It's the biggest contaminated meat scandal in Canadian history.
The Harper government has been going around in circles ever since September 4 when the bacterium E. coli was discovered by U.S. inspectors in a shipment of Canadian beef destined for American consumers.
Fortunately, beef for the U.S. market has never made the shelves of U.S. stores, but it was enough for the Americans to declare the Canadian meat "Hamburger non grata!'
The company, XL Foods Brooks, Alberta, waited two days to provide information to Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors.
A recall of all XL Foods beef across Canada was finally issued September 16. That was 12 days after they discovered the problem, a completely unacceptable wait for Canadians who continued to eat contaminated meat, most of it ground beef.
By this time 1500 packets of contaminated beef had been distributed across Canada. People were coming down with e. coli bacteria. Luckily no one had died as of last night.
The Federal Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, spent much of the time hiding somewhere in Canada since September 4 while Stephen Harper answered for him in the House of Commons.
Our Minister of Agriculture was as invisible as the inspectors were hunting down the bacteria.
When he finally turned up, Ritz tried to turn it into a joke. He said he had eaten Canadian beef at noon and it was fine, so what was the fuss all about.
Ritz is a real cracker. The last time there was a lysteria outbreak and people were dying under his watch - it was sliced meat that time - he cracked that it was ‘death by a thousand cuts.'
Harper made him apologize to the families of the people who had died.
Out of hiding this week, Ritz visited the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Wednesday morning.
At a press conference yesterday, the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began to explain a possible reason for the delayed response time at XL Foods, but a spokesperson for Ritz abruptly interrupted the press conference preventing the public from knowing what had happened.
A revized spin will likely be coming out later today.
The President of the CFIA George Da Pont might have been saying that because of recent changes in Harper government regulations, he did not have the right to close the XL Foods plant but with all the shouting coming from the insistent spokesperson, it was difficult to hear what he might be saying.
Perhaps he was saying that regulations gave the food inspection agency only limited authority to require meat processors to immediately provide the requested information or perhaps it was authority to close down the plant.
It was difficult for reporters to make out what was being said because of the Harper government official's attempt to shout down the CFIA official and break up the news conference.
Now with so many Canadian victims of the contaminated meat (luckily no one has died to date) a class action has been filed in court yesterday against the Alberta company.
The lawsuit alleges that XL Foods transformed beef products between September 4 and September 16, knowing that its quality control systems were bad.
If the Harper government had acted quickly on September 4, rather than waiting until September 16, and if the minister Ritz had come out of hiding earlier, the government might not be in such a big mess today. And hundreds of Canadians would not be sick from contaminated meat.
Sometimes in politics when something goes just a little bit bad, it's best to move in on it right away rather than just hide and hope that it goes away by itself.