The ebola virus and the elections in Toronto

ORESTE NARDI

Sooner or later the Ebola virus will show up in Toronto, the largest and most diverse Canadian city,  with the busiest international airport in the country. Federal authorities have already set up emergency medical teams ready to be mobilized at the first signs of this deadly illness.
Were you to be infected by this disease, you will be treated with the best medicine available, by the most skilled medical team. You will not have to show a credit card or have loads of cash in order to have access to medical services. Despite the efforts by the Conservatives in power in Ottawa to reduce and degrade public services, given their ideology, Canada still has a decent public health system, funded by your taxes.
Remember this next time you hear the scandal-prone Ford brothers or Prime Minister Harper’s cacophony of lower taxes.
You may end up paying less taxes, but you won’t have free medical attention, and you’ll have reduced municipal services.
To understand this, you only have to ask Canadian Africans from countries affected by Ebola whether they would trade less taxes for less public medicine. You may guess the answer.
The countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak are also among the poorest countries in the world.
Yet these African countries are not poor in resources. They have oil, rare minerals, unique crops. They have large reserves of natural resources, from water to diamonds. They are countries with young populations. Yet they are countries afflicted by rampant corruption. Their political elites, in most cases, while richly padding their bank accounts with public funds, work for the benefit of  transnational corporations.
These are countries at the mercy of international financial institutions. They do not adequately control the income from their natural resources. These are countries that live under the harsh rules of  neoliberalism, the same economic policies embraced by Stephen Harper, who likes to sign free trade agreements in which the rules of the agreement supersede the national laws and the democratic processes in those countries.
It is in this context that the Ebola virus hits the hardest. There are no strong national institutions, well funded by the State in Liberia or Sierra Leone.
These African countries had to see an international NGO, Médecins sans Frontières, take the lead in combating the disease.
Their fragile and anemic public health systems were wiped out by the onslaught of the ferocious virus.
According to the Center for Disease Control in the US, nearly 10,000 people have been infected in Africa so far, of which almost 5,000 have died.
This is the brutal face of market-oriented policies and free trade, of capitalism without social responsibilities imposed in Africa by rich western countries like Canada.
At home, this ideology expresses itself every time that a candidate, whether at the federal or municipal level, speaks of “reducing the size of public administration”, or “lowering taxes” while at the same time giving huge tax benefits to banks and oil companies.
On October 27, Torontonians will go to the polls to elect a new mayor. On that day, it will be fair to remember that the ideology that is killing Africans and preventing them from having strong public health services is the one Conservatives of all stripes embrace and want for Toronto and Canada.
Halloween is near. Be afraid, be very afraid of politicians like John Tory, Rob and Doug Ford, Stephen Harper, and all those who don’t believe in the very public 2institutions that can protect us from the Ebola virus.