TORONTO AND TROIS-RIVIÈRES, QUE. — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper tried Thursday to shut down one controversy involving a loose-lipped cabinet minister but quickly found himself caught up in another.
Mr. Harper refused to seek the resignation of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for making light of the listeriosis deaths of 17 Canadians in recent weeks, saying the comments were an embarrassment but did not undermine the minister's work on the crisis.
“I think this story is obviously very embarrassing for him, very unfortunate, but should not detract from the good work he has done to get on top and understand this matter,” he said in Quebec City.
Mr. Ritz apologized late Wednesday for comments he made last month on a conference call to discuss the listeriosis outbreak with scientists, bureaucrats and political staff. He called the crisis over tainted meat “a death by a thousand cuts – or should I say cold cuts,” and jokingly expressed the hope that Liberal critic Wayne Easter was among the victims.