The Toronto Star
Feb 25, 2003

After water giveaway, airheads hatch a new plan

Slinger's column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

When Chris Stockwell, Ontario's environment minister, decided to triple the amount of water a Swiss company could take from the Tay River to 4.5 million litres a day, I started thinking about second-hand air.

That was my first reaction and, I must add, the thought worries me.

My second reaction was surprise.

1) I was surprised to learn somebody - this Swiss company - was already taking 1.5 million litres a day from the Tay River.

And 2) I was surprised to learn there's a Tay River.

Next I thought about how much money we'll save because of what Stockwell has done. The water level in Lake Ontario is already so low that if he keeps 4.5 million litres a day from flowing into it, we won't need to build a bridge to the Island Airport. We can just walk across on the mud.

Then I thought about George W. Bush, the U.S. Prez, strolling around Fortress America which he has withdrawn into after setting fire to the Middle East, and also the Far East. He stops and looks at a map showing his fortress, then squints and runs his finger from one side to the other north of it.

"What's this?" he asks.

"Canada, sir," replies Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Then Bush runs his finger above Canada, from Alaska, across and down through Hudson Bay, and around to Greenland. "They got a lot of water."

Stay with me on this, please. If it's satire, it might mean something. With luck we'll find out.

After thinking about George Bush eyeing our water, I thought about Bill Murdoch, the MPP from Chris Stockwell's party who represents the area around Walkerton. Murdoch says the May, 2000, disaster that killed seven Walkerton people and made thousands more sick had nothing to do with the government of Ontario. "What happened here was not the government's fault."

What's he going to say next, that the water didn't have anything to do with it either?

Could be, but I think something more or less having to do with that is what Chris Stockwell has in mind. Here are all the rest of us, worried about our water. The government wants to calm our fears, and the easiest way is to give it all away.

Ontario water!

Get it while it's brown!

The Swiss in particular will like it because it tastes like cheese.

And we thought giants didn't still walk the Earth. Stockwell and Murdoch - a couple of guys who do us proud. Between them they have an IQ of 954. The hard thing is to tell which one has the 950 and which has the 4.

The locals up there around Perth and the Tay's headwaters are upset because they've been having a drought, but their drought places them in the "special interest" category, and special interests only look out for themselves, as we all know too well.

The thing nobody can figure out is why Stockwell is giving the water to this Swiss company instead of selling it to them.

Maybe he's just a nice guy.

So Dick Cheney says, "Uh, Mr. President, we don't want the water you're pointing at. It's full of salt. We've got plenty of salt water already."

"We do? Then why the excitement about Canadian water?''

"Because they have some fresh stuff hidden away. Mind you, they don't want us to have any."

"How about I just send in the 82nd Airborne and take it?''

"No need, sir. I have a friend with a Swiss company that has a line on loads of it. They're willing to sell it to us at much less than an invasion would cost."

"No flies on you, Dick."

"Thank you, Mr. President."

Flushed with his success at giving away our water, Chris Stockwell turns to his greatest challenge - giving away our air. Not an easy task because much of our air is second-hand air and nobody wants it.

"I think we can overcome this, Mr. Minister, by making it illegal for people to exhale," says his deputy.

"Sounds good to me," replies the minister.

This is what worries me. I've gone without exhaling from the time I started writing this column, and I'm starting to feel kind of light-headed. I worry that it might be affecting my thought processes. I hope it hasn't garbled my prose, but you'll have to be the judge of that. When I try to read it I black out every sentence or two.