After firing blanks at PM Stephen Harper and his Tories and spreading misinformation and half-truths for most of last summer and this fall, it seems the federal Liberals under Michael Ignatieff have finally found an issue that has gained traction with the public. And just in time, for the Grits seemed in danger of slipping into the teens in national support.
Criticism of the federal government’s efforts surrounding the H1N1 virus vaccine and its distribution and availability has provided fertile ground in which the federal Liberals can sow their seeds of doubt, confusion and anxiety. And Canadians in general seem to be buying into the hysteria.
With enthusiastic support from CBC and CTV news services, the federal government has been flogged relentlessly by the Grits over the long lineups at the H1N1 vaccine clinics and the fact that a private clinic is offering the shots to its patients without them lining up. Now the doomsayers are over the top because of the recent revelation that there has been a slowdown in the preparation of the vaccine.
It is estimated that 700 to 2500 deaths can be attributable to influenza each year. That’s a scary statistic, but has there been a single death from the seasonal flu that has been as highly publicized as the recent death of a 13 year old boy from H1N1?
Every life that can be saved, should be saved. But come on, SARS was a deadly killer; H1N1 has so far been relatively mild. There is, in most areas across the country, enough vaccine availably to treat all who are in the high-risk category where almost all the deaths will occur.
The average healthy Canadian—19 to 64 years old—is more likely to die in an automobile accident than from H1N1 in the next twelve months, but who’s raising a fuss about staying out of cars—certainly not the Grits. How come? No political payoff there.
There’s probably justification to the criticism leveled at our health authorities, but I remain impressed at the fact that they have still got the situation under control even with the media beating on them hourly and politicians like MP Bob Rae blaming them for the H1N1 deaths to date. Were his Liberals to blame for the hundreds of flu-related deaths during their years in office?
What galls me though is to hear CTV’s Tom Clark, Jane Taber and Craig Oliver bang on about how badly the feds are doing on this file, and blaming them for the number and location of vaccination clinics and the long lineups. Surely they understand that health care is a provincial responsibility, which is jealously guarded as such by the likes of Dalton McGuinty. Can anyone imagine McGuinty’s mandarins taking their marching orders from Ottawa? Not very likely. And the CBC’s criticism has been just as misguided.
No question that the slowdown in supply of vaccine is unfortunate, and perhaps there really is someone to blame. On the other hand, we’re not likely to find out if the delay was unavoidable—apparently, investigation is not in the job description of CTV’s news readers. But in areas like Toronto, with day-long lineups, does supply really matter when they can’t use up what they already have on hand?
As for the private clinic that got a supply of the vaccine—so what. Its patients matter too. And anyway, it did not get the vaccine from the feds as implied by CTV News. The distribution of the vaccine within the province is a provincial and municipal responsibility.
Here’s my message to CTV and CBC: Yes, criticize if you will—there’s justification enough for that—blame if you must, but for the sake of us ordinary Canadians who rely on news services, stop playing political games and get your facts right. If you insist on blaming someone, levy it on those in charge of each stage of the process—not just on the procurers and producers of the vaccine.
And pity poor Michael Ignatieff and his hapless Grits who must hope and pray that enough Canadians die from the flu this season to shake Canadians’ confidence in the government. They, after all, have nothing else going for them.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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