Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harper's boys are such kidders...

Except that their sense of humour seems to come at the expense of dead Canadians and contaminated food. It seems to be a habit with this lot.

Remember, the first we heard of the humourous aspect of a tainted food tragedy was from Harper's Health Minister, Tony Clement. Instead of staying in Canada and managing his portion of a file which saw over a dozen Canadians dead and over 40 seriously ill, he went to Denver to get some face time with Harper's oil buddies. At a posh little lunch affair, hosted by our dollars, Clement unfolded a little funny. (Emphasis mine)

The Canadian government sponsored a swish lunch reception at its consul-general's Denver residence.

The food included bite-sized bits of beef, shrimp, tortellini and potatoes gratin. Health Minister Tony Clement, whose absence from Canada during the tainted meat crisis has not gone unnoticed, was there and introduced himself:

"I'm Health Minister Tony Clement, and I have to say I approved this food."

Oh, I say, Tony old boy. How very drole.

Then along comes information that Gerry Ritz, Harper's Agriculture Minister (who had taken over lead on the file) was unable to keep his funny-bone covered up.

Sources who took notes during the call said Ritz fretted about the political dangers of the affair before quipping:

"This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts."

The disease was linked to cold cuts from Maple Leaf Meats.

And when told about a new death in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said: "Please tell me it's (Liberal MP) Wayne Easter."

Easter is the Liberal critic shadowing Ritz's Agriculture Department.

Yeah, you guys are just killing us. As Aaron Wherry asks,

Would Gerry Ritz still be the Agriculture Minister if he’d been caught joking about 17 Canadians dying in a bus crash? What about if it was the deaths of 17 Canadian soldiers? Or if the deaths had simply been more centralized around a single place (a la Walkerton)? If the answer is no to any of those scenarios, what makes this situation different?
The "joking" however, is a trait of this bunch. These are right-wing authoritarian scumbags. To them the misfortune of others is always funny. We shouldn't really be surprised.

What is more interesting is that, in both the case of Clement and Ritz, their initial concern was the political risks they were now facing; not the fact that people were dying. They made it all about themselves. Once both of these clowns were faced with their own misspeaks however, notice how the grins disappeared from their faces. Not because they really regret saying what they did, but because they got caught doing it.

What is more serious however, is that while they made light of a tragedy and then wrung their hands over the political minefield that lay ahead, not once did they acknowledged that this entire event was a thing of their own making done at the insistence of Harper. And that's what really matters. It was their de-regulation of meat inspection which led to this. It was their failure to accept the basic responsibility of government in the safety of the Canadian food supply.

As Ross says, forget Ritz. It goes higher than him. This is a fundamental failure of leadership right at the top. This is the Harper school of government: You're on your own. Get sick from bad meat? Oh well. Canary in the coalmine. It's cheaper than actually doing inspections and look at how we cut taxes for all those who survived.

It's not over yet. As Scott points out, there is a lot more to come if Harper regains a government from this election.

While we do not yet know if this case is in any way related to the Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak, perhaps we can get a preview of the ministerial humour on the subject.

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