Thursday, September 18, 2008

Was Ritz Drunk on the Job During a Health Crisis?

Much has been made of the tasteless remarks by Conservative Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. What I wonder is: Was Ritz drunk on the job?

The remarks were made in a conference call with members of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on August 30 during the listeriosis crisis, in which 17 people died of tainted meat. Ritz joked during the call that the crisis was causing the government a death of a thousand cuts - "or should I say the death of a thousand cold cuts." When he was informed that one death had taken place in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said, "please tell me it's Wayne Easter." (Easter is the Liberal agriculture critic.)

The jokes are incredibly tasteless in any case, but it is beyond belief that he would make them over the phone to a large group of people, some of whom he didn’t know. It would still be tasteless, but at least understandable, if he were talking to a group of people he knew well who shared his politics.

We need more information about this call:

* What time of day did the call occur?

* Did he exhibit any other strange behaviour, such as slurring his words? How was his general demeanor during the call?

* Does Ritz have a history of drinking to excess?

* Does Ritz (like Mulroney) substitute alcohol with Nyquil or other medication?


Geekwad said...

I'm willing to accept that he may have been impaired. When I have been working long hours under a lot of stress, I get punchy. A conference call to 30 people sounds like my idea of hell. I wouldn't have to have been drinking to start saying strange things. Of course, I have shaped my career to avoid exactly that sort of situation, because I am not good at it. Clearly, neither is Ritz, and I think he is due some "career counseling".

Do you have any reason to believe he might have been drinking, or are you just flinging crap to see what sticks?

Yappa said...

Hi geekwad -

I know that Ritz has offered the excuse of work stress for the comments. I just can't see work stress resulting in that sort of offensive behavior: maybe one off-color joke, but two? To a call with 30 people?

I wasn't trying to fling crap to see what sticks, but I don't have any evidence either - it's just that when you think about the situation, it's a reasonable supposition that alcohol might be a factor. Alcohol makes things seem funny and reduces inhibitions.

Geekwad said...

It is reasonable to suppose to one self, but is it reasonable to use Fox-style accusation questions ("Liberalism: cause of 9/11?") in a publicly published article? Putting a question mark on the end doesn't always make a questionable statement into a reasonable question.

Yappa said...

Hi geekwad -

I respectfully disagree. As a blogger, I'm not a political insider: I don't have fresh news about much of anything. I look at the published news and interpret it. Occasionally I may add some fresh insight to the public discourse. When commenters convince me that I'm wrong, I concede it.

In this case, I think I'm asking a reasonable question. What kind of grownup makes two jokes about other people dying to a group of strangers - while talking about a crisis in which people are dying, and for which he's the top person responsible? I could have questioned the guy's basic humanity, but I didn't think that was reasonable. (Perhaps I was wrong.)

The questions are serious. Someone on the call leaked the quotes, so perhaps they could fill in more details about his demeanor in the rest of the call to help us understand what happened. Also, people who know him could comment on whether he's a drunk. It would be interesting to know either way.

James Bowie said...