Canada: a failing state — the listeriosis inquiry


a failing state — the listeriosis inquiry

Today we launch an occasional series whose thesis is that, while Steve and Guy play chess over at Langevin, Canada has no coherent government. Essentially we are arguing that Canada has become a more genteel Somalia.

We define “coherent” as the action of a government that (a) says stuff; and then (b) does stuff that resembles what it said. Note that, by this definition, a government that (a) promised less state action; and then (b) delivered less state action would qualify as coherent. So a coherent conservative government would (to belabour my point) absolutely qualify as a coherent government. What doesn’t qualify as a coherent government, for instance, is one that (a) releases a fiscal update on Thursday and then (b) abandons every part of it by Saturday. Or one that (a) calls for deficits in Winnipeg and Lima before (b) announcing in the fiscal update that there will be no deficits, but then (c) retracts the fiscal update but (d) still insists for a few days that there needn’t be a deficit before finally (e) announcing that there will probably be deficits and then (f) appoints a panel of economic advisors whose previous pro bono advice had been (g) previously ignored by the selfsame government but, who knows, maybe (h)….

Anyway. Today’s exhibit comes via Colleague ITQ who has read this CP story which points out that the government (a) promised, in September, an inquiry into the listeriosis outbreak that killed 20 people; (b) set a seven-month deadline, until March, for the inquiry to report; (c) actually, let’s pause to count. Early September to mid-March. One, two, three, four, five, six-ish months. Six and a half, not quite seven months. Got it? Great. Onwards: (d) has not, as of today, four months later and with two and a half months left before the deadline, appointed anyone to lead the inquiry.

Got it? Note that the government doesn’t need a functioning Parliament (because we don’t have one; see “failing state,” above) to appoint an inquiry. All it needs is a minister — say, noted phone prankster Gerry Ritz — with a Rolodex, an envelope and a postage stamp to invite some retired food inspector to pay his wisdom forward by heading up the inquiry. In fact, here I exaggerate for effect because Ritz doesn’t even need a stamp. As a member of Parliament, he could write to the RFI (retired food inspector) without postage.

So really, it’s not hard for this government to do what it promised it would do. Or rather, it would not be hard if the current government, the one run by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, could find its own ass with a map and a flashlight. (Note to the anonymous legions who are itching to get some action on the comment board below this post: If you don’t think an inquiry is necessary, your opinion doesn’t matter because the Government of Canada disagreed with you and announced that it would hold an inquiry. Now we will all see who’s not bright enough to factor that inconvenient detail into their comments. This will be fun.)

So. Let us review the options.

  • Coherent government: (a) announce an inquiry; (b) hold the inquiry.
  • Alternative, conservative coherent government: (a) explain why no inquiry is necessary; (b) do not hold an inquiry.
  • Incoherent government — failing-state government: (a) announce an inquiry; (b) attempt to ban public-sector strikes while appointing talk-show hosts to the Senate.

See the difference?

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.