Canada: a failing state — the listeriosis inquiry -

Canada: a failing state — the listeriosis inquiry



a failing state — the listeriosis inquiry

Today we launch an occasional series whose thesis is that, while Steve and Guy play chess over at Langevin, Canada has no coherent government. Essentially we are arguing that Canada has become a more genteel Somalia.

We define “coherent” as the action of a government that (a) says stuff; and then (b) does stuff that resembles what it said. Note that, by this definition, a government that (a) promised less state action; and then (b) delivered less state action would qualify as coherent. So a coherent conservative government would (to belabour my point) absolutely qualify as a coherent government. What doesn’t qualify as a coherent government, for instance, is one that (a) releases a fiscal update on Thursday and then (b) abandons every part of it by Saturday. Or one that (a) calls for deficits in Winnipeg and Lima before (b) announcing in the fiscal update that there will be no deficits, but then (c) retracts the fiscal update but (d) still insists for a few days that there needn’t be a deficit before finally (e) announcing that there will probably be deficits and then (f) appoints a panel of economic advisors whose previous pro bono advice had been (g) previously ignored by the selfsame government but, who knows, maybe (h)….

Anyway. Today’s exhibit comes via Colleague ITQ who has read this CP story which points out that the government (a) promised, in September, an inquiry into the listeriosis outbreak that killed 20 people; (b) set a seven-month deadline, until March, for the inquiry to report; (c) actually, let’s pause to count. Early September to mid-March. One, two, three, four, five, six-ish months. Six and a half, not quite seven months. Got it? Great. Onwards: (d) has not, as of today, four months later and with two and a half months left before the deadline, appointed anyone to lead the inquiry.

Got it? Note that the government doesn’t need a functioning Parliament (because we don’t have one; see “failing state,” above) to appoint an inquiry. All it needs is a minister — say, noted phone prankster Gerry Ritz — with a Rolodex, an envelope and a postage stamp to invite some retired food inspector to pay his wisdom forward by heading up the inquiry. In fact, here I exaggerate for effect because Ritz doesn’t even need a stamp. As a member of Parliament, he could write to the RFI (retired food inspector) without postage.

So really, it’s not hard for this government to do what it promised it would do. Or rather, it would not be hard if the current government, the one run by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, could find its own ass with a map and a flashlight. (Note to the anonymous legions who are itching to get some action on the comment board below this post: If you don’t think an inquiry is necessary, your opinion doesn’t matter because the Government of Canada disagreed with you and announced that it would hold an inquiry. Now we will all see who’s not bright enough to factor that inconvenient detail into their comments. This will be fun.)

So. Let us review the options.

  • Coherent government: (a) announce an inquiry; (b) hold the inquiry.
  • Alternative, conservative coherent government: (a) explain why no inquiry is necessary; (b) do not hold an inquiry.
  • Incoherent government — failing-state government: (a) announce an inquiry; (b) attempt to ban public-sector strikes while appointing talk-show hosts to the Senate.

See the difference?


Canada: a failing state — the listeriosis inquiry

  1. Gratuitous Senate-appointment and Somalia commentary aside, you are right. They should not have promised an inquiry in the first place. My recollection is they did that because a bad joke made the headlines across a G7 country. They shouldn’t have, and they deserve scorn for the promise in the first place. I do not see how the inquiry would deliver any value, but that isn’t the point.

    Canada has become a more genteel Somalia. I’ll try my luck with the turkey roll in Cornwall, thanks. Let us know how the Mogadishu deli circuit goes, Paul.

    • Your recollection is inaccurate, MYL. Gerry Ritz’s bad joke made headlines 11 days after Harper announced the inquiry. You could look it up.

      • I could look it up, but I won’t, because I trust your accuracy on this detail. And I remain with you on the incoherence thing. I am not sure what you think of the wisdom of the inquiry idea, but that doesn’t change the deserved hypocrisy charge.

        The government COULD now announce that Maple Leaf has satisfactorily resolved the issue far better than any government department could have, and change their mind about the inquiry call, and then there could be a public digestion and discussion of this reversal. But I doubt they will.

        • myl, I suspect , or at least hope, the public inquiry is related to the 20 or so deaths in the incident rather than to any or all stupid jokes.

          Of course, I would support an inquiry into stupid jokes too. The potential witness list would include a number of commentators on these blogs. I would recommend Mr. Wells as Commissioner. At $1/yr.

          Also, I really think that your suggestion that the corporate entity where the problem arose should be applauded for following a well designed PR campaign post-incident is a bit of a bad joke too.

