Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ritz should be fired

The Globe with a midday editorial on Gerry Ritz's reprehensible conduct during the listeriosis outbreak: "More than a joke." Message: the Conservatives, for all their bluster, are not up to the job of running the country. Incidents like the exposure of Ritz's conduct show it. It's ridiculous for the Prime Minister to be defending such amateurish behaviour.
“He's been doing a good job on this file and I applaud him for apologizing completely and forthrightly.”
...
“I think this story is obviously very embarrassing for him, very unfortunate, but should not detract from the good work he has done to get on top and understand this matter.”
He hasn't done good work. He's joked about the outbreak, he's misinformed the public about inspections, and he's put in place misguided deregulation of food safety. And we learn today that he and Harper have plans for more. Despite the listeriosis outbreak.

Further, it's ridiculous for the PM to be pointing fingers at those who brought the conduct to light:

"The real question was making sure everybody was doing their job... and certainly I would like to know that, and that alone, was the priority of officials," Harper said.

"I'm obviously disappointed that some have some other priorities."

People absolutely have a right to know what kind of Ministers Harper's got on the job. So thank you to the public servants or whoever it was who dished to the media. Ritz is supposed to be a Minister of the Crown. He should act like it, for heaven's sake.

A few highlights from the Globe editorial, "More than a joke," that are worth a look, then some further comments below:
Gerry Ritz is a real ham. At the height of a public health crisis that has so far been linked to 17 deaths in Canada and left many other people seriously ill, our Agriculture Minister was able to find some humour in the situation. His gags betray more than poor taste. Together with other missteps this week and last, it exposes a sophomoric side to a political party that is presenting itself as the only serious option in the Oct. 14 federal election.
...
As the lead minister on the crisis, officials at the meeting would have looked to Mr. Ritz to set the tone and to get a read on just how seriously the government of Canada was taking the matter. Judging from Mr. Ritz's decision to make light of the listeriosis outbreak, they could have reasonably concluded that the answer was not very seriously at all.
...
Mr. Ritz's offensive jokes were perhaps the most damning, coming as they did in the midst of a public health crisis. But there are only so many times Prime Minister Stephen Harper can signal his disappointment with his party's ministers and staff before questions must be raised about just what sort of environment they are working in. Mr. Ritz should have been fired or resigned as soon as his comments came to light, if only to send a message that such conduct will no longer be tolerated. But it is fair to question whether it has been tolerated for too long behind closed doors already. (emphasis added)
The conduct of Ritz and others over the course of this government aren't the only issue. Recall Van Loan smearing the opposition as Taliban supporters when they dared press the government on living up to its Geneva Convention obligations.

The further issue is the actual plan these Conservatives have on food safety. A report today is circulating exposing a Conservative plan to further cut back on meat inspection.
If elected, a federal Conservative government plans to stop delivering provincial meat inspection programs in Manitoba leaving local consumers exposed to the risk of unsafe meat.
The plan is revealed in a secret Treasury Board of Canada decision
record, dated May 6, 2008, documenting the acceptance of a proposal concerning
"Provincial Meat Slaughter Establishments (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British
Columbia)" which calls for the "elimination of federal delivery of provincial
meat inspection programs."
"Meat produced in provincially registered facilities in Manitoba would
not be inspected by anyone under this plan," says Bob Kingston, President of
the Agriculture Union - Public Service Alliance of Canada, which has launched
www.foodsafetyfirst.ca, a tool for voters to email their local candidates
during the federal election to urge them to make a commitment to food safety.
The campaign is being organized jointly with the Professional Institute of the
Public Service Canada.
So we have a clear choice shaping up:
Mr. Ignatieff said the Conservatives cut food inspections, and Mr. Ritz should already have been fired because they don't seem to understand that Canadians want them to ensure closer control.

“Canadians want government inspectors on the floor of these factories checking the slicers … I don't think Gerry Ritz gets that, and I don't think Stephen Harper gets that,” he said.
No, they don't get it. Canadians deserve much better than this crowd.