Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Aglukkaq reluctantly surfaces

Update (9:35 p.m.) below.

Doesn't take long for the newbies to start singing from the hymn book. There is absolutely nothing wrong with opposition parties wanting meetings on H1N1 preparedness, what is the problem, Minister Aglukkaq? This Minister hasn't exactly been front and center on any major health issue facing the country at the moment, she's been criticized on H1N1 already and like Lisa Raitt, is virtually invisible publicly in stating anything about the isotope shortage. Summoning her to a health committee meeting seems like the right thing to do.

Before that Commons committee meeting this afternoon, however, Aglukkaq warned opposition members about said meeting constituting "playing politics." Here's the Conservative version of how our minority government should work:
The opposition parties have accused the government of not responding to questions they posted about H1N1, and have called for today's meeting. The Health Minster is expected to speak, as well as Canada's chief public health officer, David Butler-Jones.

Ms. Aglukkaq said she doesn't expect anything new to come out of today's meeting, because the government has already shared all it knows about the virus and the work being done to contain and prevent its spread.

The government has held more than 20 conference call with reporters to share information with the Canadian public, and has had 22 technical briefings with opposition parties. The Health Minister said the government has gone “above and beyond” what is normally done in politics.

“I personally wanted this done so that we could take politics out of what is a very serious situation,” she said.

The timing of the meeting is not good, she said, because public health authorities are making use of the summer months to prepare guidelines and other measures to deal with the virus.

“I'm disappointed they took this approach, because doors are open. We've communicated with Canadians weekly, and what we share with them today is what we share with you weekly,” Ms. Aglukkaq said.
More in the Star report. It's very important that public meetings occur on the H1N1 issue, people are genuinely concerned. Conference calls and technical briefings are very nice - and her job by the way - but the public presentation is required too. Conservatives are not big on that these days and are pretty much MIA this summer on the major health care issues. They're happy to open a Rona or do a bridge resurfacing photo-op though.

So right back at the Minister, do the work and forget the political posturing. And in public, thanks.

Update (9:35 p.m.): Aglukkaq announced a whole $926,000 to develop tool kits for small and medium business on H1N1:
The Public Health Agency of Canada said the contract involves first assessing the needs of small-and medium-sized businesses and then developing a pandemic tool kit geared specifically for those kinds of enterprises.

With concerns that flu activity might ramp up quickly once children return to school, it remains unclear whether these tools will be available in time to make a difference for businesses that haven't seen the need or haven't had the resources to do this kind of planning.
Too little too late? On the same day that we read this...
A portion of a $3-million grant from the federal government's controversial tourism stimulus fund will be used to bring former U.S. president Bill Clinton to Toronto for a mass public speaking event at the Canadian National Exhibition, The Globe and Mail has learned.
...seems like the priorities are a little off.