Apparently, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz thought that the Listeriosis outbreak and subsequent deaths due to it was absolutely hysterical:
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz unnerved some public servants at the height of the listeriosis crisis by resorting to gallows humour during a conference call about a public health scare that has now killed 17 people…Sources who took notes during the call said Ritz fretted about the political dangers of the crisis, 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. …when told about a new death in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said: “Please tell me it’s (Liberal MP) Wayne Easter.”
You’re a real riot, Ritz. I’m sure the families of the 17 people who’ve died from this outbreak really find your humour to be a balm for their losses. Let’s also not forget what I posted earlier – a Canadian Medical Association Journal editorial holds the Conservatives and their practises of removing the inspections from government inspections and letting the industry police/inspect its own meat to be partly responsible for this national tragedy, and criticizes the government for praising “the success of our infectious disease surveillance system — as if, with 16 dead, there were cause to celebrate — while food safety standards remain as low as ever.”
This isn’t the first Cabinet Minister to think Listeriosis is a joking matter – Health Minister Tony Clement decided to try his comedy out in Denver at the height of this outbreak, while he was meeting with oil executives, but Ritz is over the top.. and he should be fired (or his riding should fire him themselves, since Harper won’t bother to do so).
Hat tip to nottawa, who is on blogging fire today.
UPDATE @ 8:26 pm: Hoo boy. Harper goes nasty again when responding to the CMAJ editorial. There were multiple contributors to this article, and CBC kindly lists them for us:
The editorial was written by Amir Attaran, Canada Research Chair in Law, Population Health and Global Development Policy at the University of Ottawa, and journal editors Dr. Noni MacDonald, Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, Barbara Sibbald, Dr. Ken Flegel, Dr. Rajendra Kale and Dr. Paul Hébert.
Yet here is Harper’s response:
As he defended his government’s record on food and product safety, Harper also dismissed criticism in an editorial of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, of his government’s approach to food inspection in the listeriosis crisis. He said it was one author who said it, not the position of the medical association. “This author is in our opinion not someone who is credible.”
Putting aside the fact that Harper can’t count, as Montreal Simon says, Harper has now apparently added doctors to their growing list of people Conservatives consider to be enemies.
UPDATE 2 @ 8:59 pm; The Progressive and Liberal Blogosphere is starting to explode with outrage at Ritz’s remarks.
UPDATE 3 @ 9:09 pm: The Liberals have released a statement calling for Ritz’s resignation, but I sincerely hope they do more then just issue statements. I know some war rooms down south that would be already done making their campaign ads on this issue to point out Conservative insensitivity and the wrong policies that failed Canada on this issue.
UPDATE 4 @ 10:22 pm: More blogosphere reaction from the Progressive and Liberal blogs. I’ll give credit to a Conservative blog if it shows the same outrage toward these comments, by the way.
UPDATE 5 @ 11:06 pm: Good points made by The Jurist looking at this story from another angle – that being that no actions were obviously considered against Ritz until all of this went public, and Ritz’s complete lack of judgement in the matter.
UPDATE 6 @ 11:17 pm: And yet still more blogosphere reaction on this story. I think this story was neglected a bit as a campaign issue, as I mused earlier today, but thanks to Minister Ritz, that is the case no longer.