A rare thing happened Wednesday. A news release from the provincial government arrived in newsroom inboxes.
No, that’s not rare.
But this one was a direct attack on an opposition MP.
Actually, that’s not rare either, sadly. The information service is supposed to be used strictly for government business, but in the past couple of years we’ve seen a growing trickle of partisan rebuffs posing as ministerial news.
The Telegram editorial of March 19 noted that in Alberta, a great uproar arose when the government of Alison Redford started issuing partisan shots on government letterhead.
Make no mistake. The federal government has also received its share of criticism for sneaking partisan attacks onto websites and news releases. So it’s not just a local problem.
Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the public has a small amount of tolerance for party boosting on the government dime. Suppose we accept that governing parties are going to push their brand, that they’ll pat themselves on the back every chance they get.
That’s tolerable, isn’t it? Well, let’s look at a release issued by the Department of Health and Community Services on May 30.
“Minister Outraged at Public Comments of Third Party,” screams the headline.
What, you might ask, has Susan Sullivan so upset? If you read the release, you may still be left with the same question.
“I am shocked at the tactics of the MHA for the Straits-White Bay North and that he would attack the province’s health care system and credibility of its administrators and board members,” Sullivan says, referring to Chris Mitchelmore.
What did Mitchelmore say or do that was so wrong? Hard to say, because not once does the minister spell it out.
In fact, Mitchelmore expressed concerns about the fact the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony was about to lose three general surgeons. His concerns echoed those of the town’s mayor, among many others.
In her “rebuttal,” Sullivan merely points out that she has met with the regional health board to discuss the matter. And that’s about it.
So, what was so rare about Wednesday’s release? Well, this one actually disputed something specific.
Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley wanted to clear up “misleading” comments made by Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett about the New Ferolle fish plant.
Dalley said the government has not agreed to move a whelk licence out of the community, as Bennett suggested. He said the company has not even applied to do so.
Clarification is fine — assuming it’s even necessary. But these news releases seem more desperate of late. They are full of anger and accusation, but rarely correct anything.
That doesn’t reflect a government confident in its actions. It reflects one with a hair trigger, always on the defensive, ready to hit the roof at the slightest provocation.
And that’s what Opposition dreams are made of.