Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lisa Raitt Says "Not Now Dear, I've Got a Headache"

So have you been wondering what the Conservatives' own ditsy blonde has been up to these days, in light of the fact that the Chalk River Nuclear reactor will be down longer than expected? No doubt, she's been announcing and re-announcing stimulus spending, hoping no one remembers that she found the isotope shortage a career boosting opportunity.

Well sweetheart, it's only career making if you actually do something about it, other than finding it a turn on.

Liberal MP Omar Alghabra asks a very important question. Where is their sense of urgency? Gary Lunn was the Natural Resources minister in 2007 and he was in such a twist about isotopes, I think I saw a couple of his hairs move. But now .... ah ... no biggie.

August 20, 2009

About 20 months ago, as the Liberal Critic for Natural Resources, I was heavily involved in the continuing saga of isotope shortage. In November of 2007, the Nuclear Safety Commission refused to renew the license for the nuclear reactor that produced medical isotope citing safety concerns. The unplanned shutdown led to severe shortage of isotope supplies and caused grave concerns among doctors and Canadians. Those nuclear isotopes are used for medical diagnostic procedures on a daily basis and their shortage led to the cancellation of many serious procedures.

The House of Commons immediately intervened. Debates about what happened, how we got there and what the government role needs to be ensued. An emergency debate on the floor of the House of Commons lasted till midnight on Tuesday December 11, 2007 included many expert witnesses. There were many questions that were posed to the Conservative government.

The Conservatives decided to blame the Nuclear Safety Commission President Linda Keen and fired her in the meantime ignoring all outstanding concerns. I thought it was an unjustified firing and it was a public relation exercise of redirecting blame. The Commissioner may have been too rigid but that didn’t justify her firing nor did it lead to resolve the outstanding problems facing the isotope supply issue.

Today, it has become clear that had the Conservatives taken those questions seriously the isotope shortage crisis we are facing could have been averted.

Throughout 2007 and 2008 when Mr. Harper was asked to prepare a contingency plan for potential future problems and his only response was to blame Linda Keen for putting Canadian lives at risk and that it was a life and death situation.

I regret to say that the fear we expressed 20 months ago came true. Linda Keen is not around but the crisis persists and it’s still a life and death situation.

The Conservatives have done nothing so far. Where is their sense of urgency? Is it fair to say that Stephen Harper’s inaction is putting Canadian lives at risk?

The Canadian Medical Association is blaming the Conservative government for their mishandling of the isotope crisis.

The Conservatives must be held accountable for their incompetence. They can’t get away with their claim that they can’t do anything about the situation when the last time they rushed to fire a public servant for doing her job.

Much could have been done 2 years ago. Ideas that were proposed included pooling international supply capacity, planning for a new supply reactor, and inviting private sector investors to enter the business of supply isotopes.

What is even more tragic is that to this day, the Conservatives still don’t appear to be doing anything.

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