Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lisa Raitt Thinks Isotope Shortage is Sexy. Is She Kidding Me?

Though Lisa Raitt's former assistant tried to prevent more than 5 hours of audio taped conversation between herself and Lisa Raitt from being published, a judge disagreed and we may know how our Natural Resources minister really feels.

Apparently on the tape she disses many of her colleagues including Stephen Harper and health minister Leona Aglukkaq.

One comment I found particularly disturbing was when Ms Raitt refers to the Isotope shortage as sexy. What the hell?

Since when can a health crisis be considered sexy? She would have loved the plague.

Raitt criticizes Aglukkaq in tape made public by judge
Tape also recorded Raitt discussing her desire to receive credit for dealing with the 'sexy' medical isotope issue
Jun 08, 2009
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Federal Conservatives hoping they had doused a raging political fire involving Lisa Raitt were rocked today by allegations that the natural resources minister was recorded while pouring scorn on a cabinet colleague.

Raitt's woes were compounded when New Democrats reignited a controversy over tens of thousands of dollars in questionable expenses the rookie minister racked up while as a senior executive with the Toronto Port Authority.

But in a case initially shrouded in secrecy, a former senior aide went to court in Nova Scotia to block a Halifax newspaper from publishing the contents of a tape recording which the Liberal opposition said contained "disparaging remarks" about Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

Justice Gerald Moir of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court dismissed Jasmine MacDonnell's application on Monday evening and revealed details of what is on the recording.

"In the recording minister Raitt and Ms. MacDonnell discuss in a critical manner the political skills of the federal health minister, the honourable Leona Aglukkaq, on the handling of the medical isotope issue. She also discussed her desire to receive credit for dealing with the medical isotope issue and expresses the view it is a sexy issue," he said in his judgment.

"They also discussed pressure placed on Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff by major businesses to refrain from defeating the Conservative government."

In court, Michelle Awad, MacDonnell's lawyer, said the conversation was private and was accidentally taped during a drive in British Columbia in January.

"The conversations were always meant to be private, they were private, they were recorded completely unintentionally," she said.

"Neither Ms. MacDonnell nor the minister knew the conversations was being recorded. ... It (tape recorder) was turned on inadvertently in the bag she was travelling with."

Moir, who told the court the recording is five hours and 16 minutes long, said it should be public.

"It is wrong to deprive the press, and the public it serves, of remarks made privately but not confidentially in the sense of trade secrets," he said.

MacDonnell quit last week over another gaffe involving sensitive documents.

The former communications director for Raitt apparently mislaid her tape recorder following an interview with the newspaper's lone Ottawa reporter. The device recorded a private conversation with Raitt. The recorder ended up on the desk of Chronicle-Herald reporter Steve Maher.

The Prime Minister's Office gave every indication Monday night that the natural resources minister would stay on .

"While this issue may be embarrassing, in no way does it affect the minister's ability to do her job," spokesman Dimitri Soudas said.

A spokesman for the minister said late Monday she did not offer to resign, nor was she asked to. Although he conceded he hadn't heard the tape himself, Liberal MP David McGuinty earlier told the House of Commons that Raitt reportedly described Aglukkaq as "not very competent."

In the Commons earlier today the Liberals and NDP relied on media reports about the story the Chronicle-Herald was fighting to publish, suggesting it is even more damaging to Raitt's career than last week's revelations her aide left ministerial briefing documents marked "secret" at CTV's Ottawa office.

Liberal critic David McGuinty and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pegged Raitt as too preoccupied with her own future to focus on the looming shortage of medical isotopes, critical to heart and cancer diagnostic tests.

"It is clear we are in a national health care crisis with a minister who is badly distracted," Ignatieff told the Commons.

"We have a minister who is trying to recover lost binders, trying to explain incriminating tapes and thousands of Canadians are desperately waiting for medical treatments. This is a fiasco."

In the Commons, McGuinty went further.

"Unless these allegations prove to be false, it is clear that the minister has absolutely no confidence in her colleague's ability to handle what is now a full-fledged health care crisis," said McGuinty.

Nicholson tersely responded that the matter was currently before the courts, and "the minister is not a party to that proceeding and the Government of Canada is not involved."

A call to MacDonnell's Halifax family home was not returned.

Nevertheless, some Conservatives were privately expressing concern about whether the tape was so damning that Raitt would be forced to step aside.

Indeed, outside the Commons, McGuinty suggested the whole affair raises questions about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's judgment.

"The Canadian people have a right to know whether that acrimony exists at cabinet," said McGuinty.

"My judgement is this. The minister is now embroiled in controversy. She can't do her job. She allegedly is not expressing confidence in her colleague, the minister of health. She is not dealing with the crisis that we have in front of us.

And worse, she's covering up the fact that there are no sufficient supplies of medical isotopes to come in from either Belgium, the Netherlands or Australia."

McGuinty also said that even if additional supplies were available to the international marketplace, Canadian hospitals would be shut out because "the Americans will pay much more."

"We're already seeing now early evidence of a bidding war going on between nuclear medicine outlets across Canadian hospitals," he said.

Asked if the Liberal party would propose a vote of non-confidence in the government as a result, McGuinty would only say, "That's a much larger question that we'll deal with in due course."

Harper was not in the Commons today as Raitt and Aglukkaq rose to their feet repeatedly to defend the government's handling of the crisis.

In the Commons, Raitt assured her critics that other nations are working to boost their production.

Aglukkaq addressed Liberal questions regarding the impact on patients.

"Many tests can be completed using other options," said Aglukkaq, who told the Commons she is working with experts and provincial and territorial ministers to deal with the looming shortage.

The NDP demanded to know who is bankrolling the motion in court to "attempt to muzzle the press" said NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair, but his question was met with the same answer by the justice minister, that the government was not involved.

Outside the Commons, Mulcair told journalists that "given the extent to which everything in this file shows that the government is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect Minister Raitt, the question is what's involved here?"

"We, the public have the right to know. Journalists should not be muzzled by the government directly or through their intermediaries, whether it's their political party or another third party."

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett told the Commons that as of today the Ottawa Hospital "will be out of isotopes" and demanded to know whether the federal government would reimburse hospitals for the increased cost of obtaining new supplies. Aglukkaq said only that the government does not regulate the price of pharmaceuticals, including isotopes.

No comments:

Post a Comment