Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The Canadian election campaign grinds on, with its usual selection of weekly slips of the tongue on the part of Sneaky Stevie's pirate crew. One of these is Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz whose rather crude jokes about the recent Listeriosis outbreak have led to repeated denunciations from the victims of the tainted meat involved and also repeated calls for Harper to fire the man on the part of opposition parties. Ah yes, but Mr Ritz is not all fun and games. He has a serious side as well, as the following article from the Harper Index makes plain. A good "team player" in the Harper cabinet, Ritz is almost as bullying and secretive as his boss, and like Sneaky Stevie he makes no bones about his corporate agenda. The cold cuts dispensed to those quarters will never be sliced too thin. Read on.

Ritz aggressively defends industry:
Embattled agriculture minister is known as bully and yes-man for Stephen Harper.
OTTAWA, September 18, 2008: Who is agriculture minister Gerry Ritz, the MP and agriculture minister from Battlefords- Lloydminster? The failed ostrich farmer and former newspaper publisher has been the victim of leaks this summer. In July came news of a leak at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of a government document detailing the shift of food inspection from government to food manufacturers and distributors. As a result of this new policy, food companies will, for the most part, inspect themselves and federal inspectors will spend the bulk of their time going through company-generated reports.

Ritz was back on the front pages this week after it was reported that he made wisecracks in a departmental conference call in August over the listeriosis outbreak. The crisis, which has resulted in at least 17 deaths, occurred just months after the changes to food inspection.

Terry Pugh, Executive Secretary of the National Farmers Union (NFU), says Ritz is a "a yes-man" for Stephen Harper and "one of the most vociferous opponents of the Canadian Wheat Board." He is also closely tied to the ethanol lobby.

When CFIA biologist Luc Pomerleau was fired in July for leaking the document, Ritz praised the colleague who turned Pomerleau in as the source of the politically embarrassing leak.

"Some people have likened him to a whistleblower. I dismiss that," Mr. Ritz told the Globe and Mail. "The whistleblower was the gentleman who turned Mr. Pomerleau in."

As chair of the House agriculture committee, Ritz maneuvered to prevent meat processors being forced to open their books during the BSE crisis, Pugh says. "He always fought to protect the interests of the companies."

Ritz' "stamp is push and bully your way in," says Pugh. "But he's a ding-a-ling, he doesn't know when to shut his mouth. To make jokes like that during a conference call is the height of stupidity. The fact that some courageous person would report it is amazing. Retribution will come hard and swift," he predicts.

Ritz also caused waves earlier in September when Agriculture Canada announced that crown corporations like the Farm Credit Corporation (FCC) will now have to consider the "personal integrity" of program applicants. Critics say the move is purely political because it came after the FCC loaned money to former Liberal cabinet minister Alfonso Gagliano – of Sponsorship Scandal fame – for a grape farm.

"The concerned crown corporations will immediately begin to review their policies and programs to ensure that due consideration is given to the personal integrity of persons applying for financial assistance or other benefits from the corporations," Ritz said in a news release.

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