08/10/2012

Gerry Ritz Has to go
Ok, enough is enough. No ands, ifs or buts, Gerry Ritz has to go.

I know, I know, Ritz is only putting into place the Harper agenda like a faithful old lapdog but, bottom line, the minister is responsible.

What makes things worse, I think, is his denial in the beginning of this latest scandal. His story just didn't hold up. Some say he just lied about it, figuring he’d get away with it. I don’t know for sure, but I do know what side of the coin I fall on. I just don’t trust Gerry.

I think what I find most annoying is that for Ritz and the rest of the Harper Conservatives, this is all about protecting business. Their corporate friends. These Conservatives forget, their primary responsibility is to protect its us.

Ritz is ignoring the fact that:
  • Because we tolerate over crowded feedlots, cattle turns up on the killing floor, caked with mud and cow shit 
  • A vaccine is available which would put a stop to this e-coli problem but it costs about $3.00 an animal and the government sees this as too much of a burden to producers to insist they use it. 
  • Huge meat packers mostly hire immigrant workers on work permits who don’t dare complain when production lines are cranked up to unsafe speeds, making it impossible for the workers to do their jobs safely. 
  • Despite what the so-called Agriculture Minister says, there are fewer inspectors on the plant floor, leaving much of the responsibility to the producer. 
Ritz just doesn't seem to get it. He has dodged question period in the House of Commons and left a press conference, held on the completion of his tour of the XL plant, after four questions because he didn't like where the questions were leading.

Calling this a scandal is not too big a word. Canadian’s health is at risk and from my perspective, having the Ag Minister resign isn’t enough. This whole damn incompetent government should step down.

Perhaps Andre Picard said it best in today’s Globe and Mail when he wrote in part:

Peter Sandman, a business professor at Rutgers University and the guru of crisis communications, says there are six strategies required during a situation like tainted beef: 1) don’t over-reassure; 2) acknowledge uncertainty; 3) treat the public’s fears as legitimate; 4) express your own feelings; 5) offer people things to do to protect themselves; 6) don’t worry about panic because panic is rare.

The company, the regulator and the minister failed on every single one of these points.

Worse yet, they have no excuse because we’ve seen this movie before.

In 2008, when Maple Leaf Foods Inc. produced listeria tainted luncheon meats that killed 22 people and sickened 35 others, the company responded in textbook fashion. CEO Michael McCain was front and centre: He was available to the media, he was transparent and he was contrite.

Maple Leaf recalled all its meat and shut down the plant – which is what XL should have done. The company then apologized, in print and via its CEO, it fixed the problems, and it compensated the victims.

Mr. Ritz was minister during the listeria crisis. His government commissioned a report from Sheila Weatherill, which cost taxpayers $5.3-million.

Obviously, he has not read or understood that report, which, in addition to its technical recommendations for improving food safety, had two overriding messages: 1) That communication by the CFIA and the government more generally were appallingly bad and 2) there was a “void in leadership” that contributed to the deaths.

Today, as the E. coli tainted meat outbreak demonstrates, communication is as bad, if not worse, and the void in leadership is even more gaping.

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