What I can tell you from the maternal and child health summit

… not much, thanks to the Prime Minister’s Office


During today’s launch of Stephen Harper’s high-profile maternal and child health summit in Toronto, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete turned and called the Prime Minister a “champion” of maternal and newborn health. Canada has invested heavily in the cause, the Harper government’s signature development issue, and the event seemed like a good-news story just waiting to be written.

If only the Prime Minister’s Office would allow journalists into the summit.

Instead, the PMO banned reporters from two sessions. The first was focused on immunization and was moderated by Dr. Bruce Aylward, Canadian lead of the World Health Organization’s polio eradication program.  (While I can’t tell you what he said today, here’s what he told me when I interviewed him earlier this year.) The second session focused on nutrition.

It’s no secret that the Harper government’s transparency and accountability has been criticized even on this file, most recently in The Lancet. Even still, the tight control was a surprise. Journalists were ushered to not one, but two, media staging rooms before being allowed to enter the event space. We were also advised we are not welcome to Thursday’s afternoon sessions on newborn and maternal health.

I am a science and health reporter. Despite the limited access, I’ll be tweeting and reporting from the health summit over the next two days. Check back here for my coverage.


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What I can tell you from the maternal and child health summit

  1. If Harper let the media in, they would only accuse him of playing politics. He would rather achieve results on an issue he cares about than have the media change the focus to politics and away from maternal health.

    “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

    • And Harper’s right to not be criticized certainly trumps the public’s right to know what it’s government is doing.

    • In fact, the PM is letting the media in for every minute he’s on stage, and every minute his wife is on stage, but not for appearances by professionals in the field. So. Feel free to try again.

      • If those professionals’ speeches haven’t been vetted, or ideally co-written, by the PMO they could say anything.

      • What is it exactly that you think they are discussing that you are missing, Paul Wells? You are free to interview the speakers at their convenience, aren’t you? In fact, in your last column didn’t you report the findings you gleaned from an interview with Melinda Gates and others who you had spoken to about the initiative. Since you attended Melissa Gates speech, where is your report on what she said? Was there nothing new and groundbreaking to report? Did she tell you everything in your telephone interview?
        I have attended some medical conferences on different issues including promoting of First Nations and funny enough I have never seen a member of the press there. I am not sure why this conference would be different as the ones I attended were all sponsored by our Provincial Health Authority. Of course, we all paid a couple of hundred dollars to attend. Maybe that was the problem. The journalists don’t want to pay the fee?

        • There being nothing to miss at the conference, why is it we’re spending a bunch of our money on it?

          • Exactly how journalists does it take to cover a conference and which ones get in and which are left out because there are a limited amount of seats. Surely the people who are doing the heavy lifting in the programs get priority for seating.

          • Don’t know exactly how many journalists it takes, but I’m guessing it’s more than zero.

      • Maybe the professionals requested not to speak in front of journalists?

        • Is that you, Ezra ?

  2. I love the idea of helping kids but….

    WHO and UN efforts are massively misguided and guaranteed to fail miserably. Feed/breed more to day for a bigger problem tomorrow is guaranteed to fail as at some point, uncontrolled population growth will be unsustainable and at that point billions more are going to suffer.

    Say a solar mass ejectile or nuke war kills our electric grids for just 2 months. Not only will our cities become unlivable, grains, wheat, food will cease going to massively over populated regions and countries, making for billions starving.

    Reality is, if we really wanted to avoid a world of hurt, countries that have more than their local food production can support, they need a serious and enforced birth control as birth control is a lot more less painful than mother natures methods.

    This suffering is avoidable, just that we will fail if we continue to address the symptoms and not the cause. We need to fight the ignorances of politics, culture and religion — or as I predict for this century, 5++ billion will die from starvation, religion, war and terrorism violence for resources before the year 2100.

    Carry on, I am sure the rich and powerful believe their PR garbage as egos and dysfunctional money/ego greed politics trump reality.