Monday, December 17, 2007

Harper should apologize to Linda Keen

Harper's much discussed trashing of the Canada Nuclear Safety Commission this past week, absolutely uncalled for, was the subject of Tony Clement's Sunday effort to spin his way out of the partisan mess that's been made of the Chalk River issue. Here he is putting the most favourable light possible on the departure of the Conservative appointed Chair of AECL, Michael Burns:
The Conservative government says it's just a coincidence the chairman of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. quit last week following a furor over the shutdown of a nuclear reactor that produces medical isotopes for use around the world.

Health Minister Tony Clement said Michael Burns thought the chairman's post was a part-time one when he took it a year ago.

"As it turns out there's a lot of work to be done," said Clement. "So I think there were some indications this (resignation) might be coming up."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the departure of Burns, a former Tory party fundraiser, in a terse news release late Friday. (emphasis added)
Perhaps the Conservatives should be appointing people to significant positions like this who are willing to go the extra mile when needed. Maybe Minister Lunn should have had a better sense of who he was appointing and what the expectations were so that at critical junctures like this past week, you don't have the Chair of Atomic Energy Canada Limited QUITTING.

And the claims that Gary Lunn and Michael Burns were trying to sell off a large share of AECL to General Electric wouldn't have anything to do with this, would it? Or the growing and related evidence that it was AECL that manufactured this shut down crisis in order to embarrass the regulator? What's more likely, one of the preceding explanations, or some lame excuse about the chairman's role being part-time? (H/t to Galloping Beaver and LKO.)

Get a load of Clement's spin on Harper's trashing of Linda Keen, head of CNSC this past week:
Clement wouldn't answer directly when asked Sunday whether Keen's job was safe. He noted the commission operates at arm's length from the government but went on to add:

"I've got to tell you the prime minister, the rest of us in government, were frustrated by this contest between AECL and the regulator. It appeared to us, on the outside, a lot of sound and fury over something that was affecting, potentially, the lives and well-being of many Canadians and people around the world." (emphasis added)
Poor little Conservatives. They're apparently on the "outside," just like the rest of us, the poor innocent little knaves. Nothing's ever their fault, you see. Lack of leadership, CHECK. Doesn't wash, however. The Conservatives are neck deep in the business of Atomic Energy Canada. Lunn's guy was running it.

And on the Keen comment made by Harper in particular:
Clement defended the comments made last week about Keen's purported political ties, but suggested the attack was aimed more at Liberal MPs than at the head of the commission.

The government feared the Grits might delay emergency legislation designed to let the reactor resume operation, said the health minister.

"Sometimes you've got to fire a couple of shots across the bow to make sure the opposition knows that you're serious . . . It worked, we got the legislation through."
Yeah, sometimes you have to impugn the integrity of a regulator in order to bully a bill through Parliament. Nice. And if this explanation is indeed truthful, that Harper was directing his vitriol at Liberal MP's - extremely hard to believe - then Harper should be issuing an apology to Ms. Keen for his shameful slandering of her character. I think in the spirit of the season, it would truly be in order.