And now, an important -- and likely relieved -- word from Gerry Ritz

Liveblogging the government's response to the Weatherill Report on listeriosis

Gerry RitzNow that we’ve all gotten our hands on the official report, it’s time for the obligatory ministerial response, which is why ITQ is off to the National Press Theatre for the determinedly non-comedic stylings of Gerry Ritz, who is still the minister responsible. I have to think that it’s probably preferable for most politicians and staffers when this sort of report comes out after you’ve been shuffled off to a new portfolio, but such is life, right? (Which reminds ITQ — when does the summertime cabinet shuffle speculation officially get underway?)

Anyway, check back at 1pm for full coverage — and if you missed the release of the report itself — and the ensuing press conference with Sheila Weatherill — don’t panic, because ITQ has you covered.

12:49:50 PM
Alright, I’m all settled into my usual seat — seriously, I always take the exact same one, not because there’s any particular advantage to it, because that’s what I do — and ready for the minister. Whee!

You know, one of the other oddities of liveblogging an event — or possibly of being ITQ; you be the judge — is that you occasionally find yourself fixating on some weird sub-sub-subplot that none of your other colleagues find nearly as fascinating. Which is why, at the moment, my conversations with other journalists in the NPT holding pen go something like this:

Reporter#1: INSPECTORS! Charges! Liability! Political interference!
ITQ: But *why* did they send the original slicer to Saskatchewan?

At which point mutual stares of noncomprehension ensue. It’s like when I was watching The Godfather series for the first time, and my then-boyfriend finally had to ban me from talking about a) how the role of the female characters in the overarching narrative was totally ignored, except when they were required to be blown up or found dead in order to push the plot forward and b) the many lovely Art Deco lamps that seemed to turn up in various apartments, regardless of how ostensibly impoverished the inhabitants were. Not that it stopped me, of course.

Anyway, the room is starting to fill up with most, but not all of the same reporters who covered the announcement this morning. I spotted the minister’s entourage heading into the Green Room a few minutes ago, which means we’ll probably get started soon.

1:02:28 PM
I was right — we just got the one minute warning. It’s showtime!

And here’s Gerry Ritz, who is looking dapper in a jaunty, vaguely nautical navy blue jacket. No tie, because it’s summer. Anyway, he’s going to give a statement, and then we’ll have a question or two — but no followups.

1:03:45 PM
First up, he’d like to thank Weatherill – an outstanding investigator, as per the minister – and once again extend his sympathies to the loved ones of those who died. This report, he says, is a “legacy to them”. Also, keeping Canadians safe is this government’s higest priority, although really, it tends to prefer measures to do so that involve getting tough on crime, not improving interdepartmental communications coordination, but there you go.

Wow, he’s really hustling through this statement. I can barely keep up, but apparently, when she was briefing him yesterday, she compared the government response to “an orchestra that hadn’t played together before”.

Also, they’re totally already improving stuff, including mandatory environmental reporting, more meat inspectors — more than the unknown number that were on the job — and more auditing. Yay! Audits! Lessons have been learned, and they have to work “collectively” to improve the system.

1:08:28 PM
Okay, so apparently, this is a turning point, and they’re all going to work together to make things even better. And safer. And more delicious! They will continue to focus on strengthening Canada’s food safety system.

1:09:08 PM
Questions – first up is — darn it, I can’t see. Anyway, she notes that the report found that the government’s response was too slow, a suggestion that Ritz doesn’t seem to accept, entirely — after all, she didn’t find any single factor — or government agency — responsible for the lag.

No followups, so onto the next journalist, who wonders why, if improvements have indeed been made, the owners of a herd of possibly swine flu-infected hogs haven’t been given any instructions on how to coordinate with government. Ritz’s answer is — basically, he repeats his main point: they’re making improvements. Progress is happening! 80% of the infrastructure funds are being implemented! Wait, forget the last one, was just mindwandering.

1:11:59 PM
A reporter for Western Producer asks the same thing that was asked of Weatherill: What legislative or regulatory changes will be made? Ritz doesn’t give any specific examples, but notes that it can be difficult to give a general answer when asked how many inspectors are on duty, for instance, since it changes day by day.

He’s very keen on the special audit that is currently being done, by the way. Brings it up in almost every response.

1:13:57 PM
“No one likes to be overregulated”, Ritz says, in response to a question from Canadian Press; that said, there are some recommendations that would lead to more regulations, so he’ll be moving forward with the industry.

1:14:44 PM
22 people died — why no accountability, wonders a reporter who isn’t Bob Fife this time. Ritz reminds her that there were many factors, mistakes were made — really, his responsibility is to move forward. Oh, and there won’t be any compensation for families of victims.

1:16:03 PM
Well, gosh. That’s it, apparently — for the minister, that is — but the union will be giving *its* response at 2pm, so I guess that’s where ITQ is headed now. See you there!

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