Monday, December 03, 2012

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Susan Delacourt comments on what's often lacking from Canadian political coverage - and the challenge facing journalists looking to stop relying excessively on horse-race numbers which may miss what ultimately motivates voters:
Political journalists don’t have to stop covering the horse-race numbers or the big opinion trends — they’re still important, he said. But they have to stop pretending that the big picture is the only picture, that the campaign is being decided on the basis of what people see on television or on the artificial stage sets crafted by the politicians.

“Fundamentally, good political coverage needs to acknowledge that we cannot write with (any) sort of confidence about the entirety of the enterprise,” he said. “We need to be respectful enough of our readers to acknowledge how much of this is out of our reach and find a new knowledge of campaigns to engage that doubt.”

So there’s the challenge. If we want to repair the rift between polling and journalism, first we have to tell our audiences what we don’t know — what those horse-race numbers aren’t telling us. A five-point rise or fall in the polls may be far less important, in other words, than the data informing us what is motivating (or turning off) voters at the individual level.

Next we should start trying to find a way to know and report more on this micro-data.

We have nearly three years to go before the next federal election in Canada. That’s enough time, you’d think, to put journalism back in touch with the polling numbers that really count. 
 - Lawrence Martin and Andrew Coyne both use the last set of by-elections to try to push an electoral non-compete pact among opposition parties. Aaron Wherry responds to Coyne with just a few questions.

- Gerald Caplan weighs in on the Cons' inhumane and immoral choice to deprive developing countries of needed AIDS medication:
The Canadian government had the opportunity this week to help hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of AIDS sufferers in poor countries and deliberately chose not to do so. What should we think about such a decision? When are citizens allowed to ask the unthinkable: If a government knowingly allows hundreds of thousands of people to die unnecessarily, what is its responsibility? How much less culpable is indirect guilt, or guilt by omission, than direct guilt or guilt by commission?

These are fraught questions which many outraged Canadians are asking right now. They arise because a private member’s bill in Parliament has just been defeated by the Harper government by a mere 7 votes. Bill C-398 would have enabled Canada’s generic drug manufacturers to provide inexpensive life-saving medicines to Africans suffering from AIDS and other curable diseases who can’t afford brand-name medicines. Many believe the government has betrayed these people. African AIDS activists, with whom many Canadians have close contact, feel betrayed.

Can this really be the end of this story? Do the Africans who will die unnecessarily in these years – and there will be huge numbers – merely get forgotten? Too bad, so sad? Another day at the office?
What plausibly accounts for the government’s decision? Bill C-398 seemed like a win-win for all. It was a surefire way to save countless lives at no cost to ourselves. It had strong support from Canadians in every walk of life. Instead of being bystanders to needless death and suffering, Canadians could have been part of the solution. It was a perfect fit with the government’s vaunted maternal health initiative. Canadian generic manufacturers would do well by doing good. In more hard-bitten terms, Big Pharma, a major influence on Conservative decisions, seemed to be on board, while international legal experts found the bill consistent with Canada’s treaty obligations.

Some wonder if the government’s decision reflected its concern for the many trade and investment deals it’s negotiating, which routinely call for ever-greater patent protection for the giant brand name drug companies. The government may be wary of demonstrating the slightest sympathy for their generic rivals. There’s suspicion that, behind the scenes, Big Pharma was actually encouraging the (government) to deep-six the bill.
 - But as Tim Harper points out, we shouldn't expect the Cons to answer for any of their choices, as they continue to view accountability as a punishment to be inflicted solely on their enemies rather than a value to be pursued as a matter of good governance.

- Finally, Murray Dobbin rightly notes that the progressive side can easily win an argument on the need for sufficient tax revenue to fund a viable social democracy - but that we can't afford to shy away from the conversation.


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