Thursday, February 04, 2010

Into the fire

So yeah, Premier Williams.

I was advised by a good friend of mine, when the news first started to break, that I should avoid the subject like the plague. Because this was going to get nasty. I'm not on the ground in Newfoundland and Labrador, but I can only imagine the kind of debate going on (or the kind of horror show happening on VOCM). Some of the best commentary I've read so far, unsurprisingly, comes from Geoff Meeker. He also has links to The Telegram and the Globe and Mail editorials on the issue.

I'm not sure how much I can really add to the matter, but here's my couple of cents worth. People of wealth and means have always travelled to the United States or other parts of the world to seek medical treatment. It's certainly Williams option. Yes, the optics are terrible, however Williams is wealthy enough and beloved enough in the province that he can get away with doing it. It's going to piss some people off in the province, make no doubt about that. However, if his political career so far is any indication, he'll come though this just fine.

Having said that, it's shockingly poor communication on the matter. Yes, a person's medical care should be a private matter. However, when you're premier of a province and one as powerful as Williams is, then you should give serious thought to reassuring the people about what is going on. People love Williams. The rest of the crowd, well....And surely God the premier is a smart enough person to realize that. The people could use a bit of a reassurance given the quality of the rest of the cabinet.

So yeah, a simple, "this is what's wrong and for these reasons I'm going to travel to the United States for treatment. I understand this might be controversial and some people will be upset with this decision, however, I have made this decision and I'm prepared to live with the fallout" might have done wonders for taking the wind out of the sails of this thing.

But he didn't do that. Now, he'll have to live with a likely much harsher fallout.

But there's one thing I'm wondering about. The premier has made it clear he plans to run again in 2011. I think it's a mistake simply because there's not been a good history involving Newfoundland premiers and third terms. Newfoundland premiers tend to start seriously cracking up after spending that long in office.

However, he's had heart surgery. Being premier is a stressful job and while I've had my concerns about Premier Williams decisions in the past, I've never doubted that he works hard at the job. So I wonder if during his recovery if he reevaluates his decision to run again, or if his family will put pressure on him to not run again.

That's what I'm kind of curious about. I think he probably still will run, but I won't be surprised if this makes him change his mind.

Last Five
1. St. George's lane - Matt Mays and El Torpedo
2. Constant craving - k.d. lang
3. Into temptation (live) - Crowded House*
4. Right by my side - Eurthymics
5. Addicted - Hawksley Workman

9 comments:

Dale Kirby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron said...

I see this whole thing as a "I can't believe its not journalism" moment. Dinging Williams for going to the US to get heart surgery which he can't get in NF or Canada is at best weird and at worst vindictive.

The G&M editorial on this is a brilliant example of yellow journalism. "If they go abroad on their own dime when they need care, they imply the system is second-rate, and not good enough for those in the know. And because Canadian Medicare forbids, for the most part, the use of private money for essential care, it would be hypocritical for leaders to buy a better standard of care abroad for themselves." So if an elected official wants the best care money can buy and has the money to pay for it and then they buy it they are hypocrites for trying to improve the standard of healthcare available to the majority of Canadians? This is nonsense!

And what about the rest of us? Are we hypocrites for getting our teeth cleaned in private dental health clinics or should we stop getting those cavities filled and wait for the gov't to set-up a 100% coverage publically funded dental health program?

Williams’ decision to seek care in the US doesn't diminish the system in Canada. All it demonstrates is that he has a large pile 'o cash in a bank somewhere and can buy the best health care available. Duh!! Yes Virginia there is a two tier system in Canada but no matter where Danny Williams gets his surgery you can still get health care but you might not get the free injections of monkey hormones thrown in.

This whole thing is about optics and various media being pissed off that Williams isn't playing the game. This is perceived as hurting Newfoundland and possibly Canada because it "reduces confidence" in our health care system. Huh? So now people might feel bad about their dialysis treatment or decide they won’t take their chemo because a multi-millionaire went to the US to get his tricky ticker reset?

Everyone is getting upset about this because Williams is demonstrating in the most vivid way that Canada does not have a perfect health care system and true to form instead of taking that criticism onboard or perhaps using it as a launch pad for a mature discussion Williams is being pilloried for it.

I was intrigued to read that the gov’t communications are “shockingly poor”. I hope you weren’t also appalled.

towniebastard said...

I consider Geoff to be very fair. He's critical of Williams, but he's also been critical of Grimes, Tobin and Wells. I'll never understand the whole "you're critical of our guy, therefore you're in the tank for this party" mentality.

I side with no party and haven't for years. Can't you just be critical because you see something that you genuinely believe needs criticism?

And what I mean by "he can get away with doing it" is that the premier's popularity is such that he could strangle a baby in the middle of the Avalon Mall parking lot with the assembled provincial media in attendance and there would be people that would say the baby had it coming.

towniebastard said...

