Dion pledges $50M to bolster food inspection agency
Liberal leader tells Walkerton, Ont., crowd government 'cannot cut corners'
A Liberal government will invest an additional $50 million to build a more robust food inspection system in Canada in the wake of a listeriosis outbreak across the country, Stéphane Dion said Wednesday.
The boost in funding will allow the hiring of 100 additional Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors, an eight per cent increase of those working "on the ground," he said during a campaign stop in Walkerton, Ont., for the Oct. 14 federal election.
"Canadians have been alarmed by recent revelations about unsafe food making it to our store shelves," Dion said.
The Liberal leader added that Walkerton, where seven people lost their lives in 2000 during an E. coli outbreak in the community's water supply, served as a tragic reminder to all parties.
"A government cannot cut corners when it comes time to protecting the health and safety of Canadians for the sake of so-called efficiencies," he said.
The listeriosis outbreak has killed 14 people across Canada and been linked to tainted meat products processed at a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has promised an investigation into the outbreak. Maple Leaf has said the most likely cause of the outbreak was bacteria embedded deep inside meat slicing equipment at the plant.
Critics have increasingly voiced their concerns over the Conservatives' plans for food inspection reform, while opposition members have accused the Tories of downloading responsibility for food inspection onto the industry.
But Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said the federal inspectors in charge of overseeing health standards at the plant were doing their job properly.