I have a pretty high threshold for cabinet firings, especially amid election campaigns. But ag minister Gerry Ritz should go.
Here's what Ritz said during an Aug. 30 government conference call on the listeriosis outbreak that has killed 17 people:
"This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts."
When told of a new death in PEI, Ritz said, "Please tell me it's Wayne Easter."
Easter is the Grits' ag critic.
Here are Harper's reasons for keeping Ritz on:
- Stress: "It obviously was an inappropriate joke by a minister who was under a lot of stress."
- Competence: Ritz should not be removed from "the good work" he has done in dealing with the outbreak.
- Everyone makes mistakes: "Look I suspect everybody in this room if they're honest with themselves will admit in private conversations they probably said things that were pretty insensitive and inappropriate if somebody shines a light on them."
- It was "a private conversation."
If you can't cope with stress you don't belong in a position of responsibility. Ritz has not exuded any special competence in this crisis. Everyone does make mistakes, but the standards are higher for folks in leadership positions, whose conduct must be worthy of emulation. And it was not a private conversation, but was attended by 30 bureaucrats, government scientists and communications staff from at least three departments.
Confronted by reporters, Ritz actually ran away. He should keep running. We've heard enough.