Harper yesterday denied suggestions Ritz was mostly preoccupied with the political fallout of the tainted meat crisis.Just in case you're one of the few Canadians who didn't know that...there it is, in the listeriosis context, from the PM who sets the tone, injecting politics into the heart of food crisis management.
“We were very concerned first and foremost about…making sure that everybody in the government who has responsibilities for managing it are on top of their jobs.
“I think it’s impossible at times like this to separate, you know, political concerns from communications concerns. They’re all communications concerns. And the government must be and must be seen to be on top of that kind of issue.” (emphasis added)
The calls for Ritz to be fired are rolling in. Government scientists and food inspectors weigh in:
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the union representing about 1,800 scientists and inspectors, said Ritz should be fired for trivializing the listeriosis crisis, which has claimed 17 lives.Got that? The government scientists and food inspectors are waving a red flag to Canadians about the Conservatives.
"Minister Ritz has repeatedly disappointed the professional scientists and inspectors who work for him during the listeria crisis," said union president Michele Demers. "The comments he apologized for yesterday are the last straw. Crisis requires real leadership and Mr. Ritz is clearly not fit to lead."
And let's note Harper's remarks today. He won't commit to improving the inspection regime. In fact, you could argue it's full steam ahead with deregulation and the plan to cut inspection in the western provinces based on non-responses like this one Harper gave today:
"In terms of further regulatory changes to the food inspection system, no decisions have been taken on that but we've obviously invested additional monies and hired 200 new inspectors," he said. "We are doing a thorough re-examination of the system to figure out where the gaps are. We have not finalized how we will proceed in that regard." (emphasis added)Note that Harper is misleading about those 200 new inspectors. That was one of Gerry Ritz's favourite talking points throughout the listeriosis crisis and now Harper is singing from the same script. Query: if we had all those brand spanking new inspectors, then why did this happen? No one knows where the 200 new inspectors are actually inspecting. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency doesn't know and the inspectors clearly weren't on the floor at the Maple Leaf plant. The meat inspectors have complained repeatedly that they aren't able to inspect the way they used to anymore. No credible response has come from the Conservatives to date on how their regulatory changes that resulted in less inspections occurring should be fixed.
Harper is also wrongly fixated, still, on Ritz's comments not having been made publicly when in fact, they were for all intents and purposes, public:
Ritz, Harper added, "clearly did not intend to make any such comments publicly, and has thoroughly apologized."The implication being that they were private and therefore permissible. That poor Ritz has been wronged. On a conference call of what is reported to have been approximately 30 government participants the characterization of Ritz's remarks as private, in-his-own-home type of remarks we're all guilty of is misleading. If you're on a conference call with 30 people and you say anything, those remarks are public. A Minister of the Crown with good judgment knows that. Especially if they're stated while doing the public's business.
The Harper Conservatives continue to miss the point. They're absent on food safety and look to be intent on deregulating, still. As the PM has admitted, political concerns continue to predominate their actions on this issue.