Thursday, September 11, 2008

Handling of the listeriosis outbreak a disgrace

There's some appropriate criticism of the Harper pledge to hold an inquiry on the listeriosis outbreak today, in this Andre Picard column, "Handling of the listeriosis outbreak is a disgrace." I agree with Picard's conclusions:
Whether it's water, food or infectious diseases, the principles are the same: You need to invest in public health infrastructure, particularly in good people; you need to value prevention, not just pay lip service; when threats to public health occur, you need to act forcefully and communicate well.

And above all, you need to take responsibility for your actions (and inaction).

That is something government agencies like CFIA and PHAC, and in particular their political masters, seem unable to grasp.

That willful blindness and aversion to leadership is a bigger threat to the health of Canadians than bacteria in luncheon meats.
But the column fails to draw any attention to the Harper government's own changes to the inspection regulations which resulted in less inspection occurring, on the floor at the very Maple Leaf plant which was ground zero for this outbreak. The Harper government's changes to food safety inspection are a big part of the puzzle and go a long way toward explaining why the government handling of the listeriosis outbreak was indeed a disgrace. It drove them to hide from asserting any kind of leadership here whatsoever. Ritz was put on damage control. Clement was kept as far away from it as possible. Harper commented briefly one day, then announced his election eve listeriosis investigation. That's been it. It's one more illuminating example of the poor leadership abilities of the Harper government.