Black Press Media reporter Matthew Claxton has earned numerous industry awards in past for his op-ed writing, including his weekly Painful Truth column. (Black Press Media files)

Black Press Media reporter Matthew Claxton has earned numerous industry awards in past for his op-ed writing, including his weekly Painful Truth column. (Black Press Media files)

PAINFUL TRUTH: Why can’t government act?

Flood-related press conference highlights need to take action sooner rather than later

Remember when the federal government promised to plant two billion trees a couple of years back?

It was part of the Liberals’ ambitious plans to fight climate change. All those new trees would soak up carbon dioxide, slow the greenhouse effect, and buy us some time to wean ourselves off oil, gas, and coal.

As of last summer, guess how many trees had been planted?

It was just 29 million.

That is 1.45 per cent of 2 billion.

Canada seems to have developed a problem – we still think of ourselves as a potent nation, a place where things happen. We learn in school that we built trans-continental railroads, about our health-care system, and about how the CN Tower was the world’s tallest freestanding building (emphasis on was, since it’s been surpassed now).

But the PR of social studies textbooks aside, it’s hard not to notice that our governments don’t do… much of anything, actually.

Our health-care system is taking a beating from multiple factors – COVID-19, obviously, but also a steadily aging population, an inability to train enough new nurses and doctors, a lack of resources to certify foreign-trained medical staff, and general burnout.

And our leaders note these problems, promise to fix them, and then they don’t.

You can find headlines about doctor shortages going back years. It’s always basically the same story, over and over. Even if it’s a hard problem to solve, there’s been plenty of time to try multiple possible solutions, hasn’t there?

I also sat in on a press conference recently hosted by members of Canadian Senate committee that looked into the response to floods. The senators noted that, shockingly, 87 per cent of B.C. dikes are in “less than fair condition” and that 71 per cent are expected to fail in a bad flood simply by being overtopped – in other words, they’re just not high enough.

Are we going to fix the dikes? Soon?

RECENT PAINFUL TRUTH: Is voter apathy justified?

I mean, we had these catastrophic floods 11 months ago, which caused more than a quarter billion dollars in damages to local agriculture, washed out bridges and highways, cut off small communities, and killed several people.

If the federal and provincial governments put their heads together, they could launch a major dike upgrade project that would fix all or most of them by this time next year.

Will they? Bet you $10 they don’t, and we’re just seeing more headlines about shoddy flood protection.

I genuinely have no idea what is happening.

Some people are worried about overbearing government. I’m worried about a government that has no bear at all! Every once in a while, in the teeth of a real emergency, like the pandemic, a Canadian government will actually do things. Sometimes the wrong things! But mostly, they’re moving in the right direction.

But as soon as the alarms stop ringing, and the immediate crisis is at bay, they just stop. They don’t act at all, and that inaction keeps proving costly –both in terms of dollars and lives.

– Matthew Claxton is a senior reporter with Black Press Media

PAINFUL TRUTH: Would Metro Vancouver make a good province?

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