ontario and New York State and cooling fluid for the eons of businesses that have set up shop along both sides of the lake.     Point of fact, Lake Ontario is just one of the two hundred fifty thousand lakes that are completely or partly in Ontario.

And yet we now learn of yet another element in the billion dollar boondoggle that is the G-8 / G-20 coming to Southern Ontario.    A fake lake resembling one in the Muskoka region, set up just 500 metres from a real inland sea.

If someone actually manages to break into the red zone, like the Aussie comedy group Chaser's War on Everything did back at the 2007 APEC Summit in Sydney (a summit which cost $350 million and involved 21 countries and actually impelled Australia, the only democracy in the world without a constitutional bill of rights, to pass specific criminal laws just for the summit which of course proved unenforceable), then Harper and Co will look like real idiots.

But considering the fact that because of the relatively mild winter the Northeast had this year, Lake Ontario is nearly a metre below where it should be this time of year -- as measured by the NOAA, the official weather service in the States -- hoarding a huge amount water into what is a temporary tank is just plain irresponsible, especially when shippers have had to lighten their loads at considerable cost and that Toronto and other cities may well impose water restrictions over and above the "odd / even" rule (odd numbered houses can only water lawns and wash cars on odd days, even on even).

I've mentioned before in this space that out west the battle over water rights between mines and tar sands operations on one side, farmers and aboriginals on the other (normally rivals, but allies on this issue) has led to a saying, that "whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting."   Drought is something that, unlike out West, is relatively rare in Ontario (about every 10-15 years) but is increasing as climate patterns change.   We in the cities, especially close to big bodies of water, think it's impossible to have a drought but tell that to farmers just a few kilometres inland.   You can't irrigate everything and when you can it's expensive to pipe water inland -- water rates tend to be double or even triple what we pay in the cities.

And when there are really bad forest fire seasons, and the winter we had is a portent that we'll have one this year, less water means it'll take longer to put out the fires and there'll be less trees to harvest by the forestry companies and their employees meaning more economic woes for the economically disparate North.   Oh, right, they vote NDP so Harper figures, who gives a crap about them.

And it's not like, contrary to what the government claims, that a lot of media don't know what's "up North" and they need a replica.   They damn well know what the Muskokas (north of Toronto) and the Kawarthas (to the east) are.   They would because of their constant hounding of celebrities who spend their summers there, most notably Goldie Hawn and her common-law husband Kurt Russell.

In this day and age, I wonder at times if we even need summits anymore.   We do have video-conferencing.   Used to cost about $120 per minute per site but is now basically free thanks to the proliferation of broadband around the world.   And environmentally friendly too -- no planes, no wasted food piles not destined for food banks, no photo ops.

Even when we do, is such a huge amount of money needed?    Unlike the US, Canada does not have a law that prohibits posse comitatus.   The principle that active and reserve military, air force and naval troops can double as law enforcement officers when needed is still very much alive here.

The troops at Base Borden near Barrie, an hour drive's north, as well at smaller bases in and around the GTA, could have been called up -- they would be working on their current salaries and with way less overhead.   Law abiding people would feel safe, and when the meeting was over the troops would go back to base, no questions asked.

Something like that would cost, say, a few million.   Not the billion we've already been asked to spend and which no doubt will be fifty to one hundred percent more when the final bill is tallied -- if Harper ever allows it to be tallied, that is.

And the Conservatives said they are fiscally responsible.


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