The politics of disaster (II) -

The politics of disaster (II)


Joan Bryden considers the last week in Ottawa.

The Hill has become a hub of frenzied government activity aimed at speedily alleviating the tragic plight of Haitians devastated by a catastrophic earthquake.

The normally media-averse Harper government has treated journalists to a steady stream of ministerial briefings, announcements of military, humanitarian and financial aid, photo-ops of the prime minister meeting with ministers, military commanders and Haitian-Canadians, making a donation to the Red Cross and coordinating disaster relief in phone calls with world leaders.

… altruism and political opportunity are inevitably and inextricably linked when a government is dealing with a calamity of this magnitude. Doing the right thing can pay political dividends. Doing the wrong thing – or even doing the right thing but communicating it badly – can sink a government.


The politics of disaster (II)

  1. Yes, but probably by the end of the week, the Haiti story will be off the front pages, except perhaps in Quebec, and the suspension of parliament story will be back.

    Why else do you think neither the Liberals nor the NDP are calling for parliament to come back?

  2. I`m not sure what the long term result of the earthquake in Haiti will be but it would be nice to think something along the lines of The Marshall Plan would be possible. But the problem is, Europe in 1946, may have been devastated but it had basic infrastructure, well-educated disciplined people and good memories from the past. Haiti has none of these.

    If the UN was ever going to display that it`s a useful organization, now would be the time. A multilateral group of well-intentioned nations with the cooperation of the home nation might just be able to get Haiti back on the rebuild program.

    Oh what am I saying ? Mr. Wherrry would rather have everybody talk about petty politics. Let`s see if there is some way we can make Harper look bad about this Haiti thing !

  3. altruism and political opportunity are inevitably and inextricably linked when a government is dealing with a calamity of this magnitude

    …as are good deeds by a Conservative government and attempts by the media to link them to self serving interests. Bryden should be ashamed of herself for this. It's just as disgusting for the media to use the disaster in Haiti for political pot shots as it is for politicians.

  4. From Bryden'c column: "Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York University's Schulich School of Business, is somewhat less laudatory. He calls the Canadian response so far "acceptable, minimal but not special," given Canada's longtime links to Haiti and in comparison with the massive aid campaign launched by the United States"

    Seriously, how far down the ladder does a reporter have to go these days to get a negative quote? So she turns to a marketing prof for insight to disaster relief! Now that's a serious reporter.

    Right now the only people making politics out of the disaster are the Ottawa press corps, who seem to have nothing useful to write about and so turn to punditry of the lowest sort, which is to divine the subtext of government intentions. Lacking originality, we get variations of "they're only doing an admirable job because they want to get re-elected, and therefore they are only interested in power".

  5. Ah so the media should turn up, but only cheer-lead for the govt…who's using who here?It's the media's job to be somewhat skeptical, right?Particularly given the govt's previous attitude to them.

    • No not cheerleading, but if government actions are lacking or slow, point it out and explain in what way. Bryden's article does nothing of the sort, but looks for reasons about politicks and marketing!

      • You could be right…to be honest i couldn't be bothered to read the whole thing…i was generalizing.

  6. I like to think that the response of both the government and the people is consistent with Canadian values, and would be the same no matter who was sitting in the PM's chair. The need to help is part of our social fabric and if SH reaps some political reward, it is a reflection of the country as a whole and not his alone.

    • The best part of your sensible comment is that you did not feel the need to even mention the media. Sometimes the story should be just about the story; not the media`s opinion of the story.

    • it's their natural advantage…ok…but do they have to glory in it? Did Martin do the same thing during the Tsunami…just curious?

      • Maybe you just have a warped perception of what is really happening. After the Tsunami, I don`t recall people even mentioning the advantage or disadvantage of the PM at the time.

        • Do i need to point out to you that if Martin didn't politic on the issue, there would be no need to raise the issue, right?

        • Sorry, but not entirely correct. At the time, their response was notably pathetic. No comment for days because ministers were on holiday. When they did get around to mobilizing DART, it took them week to get on site because no transportation was available. Finally they managed to rent Russian Antonovs, and DART water purification arrived 28 days after the tsunami.

      • Many years from now, we may read in a book that the Haiti earthquake helped to turn around falling public opinion for the Conservatives – but as a stand alone act, sending aid is simply the right thing to do.
        Accusing the government of reveling in what we all agree is the proper thing to do is kinda smarmy and can backfire. Stephen Harper is currently feeling the sting of a public that sees prorogation as the wrong thing to do. If he pushes it and treats Haiti as a photo-op, I think it will also be perceived as the wrong thing to do.
        SH misread the public reaction to prorogation and it burned him. Misreading Haiti would not be a wise thing to do, would it?

        • I don't believe i used the word reveling…but in any case i take your point. My original point was that media speculation is perhaps not surprising given the govts sudden new found fondness for it.

          • You didn't, I just found "glory" hard to work in
            I agree, that given the political climate, media and private speculation is not surprising.
            I personally think SH recognized the "opportunity" in this, but hey, the circumstances allow for it.
            Will he come out of this looking like Bob Geldoff? I doubt it, and nor should he – he is doing what we all expect the leader of Canada to do – nothing more and nothing less.

          • I think that is unfair. You have to admit, the earthquake was sudden, and therefore, so is government attention to Haiti. If it is effective, and as some mentioned above, consistent with Canadian values and wished, why does the media feel the need to second guess motives. It's not as if Harper is the first PM to seek re-election.

  7. Oh, and one more thing. As Norm Spector pointed out last week, the attacks on the GG from disgruntled Liberal and NDP paritisans over her role in the prorogation were truly and utterly shocking and beneath contempt.

    Alas, such is the hyper-partisanship that appears to go with the territory with a minority government it seems. It's all politics, all the time.

    • And Harper's veiled threat to the GG a year ago…what of that?

      Hyper partisanship…lol…youre completely impervious to irony aren't you j? How do you manage it…i'm envious?

      • What "veiled threat"?

        • The implication that she had no choice but to grant him prorogation. Perhaps veiled threat is a bit dramatic. But even a constitutional expert like Prof Russell used the expresson political blackmail…going on memory here.

    • phone it in

  8. If the low number of comments on a typical Wherry Harper-hater post is any indication,
    I'd say people across all party lines are pretty darn proud to be Canadian, and more than satisfied with the Govt and military response to the Haiti disaster.

  9. I watch the CBC's Don Newman's Politics show once time during the last election campaign and Joan Bryden, Rob Russo and I forget what other parliamentary press gallery pundit was on the show.

    What I saw was a bunch of the most jaded and cynically commentary imaginable. What struck me was so how removed from the real world they were. But the jaded cynicism is what stood out the most.

    Don Newman was of course the "impartial" moderator. We see how impartial he is now that he's retired, which is not very impartial at all of course.

  10. There for about eight or nine days, there was quite a storm brewing on line and in the "real" media about this proroguing thing.

    Then, for about two days, there were suddenly lots of stories on Canadian media, from CTV to the other side of CTV, about how the terrorists were coming. Terrorists are gonna get you. Oogie boogie boo! Terrorists! Terrorists! TERRORISTS!

    Then there was an earthquake.

    Now, I'm guessing, either the earthquake killed the terrorists, or the terrorists, like the rest of us, have been so touched by the earthquake disaster that we are distracted from our original plans for the past week or so.

    What happened to the terrorists? Hey, CTV! Craig Oliver! Graham whatshisname? WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR TERRORISTS?