Well, this listeriosis/meat inspection story seems to be taking on a life of its own. First the Minister Ritz controversy from last evening, and now we get this press release discussing the elimination of meat inspection programs in Manitoba:
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
I’ll have to read the document a bit further to see if they also propose cuts to the BC and Saskatchewan plants. It also mentions in this press release that the union has launched a website called www.foodsafetyfirst.ca. When you’re at that site, go to the “secret documents” page and there you’ll find a link to the PDF of the cabinet document (which I will provide an easy link to here), which is talking about the elimination of the meat inspection programs.
The news release goes on:
The government of Stephen Harper has steadily cut funding for food safety programs and shifted responsibility for safety assurance to the food companies themselves. According to current Treasury Board of Canada forecasts, funding for food safety programs will have declined by almost 30% from $359 million in 2006/07 to $254 million in 2010/11 under Mr. Harper’s watch. Meanwhile, the government plans to expand industry self-policing of safety. The same Treasury Board record also reveals plans to: “shift from full-time Canadian Food Inspection Agency meat inspection presence to an oversight role, allowing industry to implement food safety control programs and to manage key risks.”
Some of this we knew before, but I hadn’t realized the amount of cuts Harper had done for funding to food safety programs, so I thought it was worth repeating. As the release says, with the listeriosis tragedy the past few weeks, the government should be increasing food inspection, not cutting it, and that should also be the same for federal funding of the food inspection programs.
We are seeing the same pattern here with funding cuts and going away from testing as the Mike Harris Ontario government did with Walkerton. You know what happened there.. and the nation is seeing what is happening now with Listeriosis nation-wide. This is Conservative ideology playing with people’s lives, folks, and it needs to be stopped and reversed.
UPDATE: The Cabinet document does seem to state that the federal meat inspection programs in Saskatchewan and BC would also be eliminated in addition to Manitoba’s. The Food Safety First site summarizes it here.
UPDATE 2 @ 2:43 pm: Steve is right. This is more then just some offensive remarks by the Agricultural Minister, although those are important in the context of whether or not Ritz should be still a minister. But this information is important in asking Canadians what kind of governance they want, and whether or not they believe a reduction of food inspections and allowing companies to inspect themselves is the way they want to go, or not.
UPDATE 3 @ 2:48 pm: Great comment from Skinny Dipper here in this comments section: “Letís transfer this great idea for Toronto restaurants. Instead of having municipal health inspectors checking on restaurants and giving them green signs for clean and safe restaurants, the restaurant industry can police itself. Green signs for everyone!”.
Yea.. I’m sure that would go over and work out real well.. so why do the Cons think this would be any better federally? Are they so ideologically against “government interference” and so pro “free enterprise” that they’re willing to sacrifice rigorous oversight on public safety, and instead ask the public to trust the food companies in a laissez-faire free-for-all when it comes to food safety?
UPDATE 4: I said last night in my original Ritz article that I’d give credit to a Blogging Tory if he condemned Ritz for his tasteless joke, and we have one:Atheist Conservative, who also calls for Ritz’s resignation. Very impressive.