Friday, July 24, 2009

Heckuva job, Ritzie

A follow-up to the release of the Weatherill listeriosis report the other day. Here's a view:
In her report, Ms. Weatherill pointed repeatedly to the “void in leadership” within the federal government. She was referring specifically to the lack of co-ordination among various governmental and quasi-governmental agencies including the CFIA, the PHAC, Health Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

But she could well have pointed up the political food chain. Let's not forget that Prime Minister Stephen Harper called this inquiry as the last order of business before an election, no doubt as a means of avoiding serious discussion of the issue. Then-Minister of Health Tony Clement and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz both heaped praise on their officials, yet this report makes clear that there were massive, patently obvious failings.

Is it too much to expect the public service to serve the public, for ministers to minister, for governments to govern?

No. These too are obligations.

The real lesson from listeriosis is not to be found strictly within the report of the independent investigator but rather in the larger principles that guided Ms. Weatherill's recommendations: You need to invest in public-health infrastructure, particularly in good people; you need to value prevention, not just pay lip service; voluntary measures need to be complemented with strong sanctions for failure; and when threats to public health occur, you need to act forcefully and communicate well.

Above all, you need to take responsibility – in business and government alike, and in everything from policy to everyday actions.

There is a leadership void, one that is a much bigger threat to the health of Canadians than a bacterium such as listeria.

How the government responds to this report will be a test of leadership, so the Prime Minister's Office needs to underline three words: “Actions, not words.”
And here's another that was expressed in the midst of the crisis (latter half):

More: "Listeriosis report slams leadership," "Listeriosis crisis a leadership crisis,"Company, government faulted in listeria deaths,""Public protection."