Thursday, September 01, 2005

Did Canada respond to Katrina fast enough?


The Americans know we're here, and that we'll do for them, or give to them, anything they need, and I'm positive that was clear to them before, during and after the storm, no matter when the official press releases of condolences and offers of help came out (Cabinet Secretaries and Presidents don't get offers of help from Press Releases, that's already happened once the release is issued).

The rest of this post is a bit partisan, and I'm as sick as the next person of partisanship being injected in to the Katrina disaster, so please feel free to move on to more important posts now...

Now, to those people who don't think we responded fast enough?


I'm pretty sure when the government's first press release came out on Tuesday, Bush hadn't even arrived back in Washington from his vacation yet. Now, I don't mean, at all, to slag Bush here. It's clear that the extent of the damage, especially to New Orleans, wasn't clear right away, in part because levees kept bursting long AFTER the storm hit, so the initial damage from the storm hitting was only the beginning. And, in part, because media couldn't get IN to New Orleans right away, making it hard to publicize the extent of the disaster. I'm not a big Bush fan by any means, but I don't doubt for one second that he did, and will continue to do everything he can to help his citizens in this crisis. And I have no doubt that the Canadian government stands willing and prepared to offer ANY asistance requested. And the Americans know that, and will call on us when they need anything. To the extent that things (in the media) didn't happen IMMEDIATELY, I blame that on nothing more than the extent of the damage not being IMMEDIATELY apparent. That's why Bush stayed in Crawford, but I have no doubt about Bush's commitment to the American people and his wish to do whatever can be done to save those devastated by the storm (and I'm not even going to comment on my disagreements with him here... that can be left aside for a few days while this disaster is dealt with...).

It's like the Tories want us to just start randomly driving trucks and flying helicopters across the border, without any coordination from the Americans, or any assessment of what they are short of, or what assistance is most needed, or where. I'm quite confident in the Americans' preparedness and resources to deal with a disaster like this, and while I'm sure they very well may need assistance from us at some point, I'm not at all convinced they need it YESTERDAY. If they had though, I'm sure it would have been there. The Tories make it sound like Bush is desperately trying to call us for help and Martin is refusing to answer the phone. And as we all know, if the White House is having phone troubles these days...

Sure, it's silly hyperbole to suggest that all those calls to the White House switchboard about softwood lumber (a helpful suggestion from the CPC to stand up to the Americans ON THE VERY DAY OF THE HURRICANE!!!) would hurt the relief effort at all, but it's no less silly to claim the Government's response was too slow.

The first government press release came out THE SAME DAY AS HARPER'S. And it stated that the Deputy Prime Minister had ALREADY CONTACTED Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, to offer any assistance needed, and that the Health Minister had already advised the Public Health Agency in Canada to get in touch with HHS in the U.S. to offer any assistance needed, including access to resources such as the emergency medical supplies contained in our National Emergency Stockpile System.

I just can't understand people who would hate a politician or political party SO MUCH that they would believe that a human being would drag their feet at a time like this. Much less that they would drag their feet out of some sort of "anti-Americanism". And to even think of using a tragedy like this to attack your political opponents (especially when it's clearly not warranted) is sickening. It's ludicrous.

Paul Wells is right, people outside Canada must be disgusted that some of us would whine, and moan, and wring our hands over our government's (supposedly) slow response. As though this was all about us, and our supposed anti-Americanism, and not about helping helpless and desperate people.

I'm so sick of politicians in Canada. I have no words. I hope the government just ignores the Tories, and doesn't fight back (as I have here) at all. Stay on the high road Paul (I'm no fan of you either, so watch yourself). The CPC is damaging itself quite enough these days without your help, and if you try to take advantage of this tragedy like they have, I'm gonna get really mad at you too.

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Brent Colbert said...

I was not suggesting that the Prime Minister would communicate via press release. I would have hoped that as a neighbour he would have picked up the phone and contacted the President to make the offer of support personally.

The issue of the Prime Minister abdicating his responsibility to his deputy at a time of crisis was shameful. One of the duties of leadership is to reassure those that you lead. Let the Canadian people know exactly what our government has done and is willing to do. Marshall the population to direct their desire to aid our friends where it is most needed and ensure that Canadians realize that they have learned from the lessons of the Tsunami tragedy and that when the call comes for assistance he has put the response teams on alert so that we can quickly provide whatever assistance we can.

You may think that the CPC doesn’t want to lead the country, I just wish someone would.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Hi Brent,

As you pasted your reply to my comment to your post on your blog into a comment on my post on my blog, I'll post my reply to your comment on my comment on your blog under your comment to my post on my blog too. (That wasn't meant to be snarky BTW, I just wanted to see if I could write that and have it make sense.... it does... barely)


I understand your point Brent, and certainly, one can always do better in these sorts of situations. But I would point out a couple of things.

Anne McLellan is not just Deputy Prime Minister, but Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and is therefore the single best placed Cabinet Minister to help our American friends and keep them informed of what we have, and how we can help. (she’s also chair of Parliament’s Security, Public Health and Emergencies Committee).

Second, I just don’t think anyone realized until Wednesday, the day of Martin’s press release how bad things were (and I’ll point out again that the government’s press release offering condolences, any and all aid, and explaining that the Deputy PM had already been in touch with the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Health Minister was coordinating cooperation between our Public Health officials and HHS came on Tuesday, the same day as Harper’s).

Fine, fine, Stephen Harper offered his personal condolences one day before the PM. But the PM’s statement came on the SAME DAY that President Bush decided to end his vacation and return to Washington, and BEFORE the President formally addressed his nation regarding the tragedy. I point this out not to slag the President, whom I’m fully confident wishes to do whatever can be done for his fellow citizens, and will use all of his power to save lives and restore New Orleans. I simply want to make it clear that NO ONE, not even President Bush realized how bad this was until yesterday, and Mr. Martin responded in the media just as quickly as the President did, once it was clear how devastating this has been.

None of that really matters to me anyway. What upsets me is a party willing to use a natural disaster as a blugeon against their opponents. It’s sad and uncalled for.

If timing is so important, maybe the CPC shouldn’t have called on Canadians to swamp the White House switchboard ON THE DAY OF THE HURRICANE.

I wish someone would lead the country too Brent, and I’m not pleased with Martin by any stretch of the imagination, I just wish someone, ANYONE, would give me an alternative. But I don’t see one.

I imagine we’re not hearing much from Martin this month because someone told him to keep quiet, sit back and watch the CPC implode (with stupid hair-brained schemes for foreign policy and shocking partisanship during a time of tragedy). Pretty good political advice for Martin finally (who knows where it came from, as the PMO is filled with tools). Too bad it’s going to keep him in office though.

bijoux55 said...

I was actually in the Preservation Jazz Hall in the French Quarter in April 1988.

It was a sacred magical moment to be in the birthplace of jazz. It is a tiny two room edifice of silver coloured and aged wooden clapboard, smack within a modern city.

The band was loud with a good looking jazz singer with a bright red tie. I will never forget that bright red tie.

This is one of the oldest, most culturally rich cities in the world, let alone the U.S.

We must preserve New Orleans and respect and protect its people as we would Florence or Paris.

It is easy to donate. Do it. or or 1 800 HELP NOW

It would be a shameful act of self centred self indulgence to blog another word without donating to Katrina relief. Help now or close up your lap top.