          • Sis, haven’t you heard? Journalists are never allowed to change jobs and join the public service. That, apparently, would be, what’s the word, despicable. So Commissioner Wells is, alas, a nonstarter.

            I misremembered that Harper’s team overcompensated for the Ritz-reaction nonsense by promising an inquiry. Paul has promptly corrected me. The inquiry was promised as a knee-jerk PR exercise to the outbreak itself, not the joke.

            As to your last point, sorry, I cannot hold any sway on your own personal sense of humor. All I know is that I am confident that Maple Leaf meat won’t kill me, because their own self-interest will see to that given last year’s events. I am not applauding the PR. I am applauding the entire response as I have witnessed it. Reduce that to evil corporate PR all you like, but please pass the bacon.

      • myl – not to cause a panic but i wouldn’t be too complacent. I helped clean up in a flour mill many years go and i just hope standards have improved. Different product, different circumstances, but the crew i worked with was a sorry bunch. All i’m saying is i hope they didn’t take the lowest bidder on the contract. Still i suppose the inspectors were much in evidence, this time.

  2. I thought PW promised this kind of outrageous ad hominem attack would not be happening this yr. Oh. I get it he was funning. Or alternately is he making a case for SH morphing into P. Martin, coherency- wise?

    • kc seems to be referring to this, from two days ago. I see no conflict whatever between today’s post and Friday’s:

      “The press gallery will refrain from breathlessly chronicling any squeaker vote in the Commons unless we have first explained what the vote is about. What the bill or motion would change in the lives of Canadians if it passed or failed. Nobody will call the budget “boring” if it fails to become a confidence cliffhanger, because we understand that there is no boring way to spend $200 billion and that in any case, our job is not to judge the government’s ability to excite, but the effects of its actions.”

      • Was my attempt at irony so clumsy? Or did i confuse it with heavy handed sarcasm. I see no conflict either. I did get it PW i did.

        • OK, it’s no fair using my techniques against me. Or with me. I’m so confused…

          Incidentally, I don’t think it’s quite accurate to compare Harper to Martin. Lately I’ve come to think of Harper as Angry Joe Clark. After a strong start and real reforms, debatable in content but implemented without difficulty in 2006 from a weaker minority position than he commands today, Harper no longer has any clear idea why he wants to be PM. (To be fair, I’m certain he does know why he wants to be PM. He simply won’t express it and can’t implement it.) So he is, perhaps only temporarily but certainly since the election, as ineffectual as a force for change as Joe Clark was. But he’s angrier. Hence, Angry Joe Clark.

          • Oh, I must protest! I take deep offense at your using Joe Clark and Stephen Harper in the same sentence, never mind suggesting the one is similar to the other.

            See, Joe Clark is a man who saw changes that were RIGHT for the country. He was unable to implement them. Stephen Harper on the other hand, is clever enough to know changes must be implemented slowly, over time. But his vision is full of the WRONG changes. Then you add in Joe Clark’s integrity vs. Stephen Harper’s power-mad partisanship and you see the two can only be contrasted.

            It’s that word Progressive in front of Conservative that makes all the difference, I fear.

          • Angry Joe Clark. Now you’re scaring me. Actually i liked Joe and thought him quite effective as a foil to Trudeau, evidently trudeau thought so too. Harper is clearly missing Dion, which is at least partly your fault. Not saying it’s yr responsibility to complete him though. He’ll make out.

          • Apart from the Joe Clark comparison, I think there is some truth to this, to the fact that he cannot implement what he would like. Which will make for some interesting events.

  3. Is Harper and Co. dithering again? For shame.

  4. Incoherent government — failing-state government: (a) announce an inquiry; (b) attempt to ban public-sector strikes while appointing talk-show hosts to the Senate.

    This is the inevitable result of electing someone who believes government’s role is not to govern as the leader of the government.

    Good luck on this series. I suggest, given Monte Solberg’s recent public attack on EI, that you begin by looking into any mess he made while in charge of it.

  5. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Here we go again”! The dawn of a new year (Jan 4) and MacLeans is once again on the attack. Surely there must be some newsworthy stories to write about! Is the glass always half empty?

    • You cannot be serious.

      • I’m surprised you’re surprised, Paul. You’ve seen and read enough of these threads on here to know any slight criticism of their dear leader is just further evidence to them of the vast liberal conspiracy in the media to take down their hero.

    • When Reagan said ‘here we go again’, what he actually meant was: it’s time to move on to my next thought.

