Health & Politics

Is it the public's right to know the health of a politician? And once they do ... who gets to decide when a politician's health is a legitimate issue? We discuss the debate with Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Christopher Waddell, a journalism professor at Carleton University.



PART ONE

It's Thursday, March 24th.

It's the first week of spring, and Canadians across the country are ready to relax and enjoy this beautiful season. Ahhh, I can't imagine anything that could ruin it.
Currently... (doorbell, knocking, doorbell, phone rings, knocking getting louder, doorbell!!)

Just ignore them! Maybe they'll go away! Noooooooooo (fading).

Health & Politics - John Efford

We started this segment with a clip from John Efford speaking last month on the local CBC Radio morning show in St. John's. He's a former Liberal provincial cabinet minister in Newfoundland and Labrador ... former Federal Minister of Natural Resources under Paul Martin. And in the clip he's talking about Yvonne Jones, the leader of the provincial Liberals. For the last several months, Yvonne Jones has been receiving treatment for breast cancer. She says her health is just fine.

But John Efford has publicly questioned her ability to do her job. He has taken a lot of criticism for his comments but he says he stands by them. John Efford was in Homosassa, Florida this morning.

Health & Politics - Panel

A federal election seems all but inevitable now. And the question of how much voters should know about the health of our leaders has been pushed front-and-centre because of NDP Leader Jack Layton's public battle with prostate cancer and his recovery from hip surgery. But even though Mr. Layton has spoken about his health issues, it's still a delicate issue to broach. We aired a clip with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge speaking to Jack Layton two nights ago on The National.

Of course Jack Layton isn't the first high profile politician who has had to deal with health problems. Susan Delacourt has chronicled many of them. She is the Toronto Star's Senior Writer in Ottawa. We heard from her.

For their thoughts on if and when our politicians' private health issues should be open for public debate, we were joined by two people. Nathalie Des Rosiers is the General Counsel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. She was in our Toronto studio. And Christopher Waddell is a former Ottawa Bureau Chief for both the Globe & Mail and CBC News. He's now the Director of the School of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.

We sent questions to the NDP, the Liberals and Conservative parties asking if they would be willing to inform Canadians about the health status of their leaders following a model similar to the U.S.? We also asked each party if its leader is dealing with any health issues that voters should be aware about. And we also asked each party if voters have a right to this kind of information.

We heard back from the NDP and the Conservatives. The NDP said it had publicly shared the information about Jack Layton's prostate cancer and hip fracture and it would share any more information that needs to be shared. The NDP believes that general health information is vital to transparency but day to day information about specific health issues and treatments is going too far. The Conservatives respectfully declined to answer our questions. And we did not receive a response from the Liberal Party.

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