The highly anticipated Natural Resources committee meeting made it clear to me that there was government interference here and I don't think this issue is going to go away.
It opened with Sheila Fraser and as usual she was her composed, measured self. She mentioned again that the Chalk River incident did indeed raise questions as to how the government deals with independent regulatory boards. She spoke to the report she had issued last September. It highlighted three strategic challenges that AECL faced, including "the replacement of aging facilities at Chalk River Laboratories." It also said that the Chalk River facility required at least $600 million to deal with "urgent health, safety, security and environmental issues.''
It did not seem to specifically address the problem that that is at issue here, but the statement, "urgent health, safety, security and environmental issues", is important to remember.
Next up the star of the meeting, Linda Keen. Anyone who doubts her tenacity and obvious desire to set the record straight, wasn't watching. She strikes me as a professional, personable individual that is extremely dedicated to her work. She is a stickler for detail and seems to be precisely the type of individual that you would want to head such an important commission.
During her opening statement she went over much of what we already know, clarifying some time lines and explaining why she was not prepared to allow the reactor to go back on line. She made mention that some MP's had stated that after the vote in the HoC that the reactor was safe enough. She then went on to state what the international standards of safety actually are. The risk of accident must be 1 in a million. At the time she was being asked to give the AECL a pass, it was 1 in one thousand. The reactor was 1000 times more dangerous than what is internationally acceptable. So in keeping with her mandate, she felt the only safe and responsible thing to do was to keep it shut down.
Her mandate is what is really at issue here. The conservatives are determined to define it as something that it is not. In fact, they currently seek to change it to include what they believe it currently lacks, which would justify their action of course. The phrase I highlighted in Frasier's report that had to do with, urgent health, safety, security and environmental affairs, is what the Con's are hanging their hat on.
Linda Keen states that indeed she is responsible for those things, but only as they relate to a nuclear accident, not the production of medical isotopes. Logical right? Not if you're a Con. No, they believe that her mandate extends or overlaps if you will into the AECL's and the Minister's. So, those who are responsible for isotope production.
The Con's tried there very best to twist her words and of course the facts, especially Cheryl Gallant. I mentioned she was a bit odd during the last meeting, well nothing changed. At some point she blurted out some leak of nerve gas as Chalk River? Huh? Again, non sequitur is their forte. At any rate, she was no match for Ms. Keen. During one specific distortion, Keen simply stated, "that's not true". It didn't stop Gallant from rambling on, but she got nowhere.
The kicker came when Ms. Keen described how the firing occurred. She had been busy getting ready for the committee meeting the next day and left the office about 8:00 pm. Her office later received a call from the PCO saying that they were sending over an urgent package. Her staff waited around for it, called her and told her what it said then sent it over to her. To say she was devastated would by an understatement.
Now to put that in context, you have to remember that the con's had failed in their bid the previous day to have her testify before Lunn. This of course so Lunn could simply deny all that she said, but that didn't work so they had to speed up what was apparently already in the works.
Keen also spoke of two phone calls from Lunn. She said they were unusual, especially given that she had not had contact with him for over a year. The first call did not disturb her, but the second one did. Specifically, Lunn was telling her what she would do and when she would do it. Naw, this government isn't involved in any interference.
Tony Clement was next and basically parroted what he's already said. It's pretty clear to me that this guy is way out of his depth, but that's not anything new. I cannot see what he added to the debate, except to further highlight his incompetence. Natural Resources Canada was made aware of the shutdown on November 30, Lunn on the 3rd, but Clement was not made aware until December 5 . Had he sought replacement isotopes from other countries in November, we may have avoided all of this.
The bottom line here is that Linda Keen should not have been fired. The government isolated her as their scapegoat for their own incompetence. Why? Well there is more digging to do there I suppose and it will be interesting to hear from AECL.
One thing seems clear. For some reason they felt that she was an easy target. Harper made that clear with his overtly paranoid partisan comments that preceded this whole affair. In my view, they chose the wrong person.
Linda Keen is no one's fall guy and she is determined to illustrate the need to keep government at arm's length from commissions such as the CNSC. Personally I'd like to see the former president of the Wheat Board, Adrian Measner, join her in her effort to make clear how this government is determined to impose their ideology, even when it flouts the law.
Some are inclined to laugh all this stuff off, specifically the Con's, but this is no laughing matter to me. I know people don't buy that the current government is out to change some fundamentals in our country but they clearly are. They don't like a law? They ignore it then set about to change it after the fact.
You tell me what government has been in the news lately for firing those who strove to uphold their independence only to have the government pass laws that agreed with their ideological view? Thankfully we have a parliament to keep the con's in check, so the extreme example I use will not happen here, but they are doing everything they can to change how this country is governed.
Harper underestimates who and what he is up against and how he will be exposed. That is a good thing, but only if people are paying attention.