      • What Reagan said in the TV debate with Jimmy Carter was “There you go again.” It was a cheap rhetorical trick to imply that the point Carter was making had already been dealt with, thus avoiding dealing with the substance of the point. Reagan could get away with these things, with his folksy style. Harper could only get away with a similar gambit with the rabid supporters who applaud his every move, no matter what.

  6. I admit I chuckled at the “more genteel Somalia” line. Not only does it work as comic hyperbole, it also is infused with different levels of irony.

    For instance, leaving aside the question of government “coherence”, there is the irony of a “failed state” like Canada working itself into a lather over the deaths of 20 elderly and infirm citizens from food-borne bacteria. Meanwhile, if only 100 Somalis were to die today because of food -borne bacteria, it would be considered a major victory for public health by whatever passes for government over there.

    In Somalia, AIDS, piracy, rape, and tribal warfare get most of the media attention, but preventable deaths from bacterial infections kill Somalis on such a massive scale that individual deaths are hardly newsworthy, even if they had media capable of reporting it.

    Man, Somalia is such a downer.

  7. Anyone know offhand the last time Parliament sat for less than 94 days in a one-year stretch?

    • I’d be surprised if it had ever happened before. The Stuarts sometimes went for several years without Parliament sitting, of course.

      It occurred to me the other day that there are now babies being born who were conceived after the May dissolution. It would be interesting to keep track of them and see if there are any long-term effects, on mothers or offspring or both, in the case of pregnancies completed without a sitting Parliament.

      • Er, that should be 2000, not 200. :P

      • Ah, interesting, and surprising. I can’t say it showed up on my radar screen at the time. I wonder, though, if this May-to-January thing is the longest continuous absence (if you don’t count the SFT and the FUFU).

  8. I think a bit of clarification may be required here. Both ITQ and Inkless use the more substantive “inquiry” in their blog headlines, while the CP reports:

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the “arm’s-length” investigation last September, four days before forcing an early federal election. But he stopped short of calling a full judicial inquiry as the tainted cold-cuts death toll climbed.

    The outbreak came as the government was preparing to hand the industry more responsibility for meat inspection.

    Harper promised “an arm’s-length investigation to make sure we get to the bottom, on the government side, on the bureaucratic side, of exactly what transpired and to make sure as we go forward and we make changes to our system that this kind of thing can’t happen again.”

    An independent report was to be finished by March 15.

    There is a difference,I believe, in “hill talk”. David Johnson undertook an “investigation” into Airbus, and recommended a public “inquiry”. There is a difference.

    Inkless and ITQ: Care to correct my interpretation, or alternatively if I am wrong, your blog titles?

    • Well, according to the PM, it was/is to be an “independent investigation”. I’m not sure if there is a substantial difference between an inquiry and an investigation, since not all inquiries are public, and there is no indication that this one will be, although presumably the report will eventually be released.

      • So, call it an “independent investigation” and not an inquiry then. The CP made an effort to note the difference in their piece. “Inquiry” has legal implications, as I’m sure you know, in terms of the powers if under Inquiry Act or whatever it may be called on the Fed level..

        It appears from the references provided so far that this term originates from ITQ.

        • Actually, when I came up with the subject line, I was also thinking of previous instances of this particular strategy being deployed as well – specifically, the Oliphant Inquiry into the Mulroney/Schreiber affair, which also took longer than expected to find a lead commissioner. I have edited it to make that clear.

          • Well, the particular focus on the listeriosis issue during the election campaign by Aaron Wherry in particular was noted.

            It’s easy for anyone to claim a given reporter’s bias. It’s more difficult to prove.

            I put this example in the latter category. Same could be said for the silent Tom Hanks.

      • Independent investigation? Like the one into the NAFTA issue during the U.S. primaries that got Obama riled up? The one where no one was found to be at fault? And the listeriosis one is supposed to be *arms length*? Don’t make me laugh. Harper has lost all crdibility – for a long time now.

        Definitely a failed state, incoherent govt. 20 people die, many became sick & Harper just sits on it doing nothing as he knows his govt. is, at least, partially responsible for this mess. Perhaps his plan is to cause the demise of many Canadians as possible.

  9. …or alternatively if I am [correct]…


  10. Now Paul— OK so you`re pissed because Harper chose Duffy and Wallin over you but that`s no reason to move to Somalia—–Please don`t go Paul.

  11. Why am I reminded of that joke that characterizes world economic systems through cows?

    CAPITALISM (i.e. coherent alternative #1)
    You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

    PURE SOCIALISM (i.e. coherent alternative #2)
    You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

    SURREALISM (i.e. present situation)
    You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons

    • Tax credits for harmonica lessons, surely?

