Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gerry Ritz in Context

Unforunate as it is, all parties have their asshole candidates

As the controversy surrounding the ridiculous comments made by federal Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz -- not-so-cleverly dubbed "Ritz Crackers" by the Edmonton Sun -- Canadians are reminded of a sobering fact.

Many politicians are assholes.

For his own part, Ritz's comments transcend assholishness. Gerry Ritz is not merely an asshole. Gerry Ritz is a fucking asshole. (And yet while living in Lloydminster, you voted for that guy twice. Funny, that. -Ed)

In a conference call with Department of Agriculture bureaucrats, scientists and his political staff, Ritz made some... colourful comments regarding the Listeria outbreak related to Maple Leaf Foods throughout August and September.

This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts," Ritz remarked (cue drum beat).

After hearing Listerosis had claimed a victim in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said. "Please tell me it's Wayne Easter."

Easter has called for Ritz's resignation over the Conservative handling of the outbreak -- despite the fact that Michael McCain, the CEO of Maple Leaf Foods has already exhonerated the government, noting that Maple Leaf staff is to blame for the outbreak.

Of course, there are no political points to be scored in allowing Maple Leaf Foods to take responsibility for the matter.

Easter had previously claimed that the Tories were conspiring against him. Which is an odd accusation, considering that Liberal leader Stephane Dion is blatantly conspiring with Green party leader Elizabeth May to dislodge Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay.

The "Ritz Crackers" affair is outrageous, but it brings to memory another outrageous episode in recent Canadian political history in which Jane Cornelius, the president of the St Catharines Liberal riding association distributed a joke about a hypothetical assassination of Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- by allied troops, no less.

Meanwhile Walt Lastewka, a Liberal candidate and former MP embroiled in the Cornelius affair by way of his dfense of Cornelius, showed considerable class recently by temporarily suspending his campaign in the wake of Tory opponent (and incumbent) Rick Dykstra's recent bereavement.

On another, distinctly un-classy, note much has been made about Harper's defense of Ritz, and for good reason. But then one also has to recall that Stephane Dion merely accepted Cornelius' apology in St Catharines and pursued no futher action.

In each case, apparently, a simple apology is supposed to make the whole matter go away. But it doesn't.

Canadians have the right to expect higher standards of those involved in politics. Just as Cornelius let down her former Liberals and the constituents of her riding, Gerry Ritz has let down his fellow Conservatives and, more importantly, the constituents of Battleford-Lloydminster.

If the individuals in question won't say so, their leaders should. In each case, the leaders in question will inevitably have to wear the indiscretions of their prematurely-excused colleagues.

There is no question that Gerry Ritz and Jane Cornelius are assholes.

Unfortunately, however, this is politics. There are plenty of assholes to go around.

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