Here's how not to handle the situation:
Dennis Schroh, whose mother Elizabeth Schroh died on Aug. 24 in Saskatchewan after contracting the strain of listeria linked to the Maple Leaf Foods meat recall, said he was offended when news broke that Gerry Ritz had cracked jokes about the outbreak while he was on a conference call with scientists and political staffers Aug. 30.
While Harper expressed his sympathies for Schroh and other victims' families, he again refused to fire Ritz over the comments.
"Well, look, we would expect that people in that position would be very upset as we all are, and obviously we sympathize greatly with the situation and the loss of their loved ones," Harper said.
"Minister Ritz clearly did not intend to make any such comments publicly and has thoroughly apologized."
Too late, Steve. He was busted. And you seem to think it was okay that he made the comments because, as you're going to great (and ridiculous) pains to explain to people calling for his resignation, it's fine with you that he cracked jokes about dead people and had a death wish for Wayne Easter as long as he did it privately. Do you see where I'm going with this, Steve? Have you read the news today? Listeria toll reaches 18 with death of B.C. woman. One more person for Ritz to insult.
On another front - the actual military front in Afghanistan - Control Freak Steve has effectively muzzled the Defence department spokespuppets. Journalists are not impressed - again. As for what's going on in that war, I'll be writing a post about some new developments on Saturday. Stay tuned.
From the Shenanigans file: Liberal MP Accuses Tory of Unethical use of the Internet because he parked his domain name. That's life in the fast lane. You snooze, you lose.
Are you easily started? If so, you either have PTSD, some other anxiety disorder or you're a conservative. Yes Virginia, we really do have different brains but if you're conservative, you'll probably reject those test results because we liberals are more open to new ideas.
Related to those revelations is this G&M article in Saturday's paper:
“Americans are much more ideological than Canadians. They tenaciously hold on to their ideological orientations and they are much more conservative, much more moral, with more religiosity and so forth.”
In contrast, Canadian voters over the past quarter-century have indicated to academic investigators that most of them can't define right or left or care about the distinction. They increasingly think of themselves as non-partisan and non-ideological. They have the weakest political-party affinity in the Western world.
In sum, they're reminiscent of U.S. philosopher Thomas Nagel's celebrated essay on what it's like to be a bat, in which Prof. Nagel reasoned that only a bat knows what a bat is. Only a Canadian voter knows what a Canadian voter is.
There is an educated, engaged elite in the country that is very partisan and sees clear and deep distinctions between the political parties. But to a majority of Canadians, the parties pretty much look alike, with Jack Layton and Stephen Harper as an identical pair of suits.
There's that word: "elite". I'm an "elite", am I? Could have fooled me. I don't even eat arugula. And if that's the state of mind of Canadian voters, we really are screwed.
In the late 1980s, early 1990s, Mr. Graves says, 40 per cent of Canadians self-identified as small-l liberal, 25 per cent identified as small-c conservative and 35 per cent said they were neither. Today, he says, 28 per cent identify as conservative, 24 per cent as liberal and a whopping 48 per cent say they are neither. (A Conservative Party insider last week put the party's core support at 27 per cent.)
The 2000 Canadian National Election Study uses somewhat different numbers but presents a similar – and perhaps even more politically intriguing – picture.
It says 18 per cent of Canadians identify themselves as being on the right, 13 per cent say they're on the left, 39 per cent say they're somewhere in the centre and 29 per cent don't know where they are, putting the non-ideological total at 68 per cent.
Those people obviously need to start using the internets more. If they don't know where they are, maybe Google Maps can help. Or, if they can't figure out how that site works, perhaps a simple multiple choice test would do the trick.
Mini headline roundup:
It's Reefer Madness in the NDP party!
And speaking of smoking:
SMOKE ON THE HARPER
There's uncertainty in the economy. Canada's "mission" in Afghanistan is being called into question as more soldiers die. Homelessness is at epidemic proportions. Addressing global warming and the environment has never been more urgent. There's a childcare shortage, a nursing shortage and our healthcare system is stretched to the brink. So what is the pressing issue Prime Minister Stephen Harper felt the need to address this week head on, balls out and without an ounce of mercy? Candy. Candy-flavoured tobacco products to be precise.
And who better to dissuade young people from smoking than a perpetually uncomfortable-looking grey-haired man with a slight paunch and a fondness for baby blue sweaters and dress slacks. Maybe he could have a "rap session" with the kids of today about the dangers of smoking and the fun you can have making model airplanes and collecting Brian Mulroney memorabilia. That should do the trick. Just as long as Harper keeps his pudgy little hands off our Big League Chew bubble gum, which is supposed to resemble chewing tobacco, and Popeye Candy Cigarettes, which really are gross, and everything will be cool.
Not only does Elizabeth May get to be in the leaders' debates, she gets to kick off the first one - standing right beside Steve on top of that.
It was a pretty boring day for Gilles. The battle for Quebec continues.
My elitist chariot awaits...