  12. We define “coherent” as the action of a government that (a) says stuff; and then (b) does stuff that resembles what it said.

    Kinda harsh, don’t you think? Remember the old saying: what’s said during an election campaign stays in the election campaign.

    • NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! It doesn’t have to be exactly what was said, it just has to not be a harmonica lesson. When we admit to this, we loose the battle for all responsible governments and exonerate them for promise breaking forever.

  13. Failed state, or a so-called government in a perpetual election campaign?

    If Harper wants to run the country as his personal election campaign where he can and does say just anything to buy a vote, shouldn’t he and the CPC pay for it?

    • No. We as taxpaying citizens will subsidize his continuous election campaign…10%’ers, in-out laundering, Stephen Harpers Fireside Chats a la Tommy Shanks will be nationally broad-cast every month etc etc

      Doesn’t seem too Conservative does it? Seems kind of incoherent actually.

  14. Of course the root cause of a failed state and incoherent government, is an incompetent electorate. We have only ourselves to blame…

    Not me, of course.

  15. I sympathize with the frustration expressed here, I really do. But do we need all this “failed state” rhetoric? This may come as a shock (avert your eyes, children) but sometimes governments don’t do everything they say they will do. And sometimes they even lie. All together now: 1, 2, 3, gasp! Actually, this type of thing has been happening for a while, even outside East Africa. Sad but true.

    So, I’m not sure the point of declaring Canada a “more genteel Somalia” is. In any case, if I were to venture an opinion, I think it goes beyond mere run of the mill “exaggeration for effect”, and goes a bit towards “exaggeration resulting from perspective lost”. It sounds vaguely Naomi Kleinish.

    • Actually I was trying for a kind of a Mark Steyn thing, albeit to make a point Mark would not like or agree with. But of course I take your point. To be clear: I do not actually think Canada is much like Somalia. In Somalia, for instance, you can buy private health care without going to jail. There! That’s the effect I was trying for!

      • That’s the effect I was trying for!

        The attempt was abundantly successful this time around, as it left no room for me to get all self-righteous and preachy. You win this round, Paul.

      • That is about as good as it’s going to get. Thanks for that.

    • “Vaguely Naomi Kleinish” That’s so good I’m stealing it for the project I’m working on, provisionally titled “If I Can’t Have a Career, Why Should They?” It’ll be the voice of *your* generation.

      • Do I get any royalties?

        • Of course not. I’m a capitalist.

          • I respect your selfishness. Makes the system work, don’t you know. Now, if only those bankers down on wall street would have considered their own personal financial well being a bit more we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    • But surely these guys have taken self-righteousness to a new level. You can hardly satirise them let alone exaggerate.

  16. Today we launch an occasional series whose thesis is that, while Steve and Guy play chess over at Langevin, Canada has no coherent government.

    The Belgian model we were promised!

  17. “Note that the government doesn’t need a functioning Parliament (because we don’t have one; see “failing state,” above) to appoint an inquiry.”

    I’m thinking that any kind of investigation or inquiry that a Minister would call under, say, the auspices of the Inquiries Act (either Part I – Public Inquiries, or Part II – Departmental Investigations), probably requires a budget, and hence a sitting Parliament to pass the Supplementary Estimates. I’m not sure if you can call another kind, but stand to be proven wrong.

    Which doesn’t undermine your basic point that having a functioning Parliament (or a government that enjoyed the confidence of the House of Commons) would be a good thing to have, for things such as these.

    For another example, it would mean that you wouldn’t need to have a Throne Speech before recalling Parliament to legislate the Ottawa transit workers back to work and send their scheduling issue with OC Transpo to binding arbitration (sorry if this last one is off-point).

  18. Would someone like to offer their thoughts on what should happen to a government that fails to deliver a promised investigation into the deaths of twenty people who expected to be protected by a government/industry safety inspection system?

    Now that the victims/families have received a settlement from Maple Leaf, perhaps we can avoid the the “ambulance chasing lawyers” red herrings and move directly to a discussion about Mr. Ritz’s department’s conduct before, during and since the event, the company, the state of the industry and what, if any, consequences Mr. Harper’s government might have faced if Parliament had been in session for more than 13 days during the past 6 months?

  19. Disproportionate

    It’s become a well used word of late.

