When it is life and death, it is not cool to spin – Charles Adler

Ladies and gentlemen,

I know how so many of you are allergic to excuses that come from authority figures who want desperately to make you think they are not responsible when they are. Whether it’s an airline losing your dog or your luggage, or a local government blowing hundreds of millions of dollars on a police headquarters, or this week with the controversy over the GOVERNMENT health care system losing two lives. Based on what you are telling me I know how sick and tired you are of hearing excuses about the time of day it happened, and the season, the short days, and the long nights, and the wind chills, and the age of the patients, and the biggest insult to the deepest injury – the lowly non-unionized, cab driver. The newest scapegoat in the Selinger government parade of scapegoats is the lowly non-unionized cabby. ‘He doesn’t even have the decency to allow his passengers to die alone in their own homes. He lets them die in the doorway’.

Mature people take responsibility and they do it not just for ethical reasons, but for political reasons, because they understand that to the average citizen, to John and Mary Manitoba, when old people are released by a hospital and die within minutes of release, they don’t blame the weather and the season and the cabby. They blame the Government Health Non-Delivery System. They blame the government. To put it in words that even the most mediocre of minds doing the maddeningly boring jobs in Greg Selinger’s communications corps can understand -“It’s the Government Stupid!” That’s how the average citizen sees it. So if you’re Erin Selby the Minister of Health or one of the hundreds of staffers who does messaging -creating little white lies that appeal to soft media targets and soft headed citizens, you need to know that when it’s life and death, it’s not cool to spin.

This isn’t like explaining why you’re not building the highway on time, or why you left big chunks of features out of a football stadium. Or why you’re so brutally inefficient with so many lard asses thumb twiddling and media messaging that you have to raise taxes and hope that soft media targets and soft headed citizens believe you’re going to use the money for Pot Holes and Flood Control and Classrooms, all in the interests of creating jobs for Manitobans so people won’t want to leave Manitoba, won’t want to leave their aging parents to live alone and dependent on the compassion of the Health Non-Delivery System and cabbies who don’t want to hang around to make sure Grandpa collapses inside his home, not outside his home where it’s a public spectacle and a political debacle.

My message to the punks and pukes in short pants who are in charge of delivering Government messages is this: Grown-ups who pay your salaries are used to your spin on the non-life and death crap, the sickening inefficiency of government crap. They’re used to that and in many cases immune to it. Many don’t even hear it. During an eight-year period where I was not doing a local show but living here, I didn’t hear it – it was just an endless drone of poorly framed, unintelligent spin. It read like and sounded like the bad copy that I had to edit many years ago and sometimes unfortunately fire people for writing who just couldn’t find a way of capturing the public’s attention. They got fired for being lazy, dull and uncreative. Some of them, it won’t shock you, got government work, where they churn out this type of tedious spin, which for eight years, I, just like most other John and Mary Manitobans tuned out. But you cannot tune out this issue of life and death, such as the cases of Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller who died less than a month ago, died alone in the cold, and I am not talking about the weather…I’m talking the cold callous Health Care Non-Delivery System they experienced. On this issue the tedious uncreative dull spinners have got to get out their dull stupors. They need to understand that this grown-up time, and so the Minister needs to be clear, concise and credible. Got it?

I’m going to help you frame your clear concise and credible statement. Just save this file I am about to give you and use it the next time you have a life and death issue, and you won’t be seen as the laughing stock of Manitoba, as amateurs not worthy of running a health delivery service, a ministry, or a province.

Here’s the statement:

I, as Minister of Health, take full responsibility on behalf of this government for the loss of lives of citizens who had the right to expect better and whose families had the right to expect more from our government. Our government offers you a full and unqualified apology. We are very sorry for having failed you. There is no trust more serious or sacred than the government’s role in delivering health care with the best possible outcomes, keeping people safe, and saving lives. We are fully committed to investigate how our system failed Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller and their families, and all of us who live and work in Manitoba. As soon as our reviews to determine what went so terribly wrong are completed, I will report back to you. Our sympathy goes out to the families of Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller and we will follow-up with more information when we have it, and be held accountable for what happened here.

Thank you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if the Minister of Health had delivered that statement, we might not even be talking about it this morning. But all of the distractions and diversions about weather and season and time of day and cab driver manners has made a terrible story even worse. It’s one thing for people to die because of poor judgments having been made by professionals. It’s another thing for professionals inside the government to turn life and death into a terrible spin job.

The message from the public to their democratically government is this – treat us like grown ups. Treat us like neighbours. Treat us with respect. Don’t spin us. Serve us. That’s what we pay you to do. When you don’t do your jobs properly we lose confidence in the government and in our health care system. Worst of all, when you do your jobs poorly it demoralizes people inside the health care system who are excellent at their jobs. When you demoralize other public servants, the public pays a price. Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller paid a sickeningly high price.

I’m Charles Adler