03 August 2007

SOL Emergency Photo Op Edition: The ersatzkrieg continues

Is Danny Williams pissed because the Prime Minister visited parts of the country devastated by recent flooding or, as this quote suggests, because he didn't co-ordinate a joint trip, that is a trip in which two guys who are supposedly carrying on a blood feud would travel together?
Williams told VOCM radio station in St. John’s that he wasn't notified of the prime minister's visit. "The simple courtesy of at least letting me know that he was coming so suddenly so that something joint could be arranged -- he decided not to do that," Williams said.
It's not like the Prime Minister needs to ask permission to visit any part of Canada and it's not like anyone should be worried about protocol at a time like this. Is it?

So what exactly was the value of calling VOCM, except to get this sort of coverage nationally?

Of course, it is just a phoney war - an ersatzkrieg - in which both sides lob juicy quips at each other from their respective trenches and then cozy up for the joint funding announcements.

Update [1930 hrs]: Perhaps what was up the Premier's nose was the kind of positive coverage a politician can gain - in this case the Prime Minister - from visiting the scene of an emergency and pointing to the financial assistance available.

Like say the CBC news story on Stephen Harper's visit:
"I thought I should come here and see the damage," Harper told reporters. "It's pretty severe in spots, but the town and everybody's on top of getting it fixed."

He told residents to keep their receipts as they prepared to make claims, and said the federal government will assist in the cleanup, which local officials have labelled a disaster.

"As you know, there's a federal program in place for this and a provision for advance payment," said Harper, who toured the community with the area's Conservative MP, Fabian Manning, as well as Loyola Hearn, Newfoundland and Labrador's cabinet representative.

"We just want to be here to assure people, we're here to help."
That's the main reason politicians do these tours, after all: to show up and assure the locals that help is on the way.

Then again, Danny Williams hit the nail on the head when he said pretty much that, as quoted by CBC:
"When people's homes are being washed away, and their lives are being washed away before their very eyes, that's the time that they see their government there to support them."
That's basically what happened.

First, the Premier showed up. Emergency response in these cases is firstly a provincial responsibility

Then a couple of days later, the PM shows up.

And, as Harper told reporters, this time from The Telegram:
Harper told reporters the speed of compensation largely depends on the provincial government.

"The province has to start the work, and then send some of the bills to Ottawa,” Harper said during a brief scrum with reporters.

"There's a provision for advance payment. That can be done fairly quickly if we get the documentation. Sometimes it takes time, because sometimes the documentation doesn’t come. But I hope we'll get on with it quickly."
The real piece of advice the Premier should have taken in this case was to ignore the snub of not being advised Harper was coming to the province and focus on the people whose homes and lives have been "devastated", to use the common word these past few days.

It's Danny Williams' own advice, after all:
"[It] would be nice in situations like this if leaders...can rise above other differences,"
There are a few thousand people in Newfoundland and Labrador right now who likely wish that were true.