BTC: ‘This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts.’

(Updated through 11:11pm.)

You stay classy, Gerry Ritz.

Update. From Canwest. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper said jokes Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz made in the midst of the listeriosis crisis were ‘inappropriate,’ according to his spokesman, who added there has no been discussions about asking Ritz to resign.”

Update II. Ritz’s apology. “It was a highly stressful time. Many people were working countless hours and attending countless meetings to keep on top of the situation. In that context, I made a couple of spur of moment, offhand comments. In particular, one about my official opposition critic, whom I have already called to apologize. My comments were tasteless and completely inappropriate. I apologize unreservedly.”

Update III. And let’s not forget Tony Clement in Denver. “I’m Health Minister Tony Clement, and I have to say I approved this food.”

Update IV. Liberals are calling for Ritz to resign immediately. Wayne Easter comments. “I’ve already called for Mr. Ritz’s resignation over his handling of the listeriosis outbreak and his failure to tell the truth to Canadians about the government’s role in it. I could never imagine he would show this kind of insensitivity. This is just one more reason he needs to be dismissed … I don’t care what he said about me, but 17 people have died. That is no joking matter.”

Update V. Jack Layton, scrumming with reporters in Toronto, has called for the minister to be fired and removed as a Conservative candidate.

Update VI. From the Globe. “A representative of the Prime Minister’s Office was also on the phone call, but Mr. Teneycke could not say who it was. He did say the prime minister only learned of the incident Wednesday and the PMO official had not reported the remarks.”

Update VII. Now might be a good time to (re)read that CMAJ editorial.

Update VIII. Layton’s official statement. “The Minister’s comments are simply and utterly unacceptable.”

Update IX. Ritz interviewed after the last demand for his resignation. And tonight’s coverage from Mike Duffy Live. The Conservative press office says Mr. Ritz will deliver a statement on the Hill at 10:30pm.

Update X. Ritz walked out of Confederation Building and read an apology bulleted with 13 points. In short: “I would like to address inappropriate comments I made… callous and inappropriate comments… an unreserved and heartfelt apology… I phoned Mr. Easter earlier today and apologized… He accepted my apology and I thank him for that… my most humble and heartfelt regrets to the families of those affected… I very deeply apologize… my comments were inappropriate and callouse (sic)… I take responsibility for them and apologize without reservation.” He then turned and went back inside, ignoring all shouted questions.

We are informed that Mr. Ritz has spoken with the Prime Minister and no resignation was either offered or sought.

Update XI. The Sun talks to some of those affected families. Lionel Avon, an Ottawa man hospitalized with listeriosis in late August, was disgusted and offended by the Minister’s “stupid” remarks. “He should not be the Minister any more. It’s very offensive. People are very insulted,” he told Sun Media. “He was laughing at them. It makes me feel guilty for them.”

… Karen Clark of Madoc, Ont., whose mother died from listeriosis, was appalled by the Minister’s comments and renewed calls for a full explanation for her mom’s death. “Frankly I don’t find them amusing or funny in any way. I just feel it’s hurtful and I find it disrespectful not only to my mother but to any family who has lost a loved one due to this Listeriosis,” she told CTV. “It certainly was an inappropriate comment. I understand that there is going to be an independent investigation due to this but … this investigation is not going to be open to the public and there’s not going to be a public report published at the end of this investigation,” said Clark. “There’s no opportunity for anybody to ask questions, what I’d like to know, Doesn’t my family deserve an explanation of why my mom died?

Update XII. CBC’s coverage, including the Canadian Press video of Ritz’s arrival in Ottawa. Full version of the video here.

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