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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Disaster porn

Halifax does Baghdad

Posted on Tue, Dec 11, 2007 at 1:19 PM

Terrorists are coming! A suicide bomber is going to blow up your bus! Meteors will fall on downtown Halifax! Tidal waves! Anthrax! Pandemics!

BOO!

Are you scared yet? Well, you should be! How else is “Canada’s New Government” (now pushing two years “new”) going to hand bloated contracts to well-connected corporations?

Here’s how it works: the feds make a few hundred million dollars in “security” money available as “matching funds” for city governments to dream up new projects that are absolutely—absolutely!—necessary to protect against terrorists/ prepare for the tsunami/ stop the Ebola virus in its tracks, even though no one ever mentioned the absolutely—absolutely!—necessary gadgets and techo fixes even existed, never mind that they were absolutely—absolutely!—necessary, before the feds agreed to pony up the dough for them.

But here we are, concocting all sorts of ways to spend money on “security” that no one ever mentioned we needed. At tonight’s meeting, the regional council will get to look important and security-minded and full-on daddylike by approving two inane “security” expenditures.

The first is something called a “Risk Assessment and Security Plan” contract awarded to a company called Transportation Resource Associates Inc. for dreaming up ways to keep the buses safe. They likely won’t recommend roofing and heating the Bridge Terminal so that thousands of Dartmouthians avoid pneumonia and frostbite, but rather something less obviously helpful and more sinister—cameras and such. Note that the contract won’t actually provide any security, but merely a “plan” for security—this is consultant subsidies only, and the contracts for real stuff comes later.

But what the hell, the feds are paying 70 percent of the $107,860 bill. Local taxpayers will be on the hook for “just” $80,895.

The second “security” contract – $238,332 ($59,583 from local coffers) to Dynamic Air Shelter, Ltd.—will buy us three “Rapid Deployment Inflatable Shelters.” What are those? Well, according to the staff report, “these inflatable shelters are part of the equipment cache for Canada Task Force 5.”

And what’s “Canada Task Force 5”? Good question, cuz it sounds like something out of the Matrix. See, the feds want five “teams” of some undefined pseudo-military organization spread across the country, with one right here in Halifax. Each team is to be capable of providing “Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) capabilities that could respond regionally as well as nationally to disaster sites.”

(You know this is important because of the capitalized letters and acronyms, but if I were going to search for something here in the city, I’d probably just use Google Maps.)

Anyway, these teams are “required to be able to support themselves in the field for 72 hours, initial deployment and up to 10 days with re supply. The shelters are required for housing the various components of the team at a disaster site, including Command and Communications, Medical, Logistics, Barracks and Cook house. The Halifax Team is expected to be ready for deployment by late 2009 with a complement of 65 persons.”

So, we’re apparently going to get 65 super-duper elite military dudes with Captain Commando watches and shoulder-fired missiles camping out in Grand Parade, looking for something to do until the earthquake hits.

Each of the Rapid Deployment Inflatable Shelters will 20 by 40 feet big, and include a redundantly named “hot water heater,” a “gray water bladder” (the American measures and spellings probably give an indication of the intended market for these things), “transfer pump and hoses, tri fuel heaters and hoses, shower stall, A/C units”—the last for our desert-like Halifax clime—“toilets, wash basins, cots, chairs, tables, cook tops, coffee urns”—no mention if the coffee will meet the city’s new Fair Trade policy—“and utensils.”

Personally, I’d rather die outright in the locust plague than have to navigate through Team Halifax’s equipment on my morning walk to work. But, hey, that’s probably just me.

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