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Greetings, followers of the ITQ Listeriosis Report Roadshow! Did I mention that I haven’t had lunch yet? And that I am *wildly* craving a delicious turkey sandwich? Anyway, I’ve now taken up residence at the *third* venue of the day — really, it’s like Bluesfest with all the different stages: the Charles Lynch Press Theatre, otherwise known as 130-S, which is right downstairs from the legendary Hot Room. We’ve got ten minutes to go before Bob Kingston shows up, and expectations are high that he’ll have a little bit more to say than the preceding speakers; specifically, he’s unlikely to want to put the most positive possible spin on the report.
Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, the NDP’s health critic is taking calls as of, well, now, but is in Welland — hence, no live presser. I’m not sure what the Liberals are doing, if anything. Presumably they’ll put out a release, at least, at some point.
Oops. I forgot to add a MORE tag — again! Journalism without a net — so this post may now be taking over the entirety of Blog Central. Sorry about that, y’all. I’ll try to fix it if possible.
Yay! Thanks, Colleague Phil, for forwarding the correct bit of code.
And with that – let’s get started, since Bob Kingston is here.
The union is handing out releases with the headline “Food safety investigation falls short – Inspector shortage compromising food safety”, which should pretty much give you an idea of the angle that *he’ll* be taking.
Okay, he’s definitely not thrilled by the lack of followthrough from CFIA on providing Weatherill with the real number of inspectors on the job; he also concurs — and goes farther, even — as far as the communications logjam, and suggests that the food agency was muzzled for political reasons, since the daily press conferences stopped as soon as the writ was dropped.
Other than that, he agrees with most of the recommendations, although he finds it odd that the one for a third party audit is only now coming up.
Kingston hands the mic over to PSAC official Patty Ducharme, who emphasizes the need to reassure Canadians that our food is safe and secure, and she wants to know if the government is going to “make good” on the recommendations.
And — questions. First up, the guy from Western Producer, who notes that, when he asked about the number of inspectors on the floor earlier today, he was told it changes hour by hour. That’s not acceptable, as far as Kingston is confirmed — and his union has put out the numbers of inspectors in the field, and was off by only one per city. The union’s numbers “have been accurate since day one,” he says — but to be *that* far off — 3,000 vs. 1,100 — is just not explainable by the day-to-day changes.
“At some point, they’re going to have to be honest about where their shortfalls are,” he says. It’s interesting; even when he seems to be contradicting CFIA’s official position, he makes a point of blaming it on the fear of upsetting the minister.
He’d also like to see a comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of the current system, which, somewhat puzzingly, apparently hasn’t been done.
“I don’t think right now anyone at CFIA can tell you what difference it has made.”
More on the question of how many meat inspectors CFIA actually has, and the purported shortfall; Kingston acknowledges that he’s not sure how to address it, really, but what looks on paper like three plants per person is, in fact, four or five per inspector, and if you factor in temporary duties, it’s back up to seven or more. That, he reminds us, is based on CFIA’s own documentation.
Another reporter brings up Weatherill’s apparent inability to get a clear answer, and wonders if that signifies some sort of interference, and Kingston notes that they’ve been trying to figure that out since this morning’s press conference; it is “beyond his comprehension” that she wouldn’t have been able to get that information.
A non-listeriosis-related question, courtesy of CBC –she wonders if he’s been briefed of the situation involving two workers falling ill in Alberta, and Kingston notes that oddly enough, he hasn’t been briefed by CFIA on the issue, although he *has* spoken with others, and in this case, the workers involved didn’t have the proper training. Without “proper briefing”, he can’t really give specifics, but he suggests that they were actually feed inspectors. Why, then, does CFIA seem to be blaming the investigators? Kingston doesn’t completely agree with her interpretation of the comments from the agency, but agrees that they didn’t have the necessary training. Ultimately, it would be CFIA to blame.
Okay, this has turned into an impromptu one-on-one interview to forward this particular story.
And — that’s the end of that press conference, apparently, which means that ITQ can finally head off for a late lunch. Once I’ve had time to digest — literally and figuratively — I’ll be back with my thoughts on the report, but for now — enjoy your afternoon, and feel free to dig into whatever delicious processed meat you please.