Straight Talk
JOE WARMINGTON - Cherry wades into Haiti controversy

Credits: QMI AGENCY

JOE WARMINGTON | QMI AGENCY

"Are we nuts?" -- Don Cherry on Canada's foreign aid to Haiti

When it comes to Canada handing out "zillions" to nations notorious for corruption, Don Cherry tweeted what many Canadians privately believe but don't dare say.

On Cherry's non politically-correct @CoachsCornerCBC twitter handle nothing is watered down.

Whether about the NHL lockout, defending Canadian hockey players or politics, the charitable coach has tweeted 600 times to 118,000 followers since March, 2012.

This time in seven 140 character tweets Monday put together here in sequence, he weighed into international politics.

"You know, I am one of those guys, like most people in Canada, we like to help the countries all over the world. But sometimes it makes you wonder. Maybe it's just me. But Canada gave Haiti 49.5 million dollars last year. Are we nuts? We've got a guy dying in Toronto waiting 3 hours for an ambulance.

"We got people waiting 7, 8 10 hours, if they're lucky in a waiting room with one doctor for a zillion people. We nickel and dime our doctors, nurses and veterans plus a million other services. Yet we can send almost 50 million to Haiti.

"I'll tell ya something. The working guy is getting kind of sick of people spending money like that. It's a good job we got a good guy like Julian Fantino, with a little common sense, in charge. 50 million, I wonder how much have we given them over the years? Lets smarten up. As the old saying goes, charity begins at home. Am I right or is it just me?"

Cherry's tweets went viral in minutes.

"That's just what I think," explained the legendary Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster in an interview. "I am just backing (Julian) Fantino. He's Wayne Gretzky and I am Dave Semenko."

Cherry was reacting to a Canadian Press story in which Haitan-born, former Governor General, Michaelle Jean took umbrage with Fantino's comment on Haiti's lack of garbage clean up.

"You think it gives them pleasure to live with this garbage?" Jean was quoted as saying. "I think Mr. Fantino has a good opportunity, now that he's found the garbage situation shocking. Maybe it would be a good idea to help Haiti in waste management."

Cherry backed the former Toronto Police chief, and OPP commissioner ,when he first ran for office in Vaughan and again in his newest role as Canada's minister International Cooperation. He said he's also standing up for the "regular taxpayer" or "unemployed" Canadians like, in recent months, himself.

"It just bugs me when I see Fantino being criticized," he said. "I have got to back him. He is one of us."

In appreciation, Fantino Monday called Cherry "a great Canadian who wears his heart on his sleeve."

He also updated what exactly is happening in Haiti, in which he visited November. "We will never abandon the people of Haiti in their time of need and we are not shutting down existing programs there -- including some great ones like ones to provide hot meals or vaccinations for children."

But Canada has "put $1-Billion into Haiti since 2006 and we are very disappointed with the lack of progress made." He said future projects are on hold while assessments are made to stop waste and corruption.

The earthquake and hurricanes aside, said Fantino, "there should be more shown for the money" and has told political leaders there "going forward we will be expecting better accountability, transparency and more results."

As for Jean's remarks, Fantino said, "I don't care what the critics say because we know the issues and we must give full value for the Canadian tax dollar (earmarked) for the people of Haiti."

Cherry said that was his point.

"There's not going to be money wasted with him in charge."

Fantino said he would call Grapes and "thank him" for the support.

Sometimes it takes a coach to cut through the BS and a cop to cut through the corruption.

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