by Fraser Turnbull


As I watched the tragic news from Miami, where a building collapsed on itself killing as many as 140 people, my horror gave way to rage. It is a rage not necessarily directed at those that were responsible for slip-shod maintenance or construction. No- it was reserved for those whom I have begun to challenge with great regularity when they utter the right-wing message of, “We need smaller government. We need less regulation.”  I will no longer accept that catch-all as the panacea for all that ails our economy. From this point forward, I will ask for specific examples of just where this magic waste is, and how it should be cut.

Perhaps we should cut back on building inspection. Or maybe bridges and rails. While we’re at it, why not slash our water inspection? Let’s ask the people of Walkerton, Ontario how they feel about that cut-back. You know what might be timely? Combining different pandemic response units to save a buck and cut government waste. What could go wrong?

Perhaps we should cut back on building inspection. Or maybe bridges and rails. While we’re at it, why not slash our water inspection?

As the modern-day hero for the “less government” crowd, Ronald Reagan is the mythic figure for deregulation. He famously said that the nine words no one wanted to hear were, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Cute phrase Ronny, but I call it malarkey. After all, it was government regulation that de-segregated schools. It’s government regulation that is attempting to defeat voter suppression in the USA, though many of the same Republican voices are doing all that they can to keep the minority vote on the sidelines.  In the long-term, those efforts to suppress will fail because it is the will of the masses upon which democratic principles flourish, and it will be accomplished through government regulation. 

Poor government regulation and oversight is exactly what led to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan- a stain on the federal and state governments, and a low point in the Obama administration. It is asinine to accept the notion that the government regulation is at the root of our problems. We ARE the government, and we are set up for the protection of ourselves, our communities, and our countries. Does anyone truly believe that the auto makers were in a fantastic rush to put seat belts in cars? How about the delay in adding air bags? Those very manufacturers were found guilty of colluding to keep catalytic converters from reaching the market, all the while knowing that cars were spewing pollutants into our air. Again, it was government regulation and government pressure that led to the protection of our children, ourselves, and our neighbours. Auto-accident fatalities have been drastically reduced and emissions were reduced because of progressive regulation, pressure and oversight.

The privatization of those facilities in Ontario has resulted in exactly what one might expect, corner cutting and conditions that can only be termed as mass elder abuse. 

During the pandemic, the pathetic and disgraceful state of Canadian long term care homes was a slap in the face to our collective identity. The privatization of those facilities in Ontario has resulted in exactly what one might expect, corner cutting and conditions that can only be termed as mass elder abuse. 

I have some outside-the-box ideas. Let’s allow the tobacco industry to regulate itself. If we are after smaller government and less taxes, why don’t we trust that business to self-monitor? Surely, they’ll be honest. In Canada, I would like to suggest that we remove all government control over the dairy industry. No more protection- no more interference, and no more quotas. Clearly there is too much government and too many regulations. Let’s de-regulate pharmaceutical companies. All that red tape got in the way of a flourishing opioid and benzodiazepine crisis. Facetious offerings aside, I would ask those Reaganites for specific examples of which red tape they want cut. Stephen Harper, are you listening? Or are you too busy attending International Democratic Union or Bilderberg think-tank meetings, with god knows who footing the bill? 

If the COVID19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we should- in many cases- all be in this together. Our species has never suffered from less poverty than this moment in time. Our average life expectancy has been on a sharp increase for a century. Those markers have not improved due to de-regulation. There have been many factors, including a strong market economy and the profit motive. Only a fool would deny that government oversight and regulation have contributed to a better quality of life for the average member of our species.

I am not suggesting communist planning committees or Stalinist collectives. The peddling of fear over democratic socialism is a plan to move against progress and sell trillion-dollar tax cuts written by those in the lobbying shadows on K Street. A market economy, with sound oversight and safety regulations, is the answer. Roosevelt knew it. Trudeau senior knew it. Clinton knew it and so does President Biden.

Smaller government- less regulation. It is nothing but a catchphrase, set to create an enemy and simplify a solution. It is no better than Make America Great Again, or the Shining City on the Hill.  In fact, it is far more dangerous to our way of life. The right-wing trope is nothing but a marketing pitch, and it deserves no more credence than “Have a Coke and a Smile,” or “Built Ford Tough.” Individually, we must dig deeper and look beyond the simple answers to all that ails our economy. We must challenge those who espouse simplified solutions and ask for specifics. I have begun to do this, and I am rarely confronted with any ideas of substance. Instead, I get exaggerated claims that are nothing but dogma and propogandist throw away lines from those who simply want to pay less in tax. Don’t we all?

To act as though there is not government bloat is incredibly naïve. Of course, there are problem areas. To make reductions involves careful consideration, not simplistic catchphrases. The next time an acquaintance starts with the simplistic solution of taking a chainsaw to government regulation, you might want to remind them that much of the damage done by the COVID19 pandemic might have been avoided if world-wide response units were properly supported, generously resourced, and heeded when they rang the alarm. 

Over-regulation is not the answer. Neither is a simple call for deregulation. Give me specifics or close your mouth. I’m not from Missouri, but when it comes to deregulation and smaller government, don’t tell me, show me.


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