Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Conservative Ministers' Mistakes Reveal Something Darker than Tory Blue

Well, it's certainly been an interesting week for federal politics in Canada.

First off, we have Lisa Raitt, the federal Natural Resources Minister. She was recorded on tape, a tape that was later made public by a Halifax reporter, saying that a medical isotope crisis involving the Chalk River nuclear reactor (which had to be shut down) is a "sexy" issue. She also took apparent delight that federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq was mishandling the situation. Raitt made comments on the tape suggesting that she could benefit politically from the crisis.

NDP leader Jack Layton's response to Raitt's words sums up many of my feelings nicely, so I'll quote Jack:
"There is nothing sexy about thousands of suffering Canadians on waiting lists for cancer treatment. There is nothing sexy about radiation. There is nothing sexy about losing a family member to cancer. Why will the minister not resign and the Prime Minister accept it?"

Granted, Question Period in the House of Commons is full of carefully planned sound bites and lots of artificial, blustery political 'outrage,' but in this case Layton's criticism hits the mark. Raitt's comments on the tape show someone willing to use an issue that causes suffering to others (cancer) to further her political ambitions. That makes me sick. Naked self interest should have no place in a situation where peoples' lives could be changed by the outcome. What if it was your mother or brother who needed those isotopes so a doctor could check for cancer in their bodies? What if there weren't enough isotopes to go around and they had to wait months to find out whether they had cancer?

Onto our government's next foot-in-mouth moment of the week. Transport Minister John Baird was overheard at a conference in Whistler, B.C., telling Toronto to fuck off. Baird was referring to federal cash that's marked for infrastructure spending — all $4 billion of it. Baird was complaining to aides, in what he thought was a private moment, that Toronto doesn't meet technical criteria for the money. "Twenty-seven hundred people got it right. They didn't. This is not a partnership and they're bitching at us. They should fuck off," Baird said.


The Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom wrote a good opinion piece about both of these gaffes in today's issue. You can read it online here.

John Baird and Lisa Raitt have since apologized for their words, but I'm not exactly convinced of their sincerity. Words spoken in private, and not before rows of television cameras and whirring tape recorders, seem truer to me than the latter kind. The mistakes of Harper's ministers are only going to feed public perceptions that federal Tories are all emotionally cold and hostile. I'm sure this isn't true, but that's the impression these remarks create. It's only going to hurt them come the next federal election.

And seats in the 416 area code? They can forget about touching those (again)

Every once in awhile it would be nice if individuals in power showed a little compassion and pity. Maybe I'm asking too much.

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