    How’s this, Mr. Wells:

    Regardless as to whether Harper promised something and hasn’t yet delivered,

    we all know politicians do not keep all promises, or at the very least do not deliver in the time which some (particularily ideological opponents) think it shoud be done. What I’m very certain of,

    is that the over-the-top rhetoric which you employ, regarding something which appears neither pressing nor urgent (the reality is, the outbreak happened a single time after decades of operation and likely will never happen again on this scale),

    is reserved for ideological opponents who’s anti-Harper dial is constantly set to 11 (of the Spinal Tap variety).

    Like the CARTOON BIRD!!!!!, or the

    ONE LINE JOKE AT A MEETING!!!!!!!!!!!!!,

    the only ones clamouring for such hearings (at a time when the government is rightly focused on the looming economic issues – which the media would never forgive Harper for taking his eye off of….and in fact has already accused him of that, in spades),

    are those who desperately search to find fault, and then to overdramatize and highlight such fault to such proportions that the mainstream public is once again left scratching their heads.

    While I assume you truly believe that Canada is now akin to the lawless Somolia, the vast, vast majority of the population do not.

    Likewise, the vast, vast majority of the population are not as emotionally invested in attacking the Harper government and think their government is fairing pretty well in these tough times. No it is not perfect, but no, we’re not like an African state facing anarchy.

    You may be aware by now, that I view the Harper government as being far from perfect.

    But Harper’s hyper overreactive over the top opponents leave little room for discourse other than,

    not to defend per se,

    but to defend against the outlandishness.

    And sir,

    the anti-Harper left, including the left leaning media, has become simply outlandish.

    We call it: Harper Derangement Syndrome

    • Derangement is the key word.

      • Recreating on his pain medication are the key words.

        • Kody the lone’ interloper’
          I wonder if here goes into a hyperbaric […bartic?] chamber to compose his ditties.

          • You mean hyperbolic chamber.

    • If kody represents the current state of the CPC’s communications strategy I take back everything I’ve ever said about Iggy. He will have a cakewalk to 24 Sussex.

    • Since we’re going with a This Is Spinal Tap reference, I just thought I’d point out that the actor who portrayed Nigel Tufnel is currently known as Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest, and has been an active crusader for reforming the House of Lords (ie, Senate).

      Irony pops up in the most delightful places.

  20. Lowering the nation’s expectations, one broken promise at a time.
    Then knee the crippled, diseased and weak in the crotch, or provide them with a tax credit for harmonica lessons.
    Somalia? Sounds like Putin’s dreamland…

  21. The Canada Food Inspection Agency has been working with MapleLeaf every step of the way. The announcement by Stephen Harper of an independent investigation is to assure the government and food processing companies that the actions they are taking will protect their investments in change. So I see this delay of Harpers as letting down EVERY SINGLE LEVEL OF SOCIETY. MapleLeaf’s CEO needs the report. The CFA needs it. Employees of food processing plants need it. Canadians who buy food need it. Who is left out of Stephen Harper’s neglect and failure to run a government? Everyone.

  22. I don’t suppose any old “Retired Food Inspector” would be appointed. You have to show respect for people. Paint the picture that this independent inquiry is just a formality by saying any old retired joe will do to lead it, well I’m not missing the tongue in cheek, what I’m moaning about is that measure of respect in writing that gives license for slapstick. I think MapleLeaf wants some expert opinions from this investigation so they don’t screw up again and so does CFA. Maybe the government is having difficulty finding a qualified person. The sad part, I think Harper’s government is full of people who don’t have the proper respect for what people do and the importance of work. He defined a job to do. It is something important, valuable work. Then his government doesn’t follow through. It is incoherent. His government pretends they can define the ‘meritocracy’. Well first you have respect for work.

  23. Shorter Wells:

    The Harper Government is like a box of chocolates.

    As long as you don’t change your avatar again it’ll work…

    • The Harper Government is like a box of chocolate’s in that it’s dark, there are very few “good ones” and it’s filled with nuts.

    • The Harper Government is like a box of chocolates. White chocolates with hard centres. A few foil covered mysteries.

  24. To answer Kady, there is a very clear difference between investigations and inquiries, and the former is weaker than the latter. An investigator has no legal powers, but a commissioner of inquiry does under the INQUIRIES ACT, and those powers are very important indeed. For example, if a government stonewalls an investigator there is no follow-through, but if they try and stonewall a commissioner of inquiry, that person can respond by issuing a subpoena for documents or for witnesses to testify. Failure to obey a subpoena is punishable in the same way as contempt of court; people can go to jail for it. In the listeria context, exactly this point was made by the editors of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and it was their argument that since past disease outbreaks benefitted from INQUIRIES rather than investigations, the same should be true this time (see

  25. Paul

    Fair comment on the mess this Harper interregnum has turned out to be.
    And fair comment on the trolls that do not add to debate but endlessly regurgitate stale talking points.
    I figured out how to read the comments sections in these blogs without wasting too much time:
    Develop a “list” of dead-brainers and never read what they say.

