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The joke's on us 

So Gerry Ritz a made stupid, tasteless, offensive joke. Two actually.

Is that any reason for Stephen Harper to fire him?

My answer would be no.

Most of us—well, me at least; thee may be more pure—have, in the heat of an overheated moment, or in a moment of frustration, or in the inevitably mistaken belief we were among friends who all shared our world view, have said things we wish we could take back only after it is too late.

We have no right to hold politicians to a higher standard than our own.

To recap: Agriculture Minister Ritz, in a conference call with members of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in August—in the middle of a listeriosis outbreak likely caused by processed meats that had already killed 16 Canadians—claimed the growing crisis was causing the Harper government “a death by a thousand cuts—or should I say cold cuts.”

Embarrassed drum roll please.

When he heard that one of those who’d died was from Prince Edward Island, old knee-slapper Ritz added: “Please tell me it's Wayne Easter.”


To give Ritz his due, he didn’t deny his remarks. He did the right thing after the fact. He apologized, completely and totally.

It’s time to move on to more important issues.

Like the way in which Ritz and his boss created the culture in which the most recent outbreak of listeriosis mutated and grew, and which makes more such health crises almost inevitable.

“The listeriosis epidemic,” The Canadian Medical Association Journal says in its lead editorial this month, “is a timely reminder that the Harper government has reversed much of the progress that previous governments made on governing for public health."

“The current government's policies have contributed to the unravelling of public health safeguards, with the move to self-inspection by industry and the lack of an independent public health officer.”

To make matters worse, the CMAJ says the so-called “independent” investigation Harper has ordered is itself tainted. The investigation will be conducted in secret, the investigator will have no power to subpoena witnesses and there’s no guarantee the report will ever be made public.

Now those are firing offences.

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