Feeding Jean-Pierre Blackburn - Macleans.ca

Feeding Jean-Pierre Blackburn


The Toronto Star helpfully explains how to stage a government photo op meant to ease concerns about a potential health emergency.

After a herd of Alberta pigs was infected with the H1N1 flu virus last April, countries began closing their borders to Canadian hogs, threatening $3 billion in exports and 40,000 jobs. Ottawa’s response was to hold a barbecue on Parliament Hill with pulled pork on the menu, and hog farmers, foreign diplomats and lots of television cameras in the crowd.

But it was carefully crafted to ensure two Conservative ministers, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Minister of State for Agriculture Jean-Pierre Blackburn, were the stars of the show, according to 841 pages of internal emails obtained by the Toronto Star…

“I believe it’s important to have a visual where the ministers `eat’ pork. Not only flipping it on a barbeque,” suggested Sylvain Frenette, Blackburn’s political director. “So we have to ensure that what they will eat is visually appealing … . It has to be easy to eat. Small pieces already cut up and ready to eat. So that he’s not fighting with a piece of meat. So that he doesn’t get dirty, etc.”

Ritz’s staff had their own ideas about the best light in which to present him. “Please ensure that the minister has a spot in the serving line (complete with apron would be best) – this is the money shot,” Murdoch wrote.


Feeding Jean-Pierre Blackburn

  1. That took 841 pages of internal emails to distill down to this story? And there were 841 pages of internal emails for a "one-hour lunch on May 6 [that] was thrown together in two days"? Wow.

  2. Hmmm. Making a 'sexy' file and photo-op out of others' suffering.

  3. Back in the early 90s, when there were concerns about mad cow disease and the safety of British beef, the responsible minister arranged for almost precisely the same photo-op — except he shared some of that yummy and absolutely safe British beef with his young daughter. Worked like a charm. Got lots of press. Unfortunately, this charming image resurfaced and got a whole lot more press when it was later discovered that one could contract mad cow disease by eating beef, after all. Moral of the story: Swallow your own spin.

    • Yes, but swine flu is a much different disease, so named because it is a bug that has evolved to attack humans (whereas previously it only affected pigs). Mad cow is caused by a kind of protein, not a virus, and is "food-borne". You catch it by eating tainted beef (not from being around cows, and not from being around people with mad cow).

      I think the more likely side-effect of this photo op is that it will make for lots of ironic jokes about Tory ministers getting pork for their ridings.

      • For the record, I wasn't suggesting any kind of equivalence in the two situations. Jes' a funny little story, is all.

  4. "It has to be easy to eat. Small pieces already cut up and ready to eat. So that he's not fighting with a piece of meat. So that he doesn't get dirty, etc.”
    One must assume the Minister's political director knows his boss well enough to know what he needs from a photo op, and therefore *snicker*.

    • Sounds like a campaign strategy.

  5. Most Canadians will be shocked and awed to learn that the Harperites would be so crass as to stage an elaborate photo op to take advantage of a health scare.

  6. Your tax dollars at work, etc.; surely this…

  7. Contrary to what some Lib partisans are saying: this isn’t really negative on either Blackburn, the CPC or the staffers. It’s just amusing the peek behind the curtain and see the absurdity of the efforted expended on getting a photo of some minister no one’s heard of eating some kind of meat, perhaps pork. I think this is why Wherry posted it here.

    • You're not wrong. Attach any MP from any party's name to a post about how there is some worry about them being able eat without difficulty, and I will snicker.

  8. "Is"

  9. Pathetic: Photp-ops are a joke.

  10. So if my spelling.

  11. Well iof there's a problem with the country's spaghetti supply – what then?