Friday, August 29, 2008

Double Ouch

The Liberals initially floated the Walkerton connection to the current listeria outbreak, a comparison that apparently was hatched by Dion himself. That frame is political dynamite for the Conservatives, and now today, we have the spectacle of the mayor of Walkerton making the comparison, pointing out the fact that the key players are largely the same. Double ouch, on a narrative that is gaining steam:
Walkerton mayor calls for public inquiry on listeria outbreak

Mayor Charlie Bagnato released a statement today decrying the current outbreak as “outrageous” and noting that some of the cabinet ministers who were in the Ontario government in 2000 are now in the federal cabinet.

“There are currently three federal Conservative cabinet ministers shaping policy for the [Stephen] Harper government who also sat around the Mike Harris cabinet table when decisions were made to cut programs, privatize and regulate,” the statement reads.

Those three federal ministers are Health minister Tony Clement, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Environment minister John Baird.

“Governments should have learned from the mistakes that led to the tragedy in Walkerton. I am completely shocked that Mr. Harper has opted to make the same mistakes nationally that led to our disaster. Food security should never be placed on the chopping block in the name of cost cutting.”

Reached at his office, Mr. Bagnato said local Conservatives have called accusing him of playing politics with the upcoming federal election.

I take the reaction from local Conservatives as indicative of just how politically toxic this issue could become in Ontario. Any reminder of Mike Harris, particularly one on as critical a topic as public safety, will cost the Conservatives in Ontario. Reminding Ontarians that the Harper team is quite similar to the Harris team is an easy attack, most notably because it's TRUE. The added kicker, it isn't just political, you can weave a coherent comparison, based on political philosophy, the idea of cutting or privatizing vs ensuring public safety. We've seen this story before, the Conservatives will be hurt if voters sense a repeat. Period.


Anonymous said...

I was originally from Bruce county and I love that mayor of Walkerton..go boy go!

burlivespipe said...

The CONs are the last to cry foul in this circumstance -- what's at question is their goal of handing inspection services to the companies, to reduce the number of in-field inspectors, and to make a gov't branch seem like 'part of the problem.'
They did it on nuclear safety and they would have done it on security with the Toronto Seven if it had been a bigger incident.
They can't seriously hide behind the skirts of 'descretion' when they have no sense of the word in the first place.
I'm so far amazed that the media hasn't gone harder after the gov't considering the hidden report regarding food and safety issues.

Gayle said...

burl - I am sure it has something to do with the liberal bias in the media today.

ottlib said...

Triple ouch considering the lame reaction of the Conservatives.

If there is one person who is insulated from accusations of politicizing this outbreak it is the mayor of Walkerton.

Everybody knows the history and everybody knows that he would have unique perspective on the current situation.

The Conservatives do not do themselves any favours attacking him. They would have been better off just to bite their tongue and take the hit. But, then again they are apparently playing chess.

Steve V said...


Ultimately, it will be the Liberals job to make the case during the campaign. This story is sure to linger through the campaign, so there will be opportunities for the Liberals.


It seems they can't help themselves, attacking is an involuntary response.

Anonymous said...

Wow--playing politics with an election. How low can you get?

Steve V said...

"How low can you get?"

That's a question better left for Harper.