Political photo-ops in disaster situations are old hat, but they’re really only fun when both sides are given equal opportunity to pose. Such was not the case for Mulcair in Manitoba.
Open government, transparency, and co-operation, are all lovely plastic words that politicians throw at voters. Yet Opposition MPs were excluded from a speaking event of the Aga Khan in February, and then they were excluded from attending the Maternal Health Summit in May, despite the Hon. Kellie Leitch assuring the press that Canadians from all across the country were invited. Apparently, NDP, Liberal, Bloc, and Green aren’t Canadian enough.
Now, Thomas Mulcair, leader of the Official Opposition, was officially blocked from visiting flood-devastated southern Manitoba by the Minister of Defence, Rob Nicholson. Previously, Mulcair had arranged to visit the area with the NDP Premier of Manitoba, Greg Selinger. Selinger has welcomed politicians, regardless of their party, to survey the extent of the disaster, and to understand the gravity of the situation. On Sunday, Prime Minister Harper was given the tour of the flood zone that Mulcair could have expected. He flew by helicopter over the flood zone before he spoke in front of Brandon city hall saying, “we are here to express solidarity with the people, as I know everyone is concerned about the situation.” Just not everyone is allowed to show such concern.
Why provide a photo-op which makes the other guy look good? Of course, why are disaster scenes used for photo-ops anyway? Even during the Blitz, British politicians had a tendency to use this tactic. Churchill visited Plymouth, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited bombed out sections of London. The announcer explains they’re doing this to “comfort” the people, but is a hug and a word from a politician you might not even like all that comforting? Wouldn’t using the money spent to bring the politician there be better spent in rescue and recovery efforts? Maybe. But then you wouldn’t get a picture to use in the next election. And where’s the fun in that?
It appears, however, that only Conservative politicians are going to be featured in the photos and solidarity stories this time around. Why waste money on political tours for your opposition? The affected ridings in Manitoba are all held by incumbent Conservative MPs, but one of those ridings, Brandon-Souris, was narrowly won by CPC MP Larry Maguire. He beat Liberal Rolf Dinsdale by less than 400 votes. Prime Minister Harper praised Premier Selinger and Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall, for keeping him and all the people up to date on the situation, and promised that governments would continue to work together to provide relief for the disaster—just not with all the parties working together.
I suppose poor old Tom is to be left out in the cold. Justin Trudeau will probably be left out as well, given the Tories’ tenuous hold on Brandon-Souris. Maybe next time there’s a disaster, all three major parties will be able to profit from it. Because there’s a bright side for everything, right?