Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ideology Over Humanity

Compare and contrast the answers Stephen Harper and Jack Layton gave on a Vancouver open-line radio show yesterday when asked if they would use a private clinic to relieve their wife's suffering:


"Well, I'll just say as a father and husband, you will do whatever you need to do to take care of your family," Harper said.

Warren: You would have gone private?

Harper: If that's what I had to do.


Layton said he and his wife Olivia Chow, a candidate in Toronto's downtown Trinity-Spadina riding, would rather suffer than go private.

"We would work for the public, for the system, because we believe in it," he said.

The first answer is a genuine human and compassionate response to a loved one's suffering. You'd answer the same way too.

The second answer is coldly cynical. Cold, because it demonstrates comfort with seeing people suffer in defence of an abstract theory. Cynical, because we know that Layton is not above manipulating the system to his own ends-- such as living in municipally subsidized co-op housing while serving on Toronto city council.

He and Olivia won't suffer on the waiting lines, that's for sure. That's your patriotic duty, as Canadian citizens, to suffer and die on waiting lines in defence of the cornerstone of Canadian national identity.

A member of the old Soviet nomenklatura couldn't have said it any more clearly.

And yet the CTV subtly suggests that Harper's answer is the troubling one:

At a later rally in Victoria, Harper tried to deflect the issue by blaming the Liberal record on health care.

"I would do, my friends, what every one of you would do. You would go to wherever you could to get care for your loved ones. That's what you would do," he said.

Why does he need to deflect criticism of a humane answer to the question?

Are the defenders of the public health care monopoly so inflexible that they have become indifferent to the human suffering it causes? That is what should disturb our consciences, not incidental profit-making.

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