Apparently our Prime Minister Designate, Stephen Harper, had cause for health concerns last night. (Thursday evening.) He was taken to an Ottawa area hospital where he was checked out and then released. Initial reports suggested that Mr. Harper has struggled with asthma in the past and this was a possible flare up. Not according to Harper Communications Director, William Stairs, however.
In a remarkable case of Bafflegab, Mr. Stairs said on CTV that the PMD had suffered from asthma as a child, and thus was very conscious of his lungs – last night he felt “a certain ‘respiratory malaise’ “ and thought he should be checked out. But this wasn’t an asthma attack.
…Stairs denied reports saying Harper still suffers from the respiratory condition that affected him in his early years.
“He doesn’t suffer from asthma; he had it as a child. And from time to time whenever he feels uncomfortable he goes and has things looked at,” Stairs told CTV Newsnet on Friday morning.
“But it is not certainly something that affects the way he lives or affects his ability to do his job in any way, shape or form.”
Help me understand this. If Mr. Harper had an asthma attack, he had an asthma attack. Some of my best friends suffer from asthma (and both my wife and second son have had some asthmatic issues), along with approximately 10% of Canada’s population. My friends and family are high achievers – there is no stigma attached to the ailment, so why does Mr. Stairs want to hide it.
Mr. Stairs’ statements would seem to be at odds with Mr. Harper’s comments in a House of Commons debate when he said:
“We all have fairly serious concerns about the environment and about our health. In my personal case, we are talking about the contents of the atmosphere and I have been a lifelong sufferer from asthma. I am very concerned about my respiration and how this agreement will affect my respiration.”
This begins to sound like the same old, same old politics. “Lets keep anything hidden from Canadians that might adversely affect how they feel about our leader. ” It’s all about spin.
Mr. Harper campaigned on truth and has an opportunity to model it here. Mr. Stairs needs to be told – No Bafflegab. Canadians can handle truth. Lord knows we’ve waited 12 years for it – please don’t keep us waiting any longer.
UPDATE: From the Globe and Mail, late Friday afternoon. It’s just a chest cold. But the Spin doctors are still spinning:
Ms. Stewart Olsen volunteered Friday that Mr. Harper did indeed suffer asthma as a child, but grew out of it.
Which doesn’t jive with Harper’s House of Commons statement that he was “a lifelong sufferer from asthma.” The issue isn’t the asthma – the issue is the truth.
UPDATE 2: And in the Ottawa Citizen, Harper’s aides vow to be more open about his health
“We’re new to this whole process,” Mr. Stairs said. “We’re going to think twice in the future about how we handle these things.”
How about just going with honesty, Mr. Stairs. Mr. Harper campaigned on it – now let’s put it into practice. As Gil Troy, a presidential family historian and professor at McGill University puts it,
“We live in such an intense world, both in terms of media coverage and in terms of how high the stakes are for leaders these days, that it’s no longer realistic. The smart thing to do — if they’re smart, before they make a mistake, and if they’re good learner after they make a mistake — is to be honest.”
When the Conservatives campaign on bringing a new level of honesty to politics, they shouldn’t be surprised when their supporters and others hold them to a higher standard.
Let me be blunt. If your communications director has a problem with truth telling, Mr. Harper – put one in place who doesn’t.