Priorities and Leadership

I saw Stephen Lewis speak last night, and was not disappointed. One of the things that really impressed me was his ability to juggle despair with hope, death with life, dire statistics with practical solutions.

Stephen was of course speaking on the topic of HIV/AIDS, along with Mary Ash, filmmaker Norman Jewison, and others at an event organized by ICA Canada.

I won’t attempt to summarize the content of the evening. For one, as Stephen said, the issue is so huge and complex that it’s impossible to hold in your mind all at once, let alone to hold in a blog post. For another, the statistics are difficult to understand in any real way. I have a hard time imagining what it would be like if one in three Torontonians had AIDS, as is the case in too many parts of Africa.

In his closing remarks, Norman Jewison called AIDS the greatest crisis facing humanity, with the possible exception of (or second only to?) nuclear warfare. I would have said global warming in place of nuclear warfare, but either way his comment got me thinking about priorities. Specifically, those of Stephen Harper, who reiterated today that AIDS is not a priority for him.

Instead, his top five priorities upon getting elected were:

  1. An accountability act that does little for accountability.
  2. A GST cut (along with an income tax raise) that most economists think is a bad idea.
  3. “Cracking down” on crime. (Definition of “cracking down” is pending.)
  4. A child care plan that doesn’t create child care.
  5. A health plan that wont keep Canadians healthy.

Notably absent are the three crises above, at least one of which (the climate crisis) is being increasingly cited as a top concern of Canadians. To say nothing of democratic reform, water security, food security, or the inequality of Canada’s aboriginal population (which, by the way, has a higher rate of HIV/AIDS than the rest of Canada), to name but a few. But hey, at least now a can of Coke costs one cent less. (Oh wait, Coke still costs the same. How’d they get away with that?)

When Harper announced his list back in January, he said that “you can’t lead if you can’t focus and determine what really matters.”

I’ll give him that.

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