COVID-19 briefings should be free from politics, but the line has been increasingly blurred over the last few months.
PC MLA Brad Johns says incoming Premier-Designate Iain Rankin would be wise to keep politics out of future COVID-19 briefings.
Johns says the outgoing Premier’s presence at weekly briefings has diluted the science with political mudslinging.
“People have been glued to these updates for nearly a year and want clear facts about COVID,” says Johns. “Instead of a purely practical update about cases, restrictions and best practices, they get a smattering of science interrupted by Premier McNeil’s partisan attacks and eruptions at members of the media.”
Other provinces often see their chief medical officer, and public health experts present without political accompaniment. On one occasion, Communications NS lectured a reporter for asking a health question about government health policy.
“The Premier has created an atmosphere where a reporter can’t do their job and get answers on important topics any other day but during a COVID update,” says Johns. “Journalists are forced to sacrifice questions on testing or vaccine distribution to obtain basic information on other government business and reactions to headlines of the day.”
Johns says the new Premier has an opportunity to start over with these updates by leaving the briefings to Dr. Strang and his team at Public Health, with separate general media availabilities on topics of concern.
“Premier-Designate Rankin has said he’s going to be more accountable than his predecessor,” says Johns. “These updates shouldn’t be treated as a soapbox for the next political campaign. If Mr. Rankin wants to show Nova Scotians he is different, he can start by putting health before politics.”