By Ryan McGreal
Published September 26, 2006
As the political drama swirls around who knew what about this summer's legionella outbreak, let us stop for a minute and ask: why on earth do politicians keep trying to hide this stuff? Don't they ever learn?
According to the Hamilton Spectator, Mayor Larry "Ethics and Integrity" Di Ianni was briefed in late July about the outbreak but decided not to share this information with the public.
According to Spec reporter Nicole McIntyre, Di Ianni learned that there was a spike in legionella infections, but did not follow up with staff at the medical office of health.
The rest of City Council learned about the outbreak last Monday during an in camera council meeting. Some councillors asked why the information was not being made public, but council did not vote to release the information.
Now, some councillors are trying to distance themselves from that decision and pass the buck. As Councillor Terry Whitehead explained, "we felt we were being boxed in by staff." Staff at the medical office of health claim they did not go public because they were still investigating what caused the outbreak.
If an anonymous source at the city had not leaked the information to McIntyre, we would still not know about it.
This is outrageous. The medical office of health seems to be totally ineffectual, and our elected politicians seem unwilling to treat their electors with enough respect to share critical public health information.
Did they really think they would be able to keep a lid on this? Again and again, politicians try to keep the public in the dark on politically embarrassing matters, only to be exposed once the truth inevitably emerges.
The lure of secrecy is a political will-o-the-wisp, perpetually leading politicians astray with the promise of an escape from accountability. It's a false promise.
Ironically, last Wednesday, before the outbreak was leaked to the Spec, Di Ianni released a five point re-election plan in which "community safety" was his number one priority.
He said the city needs to "reassure people that in fact Hamilton is a safe community, that all the neighbourhoods are safe."
What we need is a little less "reassurance" and a lot more honesty.