Easter seeks another apology on death wish comments
Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter has accepted an apology from federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for jokingly wishing him dead, and now wants one from the prime minister.
Ritz's comments, made in jest during a conference call with officials during the summer's outbreak of listeriosis, were leaked to the media Wednesday.
Easter said he isn't looking for the second apology for himself, but for Canadians affected by the listeriosis outbreak.
"What was said about me is beside the point," said Easter. "The real issue here is being totally insensitive to the families affected on an extremely serious matter where loved ones have died.
"And for a minister of the Crown to make a joke even in an internal conversation with senior officials is just wrong. It's not a joking matter."
During a conference call last month with officials from the ministry and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ritz said the political fallout from the listeriosis outbreak was "like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts?"
When Ritz was mistakenly told that a person had died on P.E.I. — the belief at the time — Ritz said, "Please tell me it's Wayne Easter."
"The prime minister himself really needs to make an apology to those families that have been affected by listeriosis," Easter said.
"Much of this kind of talk comes from the prime minister himself. This is not new. This is a pattern of the Harper government, in which anyone who disagrees with them is going to be treated with disrespect and attacked."
While campaigning Thursday in Quebec, Harper called Ritz's comments ''completely inappropriate," but dismissed suggestions that he should apologize on behalf of the government and fire Ritz.
The Liberals say they had already been calling for Ritz's resignation over changes to the federal food processing inspection process.
Seventeen people across Canada have died from listeriosis in contaminated meat from a Maple Leaf processing plant in Toronto. There was one case of listeriosis on P.E.I. this summer, but it was not linked to the outbreak.