Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Alert, but not quite aware

This Magazine Staff

Everyone who is anyone involved in the worldwide fight against AIDS is in Toronto right now — Bill and Melinda Gates, Bill Clinton, Alicia Keys, Richard Gere, Jack Layton and Stephen Lewis among thousands more. Which can only mean that since Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not in Toronto right now he is actively choosing NOT to be someone involved in the worldwide fight against AIDS.
One could argue that as a sitting Prime Minister, he has other duties just as pressing as the AIDS crisis. So, what is Stephen Harper up to? Well, when the AIDS conference opened yesterday with Bill Gates’ speech, Harper was in Alert, Nunavut addressing the pressing issue of Canada’s sovereignty over our melting northern ice fields. Could he have gotten farther way from Toronto and still be in Canada? Here’s the conclusion of his address:
“Together, and over time, we are going to make sure that Canada truly remains the True North Strong and Free.”
You can almost taste the inertia.
Wait a second, why is Arctic sovereignty an issue again, Prime Minister Harper?
But let’s not get off-topic. Here’s Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill University AIDS Centre and co-chair of the XVI International Conference on AIDS last week in The Globe and Mail:
“HIV/AIDS continues to kill more than 5,000 people each day — a body count far higher than the number of individuals who have died in recent military conflicts anywhere in the world and also higher than the number of deaths attributable to any natural disaster in recent memory. “
You’d think that would make any politician’s priority list. On the other hand, it might be smarter to take the heat for skipping this conference than risk an embarrassing reception if he did show up. has a piece on what happened when the Prime Minister sent one of his precious Quebec lieutenants to the OutGames in Montreal:
“Enter Mr. Fortier, Minister of Public Works. Seconds into his speech, the boo-ing started. Within a few short moments, it seemed the entire stadium was loudly jeering the representative of a federal Cabinet which has pledged to re-open the issue of equal marriage for same-sex couples and attempt to roll back equality rights.
It was quite something to behold. I almost felt sorry for the guy. Almost.”

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