Thursday, June 05, 2008

Our Minister of Agriculture snubs and trashes the UN food summit

(BBC)

It appears that our Minister of Agriculture doesn't think much of the UN and let his guard down yesterday in Question Period when he took the opportunity to take a shot at the UN food summit presently coming to a close in Rome. There's a global food crisis yet the Minister of Agriculture passed up the opportunity to attend this summit. Funny, since the U.S. Agriculture Secretary was there. Our government instead sent our ambassador to Italy, who is stationed where the conference is taking place. Lending no political support to the effort on Canada's behalf and taking no opportunity to exercise leadership at a conference that needed it. They've taken the easy way out, the path of least resistance, putting forth typical conservative vitriol toward the UN institution instead. Here's the gaffe, from Hansard, June 4, 2008:
Hon. Maria Minna (Beaches—East York, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the UN has called an emergency summit to look at the food crisis and to find solutions to the growing problem but Canada's agriculture minister is not there. Sending food aid and working with the WTO to reduce trade barriers is not enough. This crisis worsens every day.

Solutions need to be found beyond what is already in place and Canada needs to be a leader on this important issue, but the minister is not there. Why not?

Hon. Gerry Ritz (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, Canada's position is being ably led by Alex Himelfarb. Of course, the members opposite would well appreciate his expertise in these areas. We are very ably represented at that conference.
Hon. Maria Minna (Beaches—East York, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, even Robert Mugabe is there. Why is the Canadian minister not there?
Hon. Gerry Ritz (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I think the member just outlined the credibility of the conference when one of the keynote speakers is Robert Mugabe.

There are a number of other legitimate concerns being raised at that conference.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Hon. Gerry Ritz: Maybe members should hold it down a little if they want any kind of answer.

We have committed a lot of dollars to food aid around the world. We disconnected our food aid so that it is bought locally. Canada can claim credit as a leader in the food aid crisis around the world.
When it comes to foreign affairs matters, this government is fumbling the big questions of our time.

Gerry Ritz, John Bolton wannabe.

(h/t 900 ft.)

Update: oops, missed this.