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.