Sunday, September 21, 2008

Canadian Medical Association Editorial Accuses Harper Conservatives In Listeriosis Outbreak


Voters I have canvassed in Whitby-Oshawa are alarmed by the risks that the Harper Government is introducing into their daily lives. Nuclear Safety Commissioner Linda Keen’s firing is also of concern to them. Nuclear and food safety, as part of overall public safety, are core values of the Liberal Party. Lax regulations do not make for a safer Canada. Lax regulations are behind the near catastrophic sub prime mortgage meltdown in the US. Something that Jim Flaherty is too short sighted to understand, since it was his (not so) bright idea to bring 40 year mortgages to Canada....read: buying a home with a 5% down payment. Might be good for property developers, however very bad for a sound Canadian economy and promoting sound personal financial planning

Canadian Medical Association Editorial Accuses Harper Conservatives In Listeriosis Outbreak

Medical journal says Harper government lowered standards
September 17, 2008
Chris Morris
THE CANADIAN PRESS

FREDERICTON╦ćAs the death toll rose yesterday from the national listeriosis outbreak, an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal slammed the Harper government for undermining public health safeguards.

An elderly woman in New Brunswick became the 17th person whose death has been linked to the recall of food products from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto. It is the first confirmed case east of Ontario.

The New Brunswick Health Department said yesterday that the woman, in her early 80s, was infected with the same strain of listeria involved in the country-wide outbreak ╦ć which the CMAJ editorial released yesterday describes as "the worst in the world."

"As in the Walkerton and SARS epidemics, an outbreak of this size may point to systemic failures across multiple levels," states the editorial in the latest edition of the journal, referring to the deadly water contamination eight years ago in Walkerton, Ont.

"Listeria is the biological agent, cold cuts the vector, but the ultimate cause may be found in risky government decisions."

The editorial, signed by several doctors and journal editors, states that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has reversed much of the progress previous governments made in relation to public health.

The editorial takes aim at the Conservative government's decision to transfer inspection duties for ready-to-eat meats to the meat industry itself, while allowing listeria standards to remain lower than they are in most countries and reducing the Public Health Agency of Canada's political clout.

The editorial also makes the case for a full-scale, arm's-length public inquiry similar to those for the tainted blood scandal, Walkerton and the SARS epidemic, rather than the investigation called for by the Harper government.

"A full-scale public inquiry into the major failings of Canada's food inspection system is necessary to protect Canadians from future epidemic threats, and the Canadian public should settle for nothing less than that," the editorial states.

The woman's death in New Brunswick is the first such fatality in Atlantic Canada.

-----

In a related regulatory matter that has also caused concern, Stephen Harper's government has decided to transfer aviation safety oversight to the airline companies themselves.

Toronto Star

6 comments:

CAITI said...

Conservative Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz Wisecracks About Listeria Deaths, Outbreak
By Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press

September 17, 2008 (EDIT)

OTTAWA - Conservative Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz unnerved public servants at the height of the listeriosis crisis by wisecracking about deaths and the outbreak during a conference call about a public health scare that has now killed 17 people.

Ritz was worried about the political fallout from the listeriosis crisis as the deadly disease claimed more victims in the days before the federal election was called, according to sources in on the crisis call last month.

But that concern apparently didn't stop Ritz from cracking wise while scientists, bureaucrats and political staff listened in on the Aug. 30th call.

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.

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.

About 30 people participated in the Sunday morning conference call that began after 10 a.m. EDT. Participants included scientists, senior bureaucrats and political staff.

Others on the call included communications staff from prime minister Stephen Harper's office, most of Ritz's staff, Conservative Health Minister Tony Clement's policy and communications advisers, and senior public servants including deputy health minister Morris Rosenberg.

Officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency provided updates on the disease during the conversation.

The sources who spoke to The Canadian Press did so on the condition of anonymity. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has been relentless in searching for and punishing anyone thought to have provided embarrassing information to reporters.

Easter brushed off Ritz's reference to him, saying he doesn't take it personally. The more important point, he said, is that Ritz showed insensitivity to the families of those who suffered in the listeria outbreak.

"I'm very much more concerned about how it sounds and how it would be hurtful to those who've lost loved ones," said Easter. "I think that's the real issue here."

Easter noted that he's already called for Ritz's resignation - and continues to do so - because of his broader role in shaping Tory food inspection policies.

"That's a much bigger issue and goes to the heart of the matter. A minister should not be joking about that issue. This is very, very serious."

A spokesman for Harper said there would be no disciplinary action. "A resignation was not offered and none was asked for."

Earlier Wednesday, Ritz had little to say when asked about his comments as his flight from Saskatoon touched down at the Ottawa airport.

A bearded man with the minister jostled with journalists as Ritz beelined through the terminal to a waiting sedan. At one point the man grabbed a reporter's recorder and jabbed at the off button.

For two minutes Ritz stared dead ahead as he was peppered with questions about the conference call. His only words were clipped.

"Not right now...," he said.

Then: "Get out of my face..."

So far, 17 deaths have been linked to the recall of food products from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto.

The conversation on Aug. 30 began with talk of the mounting death toll and trends in the spread of the disease.

Sources say Ritz began the call by asking: "Are there any more bombs out there?" - implying any politically damaging news.

But discussion soon shifted to communications and how best to frame the government's message.

Ritz was not the only Conservative cabinet minister to quip about the food crisis.

An editorial this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal blasted the Harper government for undermining public health safeguards.

Dr Mike said...

Ritz & Lannigan are two of a kind.

Two peas in a pod--two skunks in the henhouse--two people in positions of power that should not be.

Unfortunately when these are best of a bad lot , things can only get worse.

Dr Mike Popovich.

wilson said...

And NOT deep cleaning a meat slicer for eleven (11) years has nothing to do with the outbreak?

But a policy change suggested 7 months ago killed 18 Canadians?

Anonymous said...

Wilson said:

"And NOT deep cleaning a meat slicer for eleven (11) years has nothing to do with the outbreak?"

Yes and no doubt that also "explains away" the totally crass and callous sick humour of Gerry Ritz, as well I suppose?

Richard said...

Harper The Whore. Whore's out Canada's foreign policy to the Israeli Lobby, even before he was elected. Whore's out Canada's tax policy to Power Corporation and Manulife, months after he was elected, after promising to never touch income trusts. Whore's out our food protection regulation and inspection to the industry players for their self regulation. Two things become apparent. There was ALWAYS a hidden agenda, and we now know who the CON Party's big dollar donors are. The bucks are not coming people like me who voted and donated to the conservative (crap) party all their lives and were then stabbed in back over the income trust betrayal. I'll never vote for conservative crap again in my life, and they will never get another dollar from me!

Robert Gibbs said...

Oh ya, "Wilson's" got it all figured out, ya'll.

He goes around posting the same inane comment everywhere. He's a virtual replicator.

Sure, it took exactly eleven (11) years for the bacteria to finally start killing people.

And the Earth is only 6,000 years old, don't ya know.