U.S. heart surgery drives ridicule abroad, but Wil­liams is tops at home


body’s part.”

An open-line ra­dio host was called an “idiot” for ques­tion­ing the in­for­ma­tion void about Wil­liams’s con­di­tion and the de­ci­sion to have surgery in the U.S.

Randy Simms of VOCM in St. John’s im­plored some es­pe­cially nasty email­ers to stick to the de­bate: whether the premier’s staff could have averted an in­ter­na­tional up­roar by more openly dis­cussing a pub­lic fig­ure’s pri­vate sit­u­a­tion.

Pro­vin­cial Lib­eral Leader Yvonne Jones, who called Tues­day for more de­tail on the premier’s con­di­tion and where­abouts, had noth­ing more to add Wed­nes­day.

Michael said the premier’s of­fice could have avoided the PR flap over what Amer­i­can right-wing wags have called the premier’s “run for the bor­der.”

His staff did not con­firm or deny a re­port Wed­nes­day that Wil­liams, 60, will have the undis­closed car­diac surgery to­day.

Fox News picked up the story as the bl­o­go­sphere buzzed with de­bate over the premier’s trip south for care.

“I think they could have had a bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy around this,” Michael said of the premier’s staff. “Maybe they didn’t ex­pect the re­ac­tion with re­gard to that, I don’t know.

“I don’t think Mr. Wil­liams’s visit to the United States is any kind of state­ment on our health care in Canada,” she stressed. “And I cer­tainly have tremendous faith in our health care both in Canada and here in New­found­land and Labrador.”

The prov­ince has worked hard to re­store faith in its $2.6-bil­lion-ayear health sys­tem af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing de­ba­cle in­volv­ing botched breast can­cer tests.

Some have sug­gested the premier’s de­ci­sion to seek out­side care — al­beit on the ad­vice of lo­cal doc­tors — could un­der­mine those ef­forts.

Michael doesn’t think it should.

“There’s all kinds of things that peo­ple get sent out­side of this prov­ince for, not be­cause we’re in­com­pe­tent here in New­found­land and Labrador, but be­cause we’re just too small to of­fer cer­tain pro­ce­dures. That’s part and par­cel of be­ing a small pop­u­la­tion.”

So, too, is it a cul­tural trait in this prov­ince to show def­er­ence to lead­er­ship and of­fer the ben­e­fit of the doubt, Michael said of the premier’s de­fend­ers.

Many other ob­servers, in­side and out­side the prov­ince, weren’t pre­pared to be that pa­tient.

“The care of Danny Wil­liams’s ail­ing heart is very much the busi­ness of the peo­ple of New­found­land and Labrador,” said the Globe and Mail in an ed­i­to­rial Wed­nes­day.

“To evade th­ese ques­tions or post­pone an­swer­ing them would lead res­i­dents to the in­fer­ence that there is one stan­dard of health care for the pub­lic, and an­other for gov­ern­ment leaders.”

Jonathan Rose, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Queen’s Uni­ver­sity, dis­agreed.

The ex­tent to which the pub­lic needs to know pri­vate de­tails of a politi­cian’s life is al­ways a fine bal­ance, he said. But in Wil­liams’s case, me­dia are fill­ing the void of of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion with in­fer­ences about his pub­lic pol­icy stance that “may not be re­ally ger­mane or rel­e­vant,” he said.

“This to me is a bit of a tem­pest in a teapot. It makes sense to me he would go out of the prov­ince,” es­pe­cially if that’s what lo­cal doc­tors ad­vised him, Rose said.

“The in­ter­est­ing thing for me is bal­anc­ing both the pub­lic’s right to know about the per­sonal life of a politi­cian, and the steps taken by the premier’s of­fice to not fully dis­close ... his where­abouts.”

Into that gap, spec­u­la­tion has flowed, he said.

“When there’s not hon­esty or (there’s) par­tial truth, the nar­ra­tive’s filled in.”

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