A few days ago, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada announced that they would not support Health Canada’s new anti-drug campaign. Until then, Canadians weren’t aware that Cheech and Chong held such important positions in Canada’s medical associations. It was a learning opportunity. Really, though, the CBC reported that the doctors’ groups said that they wouldn’t participate in the youth-focused anti-drug campaign because they “did not, and do not, support or endorse any political messaging or political advertising on this issue.” Just like that, it was time to play hardball.
The Conservative Cabinet Machine wheeled out token female minister Rona Ambrose, who, it appears, is now in charge of the health portfolio. Ambrose shared her thoughts, which definitely didn’t come from the PMO. First pitch, fastball: she said that the doctors had it wrong. Next up, curveball: the anti-drug campaign wasn’t a Conservative political advertising campaign…Justin Trudeau made marijuana a political issue! Third pitch, change-up: Ambrose argued that telling kids not to smoke grass isn’t politics—it’s good public health policy based on science. Baseball is pretty boring, so I wasn’t watching the whole thing, but I know that pitch was definitely a strike. Conservatives using evidence-based policy-making? Is it opposite day?
The doctors were obviously way out of line. How could they possibly accuse Rona Ambrose of playing politics when this whole thing was clearly Justin Trudeau’s fault? Hadn’t they seen the news ads? Yes, the new ads.
Maybe Ambrose, who came in as a closer, spent the first eight innings chewing sunflower seeds and playing X’s and O’s on the side of the dugout. There’s no other way she could have missed that ad campaign, or any of the other stuff that’s been going on. Maybe Ambrose was blowing bubble gum when Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Julian Fantino sent out a flyer to his constituents in which he said that a Liberal government’s “first order of business is to make marijuana more accessible to minors,” and that a Liberal government would “want to make buying marijuana a normal, everyday activity for young Canadians.” There’s no way she would have missed the months of hybrid anti-Trudeau/anti-marijuana attacks that always ended with someone saying, “he’s in over his head.” No, someone definitely screwed the great Ambrose on this one. She’s too smart to make that many mistakes.
Regardless, her biggest mistake of all was starting with “this is Trudeau’s fault.” Yes, last week, Justin Trudeau accused the anti-drug campaign of being a “thinly veiled” attack ad. But was that comment, or any particular comment by a Conservative, the subject of the doctors’ groups’ concern? No. The doctors’ groups never said it was anyone’s fault, just that they didn’t want to get involved because this is clearly a political issue. They’re right, and the proof is in Rona Ambrose’s decision to play politics in her response to their criticism. The doctors’ groups never said she was guilty of anything, but her decision to defend herself against an imaginary attack suggested that she knows her party is part of the ganja war. The doctors did well to distance themselves.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which side doctors support because their true feelings are unlikely to show through a smear campaign (and it doesn’t matter whether the Conservatives or Liberals are doing the smearing). Whether intentionally or not, Canadians will decide our country’s stance on pot in 2015. In the mean time, the wise will stay clear of this chronic debate. Canadians should get their greens from spinach and kale, because marijuana is now dangerous for a bunch of new reasons.