    Top of the list: Kody

  26. Is Kody using a typewriter to enter his thoughts here?

    And if so, how?

  27. I always thought that the purpose of an “inquiry”. “commission” or whatever was to pretend to do something while simply playing for time. The consensus around the listeriosis outbreak was that it was not the fault of bad procedures or poor or lax inspection, but that there were gaps in the cleaning methods used by Maple Leafs that have been corrected. This is much like the problems experienced in the prepared salad business as well.

    Anyway, since there is now no pressing reason to have an inquiry (except to quiet public nervousness or quite the media), then not having one is not a bad idea.

    Of course, they could announce that they are not going to have an inquiry, but that would just get everyone excited again, so better to let it quietly go away on its own.

    Except now you have made a story out of this, accusing them of being “incoherent”.

    I don’t see the problem in what they have done (or not done). This seems all a bit over-heated.

    • Tell that to the 20 families who lost loved-ones

      • Phebus – not sure how my thinking that PW’s reaction is a bit over-heated is somehow, what, insensitive to the victims of the Listeriosis outbreak?

        • “Anyway, since there is now no pressing reason to have an inquiry (except to quiet public nervousness or quite the media), then not having one is not a bad idea.”

          Do you not believe that the families of those who died deserve to know the truth?

          • The truth is the company failed to clean the machines adequately.

          • and that the government inspectors were not present to rectify that due to the changes required by the conservative government in the processes of the CFIA

  28. Come on folks, this is Stephen Harper, he won’t name the Lead Investigator until the actual findings have been written for them: a need for less government intervention and more self-regualtion by industry.

  29. This is definitely a job for Peter Kent. Remember, you heard it hear first.

  30. I think what they’re afraid of is a Walkerton effect, when they open the can of worms and discover actual worms. Something about making sausage, but would that analogy be unmaking of sausage? Wormy sausage would even be apt, and then I could extend this to compare passing legislation as making sausage and doubling back to mention tainted legislation but that’s a real stretch and this is only Monday.

    Anyway, here I go again. I had another thought that included in this enquiry, or investigation, or maybe investiquiry, that since we’ll be spending the money anyway, might as well look into how many of the victims of this outbreak were on Losec or other stomach acid suppressing medications. Reducing stomach acid increases the likelihood of bacteria surviving to make you sick, and many people are on Losec or Prevasid or even Zantac I suppose. Because there had to be many people who ate the meats who didn’t get sick. Fascinating stuff here relates to the protective effects of being infected with the ulcer bug, H. Pylori, and how in the future we may actually infect infants with the bug precisely because it protects against diseases such as listeria. Another lucrative research grant if somebody wants to write up the application papers, I’m sure.

    And here I go again. I suspect an enquiry might wind up concluding that what we need in all these plants is to irradiate meat. Kill everything and eliminate the nasty problem of what to do with nuclear waste in a single fell swoop.

    I know most of that’s off topic, but it’s been bugging me.

  31. So, a journalist not being curious and following up on an incident that killed 20 people isn’t newsworthy?

    Oh, right – Harper at hockey game photo-ops is truly important stuff.

    I saw an American economist say that Conservatism is socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor – hmmm…..I think he’s right.

  32. If it makes you feel any better, ALL states fail sooner or later. They fail because they are built on the paradoxical idea that voluntary and peaceful interchanges between free people have only limited usefulness, and that conflicts between them can only be solved by some kind of (mythical) benevolent, disinterested and authoritarian third party. The fact that the powers delegated to this third party are (a) taken involuntarily (within their claimed geographical boundaries), and (b) absolute, naturally leads to abuse of privilege, the corrosion of society, and eventual collapse.

    Regarding the promised inquiry, were you seriously hoping that a lengthy and expensive federal confabulation of politicians and lawyers, followed by the generation of even thicker books of federal food laws and an even vaster and more powerful bureaucracy, would actually lead to the more conscientious cleaning of baloney machines in meat packing plants? I suppose it might, but at what cost? The state will not determine the cost versus benefit because state actors are selfish individuals (the same as non-state actors) and they will always tend to push down the path which leads to their own benefit. Having no competition within their jurisdiction (all political parties being first and foremost dedicated to the preservation and expansion of the state and therefore not ideological competitors), this path is a very wide one.

