This is a perfect example of what's wrong with Canadian... oh let's say politics period.
Harper defends minister who made listeriosis jokes
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper came to the defence of Gerry Ritz on Thursday, a day after his agriculture minister came under fire for making jokes about the listeriosis outbreak that has been linked to the deaths of 17 Canadians.
While campaigning in the strategically vital province of Quebec, Harper called Ritz's comments ''completely inappropriate."
But Harper dismissed pressure from the Liberals for him to apologize personally on behalf of the government and fire Ritz, noting the minister had already offered his unreserved apologies.
"I think he’s been doing a good job on this file and applaud him for apologizing completely and forthrightly," Harper told reporters in Trois-Rivières.
The controversy again forced the Conservatives into damage control mode during their campaign for the Oct. 14 federal election after earlier gaffes by campaign staff threw the Tories off message.
The Canadian Press reported on Wednesday that Ritz made the controversial remarks at an August conference call with scientists, bureaucrats and political staff.
Fretting about the political dangers of the crisis, Ritz reportedly quipped: "This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts."
When told about a new death in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said: "Please tell me it's [Liberal MP] Wayne Easter."
'Shows insensitivity to families'
Harper said Thursday that Ritz "was working very, very hard" at the time he made the comments.
"I think this story is obviously very embarrassing for him, very unfortunate," Harper said.
"But should not detract from the good work that he has done to get on top and understand this matter, to improve the system, and to communicate publicly with Canadians and to make sure that government officials are all doing their job."
Ritz had initially received praise during the crisis last month for immediately returning to Ottawa and handling the federal response, although opposition critics decried Health Minister Tony Clement's decision to remain in Denver for the U.S. Democratic national convention.
Easter, the Liberal agriculture critic, told CBC News Thursday morning that his party called for Ritz's resignation in September over his handling of the outbreak, not for his wisecracking.
Easter also called on Harper to apologize to families who have been affected by listeriosis.
The joke Ritz made about Easter is in keeping with "a pattern of the Harper government in which anyone who disagrees with them is going to be treated with disrespect and attacked," he said.
"But the real terrible point here is that this shows insensitivity to families who lost loved ones and to the seriousness of the issue itself."
etc etc etc....
Firstly, the "real terrible point" is not that this shows insensitivity. The real terrible point is that 17 Canadians are dead, including most recently an infant.Secondly, Stephen Harper is wrong. Gerry Ritz has not done a top job of anything. This crisis has been horribly bungled by the government and exposed a serious weakness in our public health system.
Not surprisingly the Liberals and Conservatives are too busy walking party lines to actually focus on what has gone wrong. People are dead, could we please stop arguing about whether or not it's OK to make classless jokes about it. Why our leaders in government continue to think that they can talk to large groups of people the way that they would to their drinking buddies is totally beyond me, but it really doesn't solve anything if that is all anyone focuses on.
I think in an alternate universe I could really like Jack Layton. He reminds me of the Lorax... all of the best intentions to protect people and look after the environment, but always very angry. I just don't honestly believe that the NDP could work with the Liberals or Conservatives to create the progressive government that Canadians want. They would spend just as much time arguing with the other parties as everyone else over whether or not we want to recognize Vegetarians as having their own culture, or if by meeting with the American President on Monday we will send a better message than if we meet with him on Tuesday.
We live in an incredibly wealthy country, there is no justification for child poverty, inadequet health care funding, homelessness, and an unreasonably inflated cost of post-secondary education. The issues that politians and the media continue to focus on are taking away from the real problems. There is an easy solution to the callous remarks made by Mr. Ritz. Fire him. There is not an easy solution to the Listeriosis outbreak, but I would feel a lot better if I felt like the people that I elected to represent me were worrying about how to improve the food safety system and not whether not it's OK to be an asshole while you're screwing up your job.