It occurs to me that I haven't actually written anything in support of calls for the resignation of Gerry Ritz. Of course he should resign.
Four years ago, 22 people died in an outbreak of listeriosis caused by a failure in the food inspection system at Maple Leaf Foods in Toronto. At the time there were calls for a public inquiry but Conservatives insisted that the investigation and report the Harper government commissioned — the Weatherill Report (scroll down) — would be enough.
That report reviewed pretty much every part of the food safety system including inspections procedures and data analysis, the relationships between the various agencies and levels of government involved, and the communications strategy to be employed in dealing with the public. The minister who received Weatherill's report and assured everyone that its 57 different recommendations would be seriously reviewed and acted upon was Gerry Ritz. To hear the Conservatives talk, the Weatherill report was "a complete and comprehensive review" of what had gone wrong at Maple Leaf Foods and provided all the guidance any government could need.
Four years later, the same Gerry Ritz is overseeing the largest beef recall in Canadian history. It was already the largest in history before it was expanded the last three or four times. So far 11 cases of E. coli poisoning across Canada have been confirmed to be the result of contaminated beef from XL Foods. Our largest trading partners are prohibiting product from the plant that processes 35% of Canadian beef from entering their country. And it seems fair to say that the communications strategy employed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada -- along with pretty much everyone else involved in this mess -- has been universally panned.
Whatever improvement we were supposed to see with regard to the federal government's involvement in meat inspection has not only failed to materialize but has failed rather spectacularly. Of course Gerry Ritz should resign. But he won't.