Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Canadian election campaign rolls on, with the Harper Conservatives promising more of the sort of "steady hand" pro-business form of management that has led to the present debacle in the USA. Molly has mentioned Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz before on this blog, and the problem is not that he has a grim sense of humour. The problem is deeper than "bad taste about food poisoning", to pun one myself. It is the agenda that Ritz, Harper and others on the "reheated Reform" menu have for all of Canada.
Here's another opinion about the Harper crew, from Straight Goods, an online progressive newsmagazine. Molly doesn't necessarily agree with the following author's opinions about the value of government, but she can agree that some services are best delivered in a cooperative rather than market driven way. It's just that Molly sees other forms of such cooperation as possible, while social democrats such as the author cannot even envisage them. We, however, agree that a corporate turnover is undesirable. I do, however, like the description of Harper as "sweater guy", though I still prefer "Sneaky Stevie".
Gerry Ritz controversy confirms the election is about public values:
Obsession with polls and image politics obscures real issues, such as Harper turning public safety over to the private sector.
by Ish Theilheimer
Until last week, most Canadians had never heard of Conservative Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, a failed ostrich farmer and former newspaper publisher from Saskatchewan. All that changed last week. A public servant who participated in an August conference-call meeting August about the listeriosis crisis, along with Ritz, leaked some damning comments the minister made during the meeting.

In the meeting, Ritz's comments about the outbreak included black humour, which he himself has since disowned as being in bad taste. To date, at least 18 Canadians have died of listeriosis related to contaminated meats from Maple Leaf Foods. Medical experts have questioned Canada's nation's food safety.

A wise-guy politician and a brave bureaucrat have brought new dimensions to this federal election: issues, and, in particular, public values issues.

Now, a wise-guy politician and a brave bureaucrat have brought new dimensions to this federal election: issues, and, in particular, public values issues.

News media generally bring the public scant information about the many important questions that should be debated and aired publicly in this election campaign. Instead, we the news media are full of discussions of poll results, poll comparisons, image consultants, sweater, haircuts, eyeglass styles. The coverage gets pretty monotonous.

So Gerry Ritz's sarcasm comes as a wake-up call. His comments represented what's known in the US as flagrant indifference to the pain and suffering of others.

Too much emphasis on Ritz' personal shortcomings tends to obscure, again, the real campaign issue. Whatever you think of him as a person, the big question is whether you want Canada run by and for the giant corporations — or for the public in the public's own interest.

Stephen Harper has been quite clear on this point for most of his career. Then, suddenly, at the start of the election campaign, he became Fuzzy Sweater Guy and the Steady Hand on the wheel of government. Talk about black humour! This is the prime minister who axed national day care, arts funding and court challenges, to name a few, while muzzling federal staff and political colleagues. If you see fuzzy sweater guys like this coming down the street toward you, look out!

The government only brought in the new industry-self-managed inspection procedure for meat inspection in April, and already 18 are dead. That's a pretty good average, if I may use black humour myself.

Throughout his political life, Stephen Harper has been dedicated to one main idea: less government. The main beneficiaries of "less government" are big corporations. For ordinary Canadians, "less government" invariably means fewer services, less protection, less safety, higher prices, and private services such as health care, education, elder care, child care, health and safety inspection, etc.

Gerry Ritz has focused a spotlight on what Sweater Guy is all about. He should be the ballot question. Do you want the Gerry Ritzes of the world in charge of food, toy and airline safety?

Ish Theilheimer has been Publisher of the leading, and oldest, independent Canadian online newsmagazine,, since founding it in September 1999. He is also Managing Editor of He lives with his wife Kathy in Golden Lake, ON, in the Ottawa Valley.

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