    • In other words, vote Harper and Jesus will save you.

      • I thought it was the other way around.

        • Save Harper and Jesus will vote for you? Catchy.

    • No, we were just seriously wondering why no investigation has begun when the government said there’d be one. I will fully admit, as a regular ole distracted member of the public I’d forgot Harper even promised one and only once Kady O’M brought it up did I think “oh yeah, whatever happened with that?” Did Kady ask this question on her blog because it was the end of a 2 week holiday (with a suspended Parliment no less) and the news flow was slow? Possibly, but I don’t care. It’s still a legit question to ask.

      Also, arguing whether you believe that all societies will eventually fail at some point (or evolve or devolve or whatever) ignores the fact that us mere mortals are now curious to know what’s happening regarding this file at present.

      • Societies don’t fail. States fail. It’s what they do.

        • Our state has lasted for nearly a thousand years, Al, and 319 years with its current constitution. Long enough for ya?

          • That’s stretching it. Your state goes only as far back as 1867. The English/British state has failed several times in coups, civil wars and one interregnum.

            But you have a point – some states fail more slowly than others. These are the states which Bastiat named when he listed the places where people’s freedoms are not “ruined and exterminated” – Switzerland, Holland, England, and the United States. Iceland is another example, although it may be close to being ruined through the magic of central banking. At the rate that their central banks are going, I wouldn’t give much for the future chances of USA or Britain either. Canada too seems determined to bankrupt itself in the name of political expediency.

            The key thing is that the states which do the least, last the longest. When a state starts doing everything (i.e. controlling, taxing, regulating, subsidizing, owning and educating everything in sight), the end is near.

          • Not stretching it at all, there was a seamless transition from British rule to home rule in 1867, and our constitution (though it has since evolved separately) is essentially what it’s been since the Glorious Revolution. And well before that, in name.

            You really have no idea what you’re talking about, so I’ll spare you the history lesson you never had.

          • Hé Jacques! “Our state” was Nouvelle-France until some French-speaking redcoats managed to trick and overpower our sentries at Anse-au-Foulon, offering General Montcalm a most unpleasant bon-matin from Abraham’s farm. Late dix-huitième siècle. A thousand years, mon oeil…

  33. Somalia? Good Lord. Christmas vacation was evidently not quite long enough. Take a few more days. Get some sleep.

    • Seriously. We’re more like Morocco, or Belorus on a good day. Wells is just trying to boost our profile, since Somailia = pirates = box-office bonanza. Well, that $hit won’t fly here, Wells.

  34. Am I the only one who thought “genteel Somalia” was brilliant satire?

    Mr. Wells, your efforts are wasted on us.

    • Like any good performer Wells gives `em what they wants. He knows most of the folks here get all lathered up even if you give them a not so subtle and outrageous comparison to a small African country.
      Now, the anti-Harper group may think we have some ” brilliant satire ” but it`s just Wells pulling those strings to keep those puppets dancing.

      • You preferred Belgium?

      • Parlez-vous anglais?

  35. Mr. Wells,

    If I don’t think that we need an inquiry and also don’t think that we need a government, do I get any points?

    • The prize is a first-class ticket to Somalia! You’ll love it!

      • Not if it’s Air Canada I won’t!

  36. Normally you don’t see “failed state” and “listeriosis”in the same sentence.

    Usually it’s “failed state” and “cholera”. Or typhoid. Or bubonic plague.

  37. Are any of the products exported?

  38. I do not see that the Listeria enquiry is a significant issue. Ultimately an investigation will likely just confirm what we already know. Noone has been more keen to determine the cause of this than Maple Leaf and they appear to have identified a cause. So — big deal. An investigation will happen at some point but is not ripe political fodder (except of Union types who think they may get an opportunity to lobby for more members and some in the Opposition.) So, if this is an issue — then what about the 400+ deaths from C. Difficile in Ontario? (something much more likely to be repeated!) Too bad, no interest in this . . . therefore, no enquiry.

    • “So, if this is an issue — then what about the 400+ deaths from C. Difficile in Ontario? (something much more likely to be repeated!)”


      we all know the reason for that,

      which is the same reason the progressive hornets, swarm me to protect the nest.

      A single outbreak of a food born illness, by a signle company (for the first time in the hostory of that company no less), no more justifies allegations of governmental scandal as does a single bus accident on a highway.

