The politics of flu

It’s a shame that politics has to enter into a pandemic but it continually does.

TheStar.com – Canada:

Flu ‘politics’ angers minister [Excerpt]

Joanna Smith
Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA–Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq scolded opposition critics, saying they are trying to score political points by accusing her of secrecy and attacking the way her government is handling the swine flu outbreak.

“I’m disappointed with the politics of it all,” Aglukkaq told a news conference yesterday.

I do not know what sort of job Minister Aglukkaq has done: good, bad, or middling, but she joins a long and international line of political leaders who have had those of the “other party” scoring political “points” off their efforts.

The thing about political nipping at the heels is that those pointing fingers never offer alternative solutions. And, one mustn’t forget that those whining and pointing fingers of accusations are also in positions of power and authority. It’s edifying, though ultimately futile, to ask: What have you done to help us prepare or prevent this “error”, “omission”, “fraud”, etc. that you are so arrogantly and self-righteously going on about.

It is only human nature to look around and want to blame someone when something goes wrong. With our nascent pandemic things have already gone wrong in just about every country. A pandemic that thus far has been very mild, yet still we’ve made a lot of mistakes. Lucky for us we’ve only faced a mild virus because anything even slightly more severe or transmissible and we’d have been “in a whole world of hurt” as the American saying goes.

Another snippet from The Star’s article:

“They are no substitute for a real dialogue with parliamentarians, no substitute of an exchange of ideas and an expression of concerns,” said New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North).

If I had the opportunity I would tell MP Wasylycia-Leis that the time for talking and exchanging ideas is past. We have entered into the action phase. Not that our leaders should summarily do things, but rather institute all those plans we are supposed to have in place already.

Former US Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has made this statement for years:

“Pandemics are hard to talk about. When we discuss them in advance, we sound alarmist. After a pandemic hits, no matter how much preparation has been made, it will feel inadequate.”

Is it actually just a simple fact that all those complaining now didn’t have the inclination to “come to the discussion table” when all of these steps and actions were formulated? Or, did they not take the threat, remote as it seemed, seriously? If Canadian politicians are anything like America’s that would be my guess – and now they are whining about it.

I say “whining” because they want to talk about efforts – “exchange ideas” – they are not wanting to actually contribute to the very real efforts and actions – they want to talkbe heard.

Chief public health officer Dr. David Butler-Jones told MPs that though the government has yet to finalize who will be first in line to get the vaccine, there is “an incredible amount of work” going on behind the scenes, to prepare for a resurgence of the virus in the fall.

He said it’s impossible to make everyone happy.

The fact that there are still communities that are still waiting for someone to solve their problem for them or whatever, that’s a different issue. The advice is there. The guidance is there. The capacity is there. It’s really about applying it,” said Butler-Jones.

Leaders lead – everyone else follows – or just gets in the way, in this case with political snarking.

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2 Responses to The politics of flu

  1. Franklin S says:

    Out of curiosity, exactly how much do you know about Canadian politics, the Canadian political system, the state of health care funding and the governments attitude towards science?

    The current Canadian government is a minority government that relies on support from other parties to pass legislation. The current Conservative government has a history of not taking science and scientific advice seriously (the minister responcible is a chiropractor who recently refused to state his views on evolution because of his “religious beliefs”). The current Health minister is new to both her job and federal politics and has more of less been hidden from the public and media by the Prime Ministers Office.

    Anyway, things are more complicated then they seem. I’m not saying the opposition parties were not doing this for political gain (in politics, everything is done for gain) but your post suggests you both do not understand the current state of Canadian politics and that you take the governing Conservative Party at face value.

  2. SophiaZoe says:

    Franklin, thank you for your comments and your insights.

    I am not a Canadian citizen and so my insights into Canadian politics is not as it would be if I were. However, I thought I covered that point quite clearly in my post:

    I do not know what sort of job Minister Aglukkaq has done : good, bad, or middling, …

    My point remains the same: Wanting to “go on the record” with “talk”, or as the article quotes: “…exchange of ideas and an expression of concerns…” when in reality, as the article also states: “The fact that there are still communities that are still waiting for someone to solve their problem for them or whatever, that’s a different issue. The advice is there. The guidance is there. The capacity is there. It’s really about applying it,”….

    Frankly, I have been observing governmental pandemic responses, and lack thereof, for over four years. It’s all pretty much just “planning to plan” and very little action and implementation… with the exception of the top level of governments. And for the record: I’m almost as heavily interested in politics as I am in pandemic issues. A popular American phrase for my level of interest is “political junkie“.