I knew it was coming. I knew it was coming, as sure as you know that when a big disaster happens in our neighbour to the south, sooner or later some yappy preacher is going to announce that God sent the rains to punish gay people (or feminists, or illegal immigrants, or people wearing mixed polyester-cotton clothing, or whatever else strikes their bigoted fancy).
Right-wing governments in Edmonton and Ottawa are promising flood aid in huge amounts. The reason they are doing so, explains the state broadcaster, is because most of the homeowners who have had their homes devastated by the flood didn’t pay for the necessary home insurance and so are going to facing financial devastation.
Um, excuse me?
I don’t want to sound overly harsh here. I am, as it happens, in favour of having the state pay welfare money to people who are in some ways the authors of their own misfortune. But we should be clear that that’s what it is — and we have the right to ask why governments that supposedly oppose welfare are now paying out the nose for other people’s incautious decisions to deliberately build a home in a place that was vulnerable to flooding.
Because isn’t that precisely the sort of thing that our “free market” political parties promised to stop doing? These people knowingly built their homes in a place where there was a real likelihood that those homes would be damaged or destroyed by flooding. They knowingly declined to purchase insurance that would protect them in that circumstance. Now, those homes have been damaged or destroyed by flooding. Isn’t the proper response of a pro-free market government in this situation to say, “well, if you wanted to avoid penury, maybe you should have built your home somewhere safer?”
The fact that we are not even bothering to ask this question is proof positive that pro-free market conservatives don’t actually have well-thought-out political philosophies. They just have a framework that separates “our” government aid, which is good, from “their” government aid, which is bad. Kind of like everyone else does, except that those of us who don’t make regular denunciations of “big government” don’t look stupid and hypocritical when we step up to the trough and demand our share later on.
At some point, a right-wing commentator able to string two sentences together — maybe one on Sun, even — is going to realize that government shouldn’t be in the flood aid business. That won’t prove me wrong, because dollars to doughnuts there will be some other government aid program that they don’t think should be eliminated.
In the meantime, thinking through the government’s obligations in the event of a disaster is obviously something that needs to urgently happen — and because of the rather decrepit nature of politics and the media in this country, we can be sure that the conversation won’t happen until after the fact, which is precisely the worst time to have it. If you think I’m being alarmist here, instead of thinking about the cost of a few homes in Calgary, try imagining what the cost of a property owner bailout will be when one-third of Vancouver is underwater, much of the rest has been toppled by an earthquake, and Vancouver Island is virtually inaccessible for months because all major harbours and airports have been destroyed. Relatively soon now, that will happen. And we have no plan for that either.
It’s worth noting the utter inability of our political system to plan in advance for something as incredibly and inanely simple as the fact that a mountain river which has flooded in the past might do so again. That’s precisely why we are so pathologically unable to prevent or mitigate climate change. Our brains simply aren’t evolved enough to handle problems of that magnitude.Tweet