Feeding Jean-Pierre Blackburn

The Toronto Star helpfully explains how to stage a government photo op meant to ease concerns about a potential health emergency.

After a herd of Alberta pigs was infected with the H1N1 flu virus last April, countries began closing their borders to Canadian hogs, threatening $3 billion in exports and 40,000 jobs. Ottawa’s response was to hold a barbecue on Parliament Hill with pulled pork on the menu, and hog farmers, foreign diplomats and lots of television cameras in the crowd.

But it was carefully crafted to ensure two Conservative ministers, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Minister of State for Agriculture Jean-Pierre Blackburn, were the stars of the show, according to 841 pages of internal emails obtained by the Toronto Star…

“I believe it’s important to have a visual where the ministers `eat’ pork. Not only flipping it on a barbeque,” suggested Sylvain Frenette, Blackburn’s political director. “So we have to ensure that what they will eat is visually appealing … . It has to be easy to eat. Small pieces already cut up and ready to eat. So that he’s not fighting with a piece of meat. So that he doesn’t get dirty, etc.”

Ritz’s staff had their own ideas about the best light in which to present him. “Please ensure that the minister has a spot in the serving line (complete with apron would be best) – this is the money shot,” Murdoch wrote.

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