Minister Ritz?s communications strategy still under attack


In wake of the tainted beef recall, Agriculture Minster Gerry Ritz is being criticized for not dealing with the political issue or consumer confidence.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has done an ?abysmal job? at handling the largest beef recall in Canadian history, say MPs and a communications expert who criticized the government?s communications strategy as one that?s ?awful? because ?there isn?t one.?

One consultant lobbyist who is also a communications expert who did not want to be named told The Hill Times last week that Mr. Ritz?s (Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask.) strategy is worse than when more than 20 people died in 2008 from listeriosis.

?I didn?t think that was possible,? the lobbyist said, predicting that ?this could be the Tories? Walkerton.?

The lobbyist, who was referring to the tainted water crisis in Ontario in 2000 when seven people died from drinking E. coli-contaminated water, criticized Mr. Ritz for not showing the public that he was taking charge of the crisis.

?For one thing, he should?ve been in the House. He should?ve taken his medicine the first two or three days of shit and then start recovering. The public loves contrition. ?Yes, obviously there are some things we thought we improved at the CFIA or the inspection system since the last time, but obviously we have more work to do and this is what we?re doing,?? the lobbyist said Mr. Ritz should have said. ?When beef exports were banned in the States because of the BSE crisis, [former prime minister Jean] Chrétien had at least the savvy to go order a steak and make a photo op out of it. It sounded folksy, but it was effective and Canadians bought more beef during that crisis.?

Mr. Ritz was absent from the House of Commons for the first three days after the story broke two weeks ago that XL Foods? beef products were contaminated with E. coli, and the massive recall of more than 1,800 products. He was in the House last week every day for Question Period answering questions.

NDP MP Malcolm Allen (Welland, Ont.), his party?s agriculture critic, told The Hill Times last week that ?as far as informing the public and keeping them informed, he?s done an abysmal job.?