Ron, whatever the take by various media, it *is* a story. I assure you, if I was a reporter and I knew about this, but didn't let an editor know saying, after the story broke, "well, I didn't think the premier having heart surgery and choosing to go to the United States to do it was much of a story" he or she would have taken me out in the middle of the news room and horsewhipped me.

You may not like some of the angles and editorials on it. You may not like some of the opinions on it. That's fine. I honestly see both sides of the argument pretty clearly which is why I can't seem to work myself into a rage about his choice. I'm annoyed he wasn't more open about what his problem is and what steps he was taking to reassure people in the province that everything will be fine in his absence.

But yes, my god, it's a story. And yes, there are legitimate question to be asked about what this says about health care in Canada. Some of the coverage might have been a touch hysterical, but I still think it's a story worth covering.

Ron said...

Craig - I'm not arguing that it isn't a legitimate story. But hearing it spun as "the Premier is a hypocrite for getting treatment in the US" or "The Premier should have let us talk to his cardiologist" or "this reduces Canadians confidence in their health system" is silly. The next time Williams has haemeroids do we get a lecture from his proctologist?

The issue has been constructed around the Premier which is the weakest part of the question. The question should be what do normal people do when they have to get heart surgery? But in Canada you can't through word or action point out that we have a two-tiered health system. That is "wrong speak" or to put it another way he has "frightened the horses". That is why the G&M tore a strip off Williams.

This story can be spun as "All Danny All the Time" or "there is something wrong with our Health Care System" and right now it appears to be the former.

I generally agree with Terry Prachett's line on the news. Isn't it fortunate that there always appears to be just enough space to fit the content avialable.

PS. I think you might want to have a chat with your HR rep about the horsewhipping - as I understand it Editors can only use a rod as thick as their thumb when they horsewhip you.

WJM said...

Dinging Williams for going to the US to get heart surgery which he can't get in NF or Canada is at best weird and at worst vindictive.

Which surgery is it that he can't get in-province or in-country? And, since no one has said what that surgery is, how do you know?

WJM said...

And what I mean by "he can get away with doing it" is that the premier's popularity is such that he could strangle a baby in the middle of the Avalon Mall parking lot with the assembled provincial media in attendance and there would be people that would say the baby had it coming.

And the rest would say it's OK because (take your pick) (A) "he's at 80% in the polls", (B) "he gives his charity to salary.

Ed Hollett said...

1. "I'm not arguing that it isn't a legitimate story. But hearing it spun as "the Premier is a hypocrite for getting treatment in the US" or "The Premier should have let us talk to his cardiologist" or "this reduces Canadians confidence in their health system" is silly."

That's just one aspect to the story Ron, and one aspect only.

You focus on only one aspect of the coverage. Why you have limited your gaze to such a relatively smallel part is another issue.

2. As for yellow journalism, the section of the Grope editorial you lifted out also describes very accurately the current state of opinion out there in the public.

That is most emphatically NOT yellow journalism. It's a statement of the reality of public opinion.

What's next? A complaint that dogs walk on four legs and have a tail?

You don't have to agree with it. it's just an opinion and it's just one newspaper.

I never cease to be amazed at the number of people in NL (I presume you are from NL) whose entire sense of the importance of something seems to revolve around whether or not a story is in the Globe and how the Globe covered it.

Even the people at the Globe don't have such a limited field of vision.

3. "This whole thing is about optics and various media being pissed off that Williams isn't playing the game."

Pure drivel. I can't be any more polite than that.

It may be your opinion and you are entitled to it but you are also entitled to be completely wrong.

As you are on that point.

There are games being played with this story alright, one of them being the Cult line attacking the media and, in some cases, attacking media who didn't do anything at all. They are part of an orchestrated little plan to torque the story line, since you mentioned spin (see the next point).

The other is who leaked the story in the first place.

Try and find either of those being discussed even though they are HUGE parts of this story.

4. "This story can be spun as "All Danny All the Time" or "there is something wrong with our Health Care System" and right now it appears to be the former.'

This story has many angles.

The first one is only of concern to the Personality Cult. Then again everything is always about Him anyway. They are following a prepared message track.

The Cult have made that their issue and agreat many people are dealing with that.

Others - like the Globe are talking about how people view the idea of a Premier - any one now or before - who opts to go to the US or who has to go to the US or anywhere outside Canada to seek treatment.

The other angles - all the stuff you didn't see or didn't notice - have come up to one degree or another.

As for Dale, I take it that comment comes from the fact Geoff has no time for the new Golden Boy of the Dippers, one Ryan Cleary.

From a guy who must pee Orange, Dale, it's a bit rich for you to talk about bias.

BTW, I do like your idea that Tim Powers running for the Connies helps Ryan. You might want to go back and double check where the bulk of Ryan's votes last time actually came from. They weren't from people who usually voted Red or Orange.

The Perfect Storm said...

"The next time Williams has haemeroids do we get a lecture from his proctologist?"

Not so long as he avails himself of the same health care system he (and his ilk) saddle all the rest of us with.

Regards,