Thursday, September 18, 2008

Foot-in-mouth -- um, hoof-in -- no, stupidity (and notes from the Dion trail)

Three really, really bad cases of poor judgment. First, the ruling Conservatives. Gerry Ritz, the Agriculture Minister, apologized late last night for some comments about the listeriosis outbreak a little while ago during a conference call with about thirty people including the press, Agriculture officials and the PM's Communications Office. Ritz mused about the political fallout then said it was "like a death from a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts." Then when reporters told him about a new death possibly linked to the bacterium and that it happened in Prince Edward Island, Ritz replied "Please tell me it's Wayne Easter." Easter is of course the former Ag Minister and currently the Liberals' critic on the file.

Easter accepted the apology but was nevertheless livid and demanded Ritz' resignation for showing a lack of sensitivity. I think it goes beyond that. Reporters were asking serious questions about whether the food inspectors may have dropped the ball. To then turn a deadly crisis into a political statement shows just how out of touch the Conservatives are. The food companies involved are among the biggest customers of farmers, and they're getting hit too. There's insurance and stabilization for crop failures, but not so much for public health disasters. From source to destination Canadians deserve respect throughout.

If someone can truly hate someone that much, just because he or she is from a different political party, then he or she should resign. I doubt Trudeau would have stood by Eugene Whelan if he made an idiotic remark like that of Mr Ritz.

The second faux pas from the Cons: Stephen Harper was in Welland yesterday. People there want to know what the PM wants to do in the fallout from the closure of the John Deere plant as well as an auto parts plant. Together they account for about 1000 jobs. Instead, he announced a crackdown on flavoured cigarettes. Right message, wrong location and timing.

The other oops comes from the NDP. Their candidate for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast withdrew from the ticket after it was alleged that Dana Larsen may have been supplying seeds for manufacturing coca and marijuana; both illegal activities even though the party supports decriminalization of "soft" drugs like THC.

On this one, I have to question the wisdom of Jack Layton. Why did he sign off on the nomination papers of a co-founder of the BC Marijuana Party? If he's trying to peel off votes from a small but vital line of social conservatives who oppose drug use but oppose Stephen Harper even more, this isn't exactly an ideal way to do that.

But you also to wonder about the CBC's choice of headline: "Up in smoke." Can't they come up with a better line than a Cheech and Chong movie title?


I was at a local rally for Stéphane Dion here in Hamilton last night. It felt like there were way more than the 250 the local paper claims were there. Also there were quite a few local Liberal candidates from here in Hamilton as well as Niagara, Halton and Peel regions. I had the pleasure of talking to Garth Turner -- a really articulate and smart guy who we need back in the Cabinet.

Dion is a very smart guy. He may not be as articulate in English as in French, but he has a vision and he knows how to engage a crowd. His biggest line of the night: "It's true that Stephen Harper speaks better English than me, but I speak the truth better than him." If Dion's as worried as the press claims he is, he certainly wasn't showing it last night.

On a sidenote, I applaud the security. In a rather small union hall he packed it in, and the undercover Mounties were able to escort him and out without too much difficulty even with most of us just inches away from an invisible cordon. You could never get that close in America with their candidates no matter what the office.

UPDATE (8:47 am EDT, 1247 GMT): Minor corrections.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was at the Hamilton rally too and was surprised to see the 250 in the article. I had estimated about 400. However, in other respects the article and video gave good coverage.