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UPDATE: Who will ask Persichilli about CETA and drug patents?

Various commentaries are now being made about Angelo Persichilli’s appointment as Stephen Harper’s new communications director. Toronto-based Persichilli has covered federal politics in his columns for the Toronto Star, the Hill Times and in the Italian-Canadian newspaper Corriere Canadese, among others, for years. He has also been a commentator and news director at the multilingual Omni-TV.

Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert writes, “(His hiring is part of a) larger strategy that has seen the government bypass the parliamentary press gallery to spread and massage its message in the less-filtered but well-attended environment of the local media. …But Persichilli’s recruitment also compounds what amounts to the party’s greatest election failure in the shape of its abysmal absence in Quebec. At a time when the province is opening up to the federalist parties for the first time in decades, the first post-election addition to the senior ranks of the PMO cannot speak French and has a track record of lamenting Quebec’s influence on national affairs. …(Furthermore, Persichilli) a bit more than a year ago…opined that there were too many francophones on and around Parliament Hill.”

Globe and Mail columnist Jane Taber writes, “So what to make of Mr. Persichilli’s appointment as the Harper Conservatives approach their first full season as a majority government? Many believe it signals a new direction in tone and tactics. Mr. Soudas’s blind loyalty to the Prime Minister caused friction between the PMO and national media. One Tory close to the search for the new DComm noted that putting in someone who isn’t seen as a big-C Conservative in a position so close to Mr. Harper is a relaxation of the partisanship that has characterized this PMO. It’s an appointment too, a veteran Tory MP says, that appeals to the broader public. Mr. Persichilli knows how to communicate, the MP says, through both conventional and ethnic media. …His work…in the ethnic media…is what likely sealed the deal. The Harper Tories have aggressively courted ethnic Canadians, and their work paid off with their successes in Toronto in the May 2 election.”

Macleans columnist Paul Wells writes, “Conservatives who tell me they’re really excited about Persichilli’s appointment point not to his sometimes pretty impressionistic columns in the Star but to his c.v., which includes a stint as news director for newscasts of several different languages at Omni TV. Omni, and the Chinese television juggernaut Fairchild, and Punjabi talk radio, and the daily Tsing Tao and Ming Pao newspapers, figure ever higher on the Conservative priority list. Their audience numbers are really high. Their audiences don’t get a lot of news anywhere else — Star readers read the Sun (no really, they do, or many do) and listen to satellite radio and got misty when Lloyd Robertson signed off last night and may have a few blogs they like. Ming Pao readers read Ming Pao.”

For our part, we ‘welcomed’ Persichilli’s appointment in the hope that it is “a sign the government will take a strong stand against unreasonable patent extension demands by the European Union in ongoing free trade negotiations with Canada.” In his October 31, 2010 Toronto Star column criticizing patent term extensions and other protections for brand name drug companies demanded by the EU in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations with Canada, Persichilli wrote, “If the pharmaceutical companies get what they want, billions of dollars will be taken out of our pockets and redirected straight into their bank accounts. …It appears that European multinationals want to extend the patent rights from 20 years to 25 and, if the government refuses, they will no longer invest billions of dollars in Canada on research and development, jeopardizing thousands of jobs. …In a normal business, I would say that this [the EU] negotiating tactic was harsh but acceptable. But negotiating for profit by playing with the lives of human beings is repugnant. …For profit, multinationals want to bring prosperity — in the form of investment — to a country where prosperity already exists, while at the same time ignoring countries where people die because they don’t have money to satisfy the multinationals’ inhumane thirst for profit. …Will the government stand up for Canadians?”

Hebert, Taber, Wells along with Postmedia News’ Stephen Maher, the Toronto Sun‘s Brian Daily, and the Canadian Press’ Jonathan Montpetit have all written about Persichilli’s appointment. Who will be the first to ask him his own question, “Will the government stand up for Canadians” on CETA and drug patents?