      People die. In sporadic cases they die in clusters (like the bus accident, or the isolated, single outbreak, most likely due to a single contaminated container). It is when busses start going off the road at the same location in unusual numbers, or when outbreaks start becoming some norm or pattern, rather than a single unusual event, do Canadians start to wonder if something “more” is involved. Otherwise, we Canadians accept that accidents happen, mistakes are made (and if due to negligence consequences can be determined in the courts).

      Most rational Canadians don’t view this as a scandal, any more than the number of other attempts to generate scandal by the now unhinged media.

      Paul’s post suggesting the fabric of our country has become undone is like sweet nectar to the partisan leftists that swarm and protect this hive.

      But it also a sad commentary on today’s out-of-touch “gotcha” leftist, elitist media, which cannot see a foot beyond its own partisan inclinations, which inclinations are like a lead barrier between the media and every day Canadians who have real every day needs.

      • There is something seriously wrong with you, Kody.

        • It was 3am… Perhaps he was having a bad night.

          • Kody’s at his very best after midnight.

      • Nice play at distracting Kody.
        Except the issue isn’t just that Maple Leaf Foods killed 20 people. The issue is that the reason they did so can be traced almost directly back to the new processes for food inspection that the Conservatives required be put in place through their general cost cutting measures.

        Had the old processes remained in place, the odds are extremely high that those 20 deaths would not have happened at all, as the contaminated food/machinery would have been identified and changed *before* the meat went out and public health officials had to start tracking it back.

        Incidentally, does anybody know if Maple Leaf Foods is going to repay the taxpayer for the public health expenses they engendered?

      • There is also supposed to be a regime of inspections to prevent this from happening at even one company, because in the free market, sometimes companies (who have no interest in killing their customers) fail.

        The government of New Brunswick instituted new regulations for the use of large passenger vans by schools, and that was after only 1 isolated accident Kody.


        And by the way, labelling all those who exercise their right to ask questions of their government as elitist partisans is far more illustrative of you as a partisan post-er than of those you hysterically attack.

    • Linda

      Great post, but C. Difficile falls under the ontario liberal government, so it is alright.

  39. Linda and Kody:

    Excellent analysis—your thoughts reflect those of the sensible citizen—never believe that the rantings of most of the media and those on this site represent the opinions of the rational Canadian.
    By the way, don`t give up on Paul Wells—he`s mischievous–he writes something outrageous and then sits back and observes the feeding frenzy.

    • well that makes 3 rational Canadians.

    • I’m sorry, but my friends who are sensible citizens demand a retraction.

      Leaving content aside, since that’s what kody does, none of my more sober and sensible associates use random commas, hit the enter key at random moments, or generally affect a random haiku-ish approach to their ramblings.


      • Brad (he who leaves content aside)

        I am sorry you feel fit to make fun of my Japanese heritage.
        I am sorry you suffer from Lib. Learning Disability (unable to absorb critical reasoning)
        I am sorry there are no public inquiries for Kady to hang out at.
        I am sorry about your friends.

        Please don`t apologize.

        • That’s a lot of sorrow, William.

  40. I think the above point about investigation vs inquiry above is a valid one. I also think that sometimes as circumstances unfold, we need to change tracks, and given that what the company has brought forward, and the fact that settlements have already been made, I fail to see what good a full public inquiry would do.

    I also believe, even with all his warts and shortcomings, Stephen Harper is better that the alternative choices we have to lead this country,

    • Don’t you think that if the government has changed their mind about having an investigation they should at least announce it? Otherwise, it just looks like it “slipped their mind”, which really shouldn’t happen in an institution like the Government of Canada.

  41. “I fail to see what good a full public inquiry would do. ”

    ya, if you equate “good” with the interests of the CPC.

    Order-in-council changes (ie the whim of the PMO) to the inspection process in March/April 2008 preceded this crisis. Many of us would like to know a little more about that, Mr. Albertan.

    Warts indeed!

  42. Hi Paul,

    I’m told Ally McBeal is a shoe in for attorney general.

  43. No you got it all wrong because you are with the press (part of the evil doer group). The commission is secret and you are not entitle to know anything about it. Welcome to government by The Steve Party. Having fun yet?

  44. And this is different from the past 20 years how?

  45. These inquiries are only interesting to intelectual elties who live in ivory towers and to artsy types who spend their days and nights attending fru-fru galas.

    Us Joe Six Packs and hockey moms couldn’t care less if this inquiry happens or not. Stephen Harper is doing the right thing by focusing his efforts on ensuring the survival of his government.

    • hmmmm, if you’re being tongue in cheek, good job, I can’t tell !

      If you’re serious, all I can say is…. “and who gives a damn about the survival of individual citizens…”