Saturday, August 19, 2006

Why Harper Didn't Go to the AIDS Conference

Our PM was pretty cagey about the reason for his no-show at Toronto's international AIDS conference this week. The reasons are now becoming clear. Today's KW Record reports:

During a visit to Nova Scotia yesterday, [Health Minister] Tony Clement said activists and "so-called experts" had started to skew the dialogue towards grandstanding political demands during the weeklong gathering in Toronto.

"That conference in our view was becoming a place where you couldn't have a rational discussion,'' he said in an interview.

"It wasn't only the Canadian context. There was a delegate who demanded the resignation of the South African health minister. It was really becoming a very politicized conference..."

I think the issue comes down to control. The Harperites like to control the agenda, stay in the spotlight, keep the discussion on their terms. Harper doesn't want to be upstaged by people like Clinton and Gates, who (horrors) might even have a different perspective. He doesn't want to expose himself to a large group of committed professionals and activists who are anything but his "base".

Re Clement's comment on delegates attacking South Africa, I was lucky to hear Stephen Lewis's speech at the conference, and Lewis blasted South Africa's record on AIDS as by far the worst in Africa. As the UN special envoy on AIDS in Africa, Lewis is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on the subject. Stephen Lewis understands, even though Harper and Clement evidently do not, that AIDS prevention is about a lot more than medical science.



Red Tory said...

I think you’re quite correct about Harper’s obsessive desire to control the agenda having an influence on his decision not to attend the conference and the decision to delay making a funding announcement for several weeks.

jeff davidson said...

i honestly believe that harper doesn't really give a shit anyway. it's sad.

foottothefire said...

"I think the issue comes down to control."
In the words of Oscar Peterson, "there will only be one performer or there will be no performance".

EX-NDIP said...

I think Harper talked to the Cretch . . . and he said "I tink is just anudder platform for fruitcakes" . . . so Harper stayed clear . . . wouldn't you in their position???

Yappa said...

I was a bit puzzled by ex-ndip's comment so did a search on Chretien and AIDS and discovered that Chretien skipped a World AIDS conference in Vancouver in 1996, sending his health minister instead (just as Harper did).

Chretien's record on AIDS, like his record on many other social programs, was characterized by unfulfilled promises. He promised cheap AIDS drugs to Africa but somehow they never got sent. He also upped funding for African AIDS by a lot... I don't know how that went.