Politics can be a funny thing sometimes I swear. It can surprise you, catch you off guard and while sometimes you’ll go week after week of boring nothing, other times it just keeps coming in a seemingly non-stop stream. It’s only the Thursday of the first sitting week of the House of Commons in 2020 and it’s already felt like a lifetime.
The antics of the Conservative Leadership Campaign has given political observers in Canada a lot of fodder to work with and just when it seemed like they were having their first clean day in a while, another party decided to take up the slack to keep this thing going. And honestly, if the topic and potential consequences of what happened tonight weren’t so serious, it would laughable. But since this topic is so serious, that makes what happened tonight on CTV’s Power Play all the worse. And folks, it really speaks for itself:
That folks is Liberal MP Lenore Zann, going on national TV, talking about a medical situation that is so bad that the World Health Organization just declared it a global emergency, and telling concerned Canadians to buy all the gloves and masks that they can. And oh yeah, if you weren’t freaked out enough already, she tells us, after being reminded that she’s on national TV, that the Government of Canada has no clue what they are going to do in this case and that they’re working on it. I’m gobsmacked folks, seriously gobsmacked. Saying “WTF!!!” doesn’t go far enough to cover everything that just happened there.
She basically just did the opposite of everything an elected official is supposed to do. She didn’t have any proper answers, raised whole new questions about what was happening and basically said “everyone for yourselves” when it comes to masks, latex gloves and alike. Those are the kinds of words that could set of a panic, and she seemed blissfully unaware of that fact. And you could tell from the video that Evan Solomon was stunned that he was getting another interview like this again this week. After the Derek Sloan episode, you could see the surprise on his face as this played out in front of him.
But unlike with the Sloan incident from Tuesday, there is a big difference here. Zann is an experienced politician, having served as an NDP MLA for over a decade before defecting to the Liberals to run federally. She should have a much better idea of how to react in such a situation but instead she seemed to be oblivious to that. Back when she jumped to the Red Ship back in June I wrote a piece about it and the bad news that it portended for the NDP. But when I wrote that piece, I had some old friends in the Nova Scotia NDP reach out to me to give me their take on it and given that they knew her, I listened. At the time, they assured me that they were not sad to see her go and that really this was more of a case of “addition by subtraction” than anything else. Well here we are seven months later and it seems that they might have had a point.
This Liberal government has put a lot of faith in this new MP from Nova Scotia so far. She’s been on TV on a lot of panels for them and they’ve also placed her on the politically sensitive House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. In that committee, she’s the only rookie on the government benches and given the stakes of that committee and the work it will do, it must show some kind of confidence that they have in her. I would hope that tonight’s performance would at cause some people in the PMO to re-think that because there are only two excuses for what happened tonight; either she wasn’t given the information to be prepared for those obvious questions that would come here way, or she was given everything that an MP of her experience would need to succeed in that situation and she just decided to ignore that and go her own way. From what I’ve heard of her past work in Canada’s Ocean Playground, I would suspect it would be the latter.
Either way Zann managed to create a significant mess that her government and their ministers are going to be spending days cleaning up, if they are able to at all. In moments like these when we’re facing unpredictable and difficult medical situations, we expect our governments to be calm, rational and to not add to any potential confusion that would cause negative reactions from the public. That is the opposite of what Lenore Zann did tonight and it’s not alright. Before that moment, this government was doing a good job handling this difficult situation but tonight that wasn’t evident in the government member they put on national TV. We’ll see what comes from this but I hope that someone cleans this mess up really fast before too many people take her muddled words of panic to hear.