Shattered trust

The second crash of the Boeing 737 Max jet in Ethiopia claiming 157 lives came five months after the same model nosedived in Indonesia killing 189.

China, the country of few human rights and safety regulations, immediately grounded the planes as did virtually everyone else.

Transport Canada was very slow to take the 737 Max out of service, likely because it will hurt the profit margins of Canadian airlines, especially Air Canada.

Not surprisingly, the United States was last to respond.

After the second crash, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg called President Trump to assure him that their planes were safe.

This particular series employs 12,000 direct employees in Washington State plus thousands upon thousands of spinoff jobs. To them profits were paramount and safety was secondary.

With the majority of deaths in these crashes being browns, blacks and from ‘shithole’ countries” (as described by Trump), there was even less incentive for Trump to care about the dead. But there is more to the story than just Donald Trump.

Libertarians and political parties on the right have been routinely weakening regulations and undermining the role of regulators since the 1980s.

The reluctance for the United States government to err on the side of safety rather than corporate profits is the eventual outcome of watered down regulations, industry self-compliance and weak oversight agencies.

Today the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) is a head-less agency (Trump never named a director), seriously underfunded, lacks experts to monitor corporations for safety compliance and rely solely on manufacturers to test and approve new aircrafts.

The few experts remaining at the FAA routinely rotate between industry jobs and the FAA making the compliance organization a prostitute to industry or a toothless imposter.

It was rather telling that the black boxes were sent to France to be analyzed, not the FAA.

On this file, Trump and Muilenburg misread the safety concerns.

Pilots from first world countries, too, had been expressing concerns about software flaws in the Boeing 737 Max series and poor training. First-world passengers were as fearful to board a

Boeing 737 Max as those from ‘shit hole’ countries.

Without trustworthy regulators, consumers lose trust, economic growth suffers and unfortunately, lives are needlessly lost, or land, air and water are comprised or ruined permanently.

We live the same thing in Alberta where the relationship between Conservative governments, the oil and gas industry, the Energy Resources Conservation Board and the Alberta Energy Regulators has led to public distrust.

As regulations and oversight softened or disappeared, the industry spent less money on pipeline maintenance, was quite irresponsible on a number of significant pipeline ruptures and more often than not pushed landowners to fear for their property rights.

Protests and lawsuits happen when people feel there are no other options. Separation of power (industry and regulators) and checks and balances are absolutely critical for trust.

Fair and reasonable regulations, compliance, independent oversight, restitution and appropriate penalties all build trust.

Even though pipelines are the safest method to transport oil, in both Canada and the United States, their construction now garners unbelievable pushback.

I often wonder if governments had not ceded their powers and become puppets of industry, would Boeing and our oil industry be enjoying better times?

 

Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

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