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CMAJ blames Harper, but Dion should choose words carefully

This Magazine Staff

An elderly New Brunswick woman who died last week is the 17th person whose death has been linked to the listeria outbreak, it was confirmed late Tuesday–the same day that the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) published an editorial blaming the Conservative government’s change in policy for the severity of the listeriosis outbreak.

Listeria is the biological agent, cold cuts the vector, but the ultimate cause may be risky government decisions,” the editorial states.

This brings the issues of public health and pandemic preparedness, which have been looming over the elections campaign, to the forefront. But opposition parties need to use this information carefully. They need to accentuate the failure of self-regulating policies; of the reduction of influence of the Public Health Agency of Canada; of the lack of a true, arm’s length investigation–without appearing as though they are exploiting people’s deaths for political gain.

When Liberal Leader Stephane Dion made the promise to spend $50-million to improve federal food inspections at a Walkerton high school last week, Canwest’s Don Martin wrote that a teacher told him they were sick of being “poster kids for poison products.” He added local reporters “winced” when told Dion would make the safety announcement instead of his Green Shift plan.

The decision to hold the announcement in Walkerton was probably a turn-off for other voters too, as it took advantage of a perhaps relatable but still very different tragedy.

CMAJ offers published evidence in the form of a leaked document of the government’s ambiguous, inadequate, actually ludicrous policies on food regulation in a time of a coast-to-coast outbreak. Although tempting, the opposition needs to refrain from any tacky attempts at laying the bodies on the doorstep of the bulletproof Harper.

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