Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No One's 'Fall Guy'

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.


Scotian said...

I did my own first read on her testimony after she finished at Saundrie this afternoon (I watched it live, most comfortable experience I have had in this issue since this whole thing blew up) and you might find it of interest, so I thought I should bring it to your attention.

I agree with your read of this woman's personality, both personal and professional, and this was a major mistake on Harper's part if he thought she would be an easy target. I also noted the key phrase the CPC is hanging its case on her supposed authority to consider isotopes, I spent some time on it in the post I mention, and it was "health of individuals". They are trying to twist the context and have her read in power/authority clearly not intended by the body of the legislation; this is what is called judicial activism, something the CPC supposedly abhors. I guess only when it isn't politically inconvenient for them it seems. I also agree that this is issue is bigger yet than we know, I cannot be sure of the specifics but the pattern and feel of this still has too much a sense of the iceberg to it even now for me to shake.

Nice post KNB, and great work on continuing the focus of the way this government treats heads of independent agencies whenever they do not interpret the law the unique way the CPC appears to do so from elections financing to how wheat/barley is marketed through the Wheat Board to now even nuclear safety protocols. This kind of government is extremely dangerous and I pray that now finally many of my more disengaged politically fellow Canadian voters are seeing that this time around the rhetoric about how bad this government was and that the hidden agenda truly exists was no exaggeration. Indeed, in many cases it looks now like it might even have been slightly understating the matter which is truly a disturbing thought. Hopefully like one snowflake after another the efforts of people like us will help accelerate that awareness hitting critical mass, and at least we know we are trying to bring it about with our observations, as minute our individual impact is collectively like the raindrops forming into a river we can have quite an impact.

Indeed, since I live in a perceptual framework that recognizes asymmetrical dynamics in human interactions I can see a few or even one having quite the disproportionate impact thanks to the ability of bloggers to disseminate political ideas and facts. What we all must do is make sure we verify our facts and do not mix up what we know are facts and what we suspect may be the facts, a critical distinction ideologues never make and I believe critical to swaying the truly undecided/open-minded/uncommitted Canadian voter wherever they would be considered on the left-right scale.

burlivespipe said...

Did anyone ask Clement if Harper hired the same agency to 'prepare' him for his minutes before the committee?
And someone should have noted that, from the moment Lunn-Harper-Clement knew that AECL had shut down the reactor to the Dec 10 'act of urgency' looking for isotopes, is that the same period necessary to have a poll commissioned and compiled?
Inquiring minds wanna know.

RuralSandi said...

They must know they're in trouble - Clements is running around doing damage control on all the news networks.

He's an idiot. He's claiming Keen is throwing out a whole bunch of silly numbers - uh, huh.

Now, if Keen on her own decided to start up Chalk River and something happened - who would the fire? Keen, right.

knb said...

I agree Scotian. Factual commentary is key. What I can't verify I may include but state that it's speculation and of course when I only have a gut feel about something, I say so.

Their arrogance is growing and that is very disturbing to me.

knb said...

I saw Clement this morning Sandi and though I watched just a bit, I saw no real rebuttal.

That was the key to having either Lunn or Clement follow Keen. Shoot down everything she said and hope that everyone believes the government. Sadly it does seem to work on those who do not look for facts.

knb said...

Good point burl about the prep person. They certainly are speaking from the same script.

They remind me of Charlie Brown's teacher, wha,wha, wha,wha,wha.