2 min

A dearth of ministerial competence

Rewind to the summer months, when listeriosis was the word of the day, and twenty deaths across the country thanks to tainted meat saw the government committing to an “arm’s length” investigation four days before the election was called. Said investigation was to have a report delivered by March 15th.

Well, it’s now January and they have yet to even appoint a lead investigator. The union representing the food inspectors say that the promise of such a quick investigation was meant to be a ploy to get it off the table during an election. They also say that not a single penny has been allocated to make the necessary changes that were raised during the crisis, such as addressing the chronically short-staffed inspection system.

What should come as no surprise in all of this is a reflection of the level of competence being demonstrated by the minister in charge of this file, being Gerry Ritz of the bad moustache and infamous cold cuts jokes. And by level, one might say lack thereof. Ritz was supposed to see this investigation through, but he has apparently yet to be able to pick up the phone to call a retired food inspector to ask him or her take on the investigation. It shouldn’t be that difficult a task, and it shouldn’t take over three months to do. Unless, of course, he’s waiting for someone in the Privy Council Office to come over and hold his hand while he does it.

Remember the days of ministerial responsibility? And when we could actually count on some level of competence in a minister? Or when a minister might actually lobby the Finance Minister or Treasury Board president for the necessary funds to see that, say, food inspection doesn’t continue to be compromised in this country? Of course, this is a government of one, where nothing happens without the express permission of the PMO, and a government that doesn’t want to be in the business of actually governing, preferring to let industry handle things like food inspection on their own.

Of course, what is even more telling is the fact that Ritz was allowed to keep his job after the post-election cabinet shuffle, and largely because this is a Prime Minister who refuses to admit that he has made a mistake. Firing Ritz would be such an admission, and this continued lack of competence on his part is the inevitable result.