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Why is the Ag committee always the last to know?


 

So apparently, the Globe and Mail has managed to “obtain” a copy of the now-infamous at-this-point-can-it-really-still-be-called-secret list of proposals for cutbacks at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. That would be the same document, of course, that the Agriculture committee – or the opposition members thereof, at least demanded from the government at the onset of those two days of emergency hearings earlier this week.

(The transcripts aren’t yet available, but for background, check out the ITQ coverage from Monday night, when a half-hour organizational meeting turned into a three hour hearing, complete with a full slate of government-solicited witnesses from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the following morning, when the union showed up to give its distinctly different version of events.)

Unfortunately, what the opposition members didn’t remember to do was include a deadline in the motion – to produce the report within, say, 24 hours. Instead, it was left open-ended, which is why Conservative chair James Bezan was able to give such an uncanny impression of Sir Humphrey the following morning when asked for an update on the request. He was sure, he told told the committee, that the minister would get to it . . . eventually. Someday.

As a result, opposition members were put in the surreal position of questioning witnesses on the potential impact of proposals that none of them had actually seen, as put forward in a document that they hadn’t been allowed to read.  Meanwhile, Conservative MPs were more interested in condemning the now-fired scientist who initially sent the report to his union, as well as the union itself, Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter and the Green Shift — not necessarily in that order.

That was three days ago. Since then, one of the country’s largest meat processors – Maple Leaf Foods – has been forced to launch a massive recall, after an outbreak of listeria that has been blamed for at least one death so far. According to at least one expert, is just a preview of the nightmare scenario that could result if food inspection is left to the industry.

It has now been nearly 72 hours since the committee asked for a copy of the report. Anyone want to guess how much closer they are to getting their collective hands on it?

UPDATE: To his credit, the NDP’s Paul Dewar did try to rectify the situation after the fact with a motion that would compel the governemnt to produce the document within 24 hours. Unfortunately, he still had to give notice, which means that it won’t be voted on until the next scheduled meeting, which might not happen until the House gets back next month.


 

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