Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A dark day for Canada

This is truly a black mark for the Harper government. They've fired Linda Keen. On the eve of her appearance before the Natural Resources Committee. It appears that they were afraid of her testimony and have tried to hurt her credibility in advance. The Canadian Press is reporting that she will attend the committee hearings despite the dismissal. I wonder if the Conservatives thought she wouldn't show up if she were fired.

Bravo, Mr. Harper. Accountability, you said. Transparency, you said. "Let's run a good government," you said. All the principles you held up to the Canadian electorate have been trampled upon by your government in this debacle. I sincerely hope Ms. Keen consults her lawyers and acts upon their recommendations. And takes you boys to court. Big time.

You have to wonder about the backlash this will cause in the public service. Keen, by all appearances, was doing her job in regulating nuclear safety according to the license conditions governing the Chalk River facility. The message this sends to the public service is a chilling one. Very chilling. If you don't do what the Conservative party line dictates, irrespective of your independence as chair of a quasi-judicial arms length body, you're at risk.

The opposition really did a disservice to this issue. By going along with the manufactured crisis over isotopes - and that should be put to Lunn today, repeatedly - they enabled the regulator to be put in this box. The Conservatives will point and preach, over and over today, about the emergency legislation that was passed to override the regulator. The opposition's likely played along in a master plan to put AECL up for sale. By getting rid of an inconvenient regulator who's alleged to have done such silly things as insist that new CANDU reactor technology being developed by AECL actually withstand the impact of a commercial jet airliner, as international standards now require, well, that's Harper's prerogative as we can all see.

I guess we all know why Gary Lunn's been keeping his head down. He's been preparing for this hearing. Knowing full well that they'd be firing Ms. Keen immediately prior to its occurrence. I sincerely hope the committee questions him thoroughly about his telephone conference call with Ms. Keen and their respective staffs that occurred on the afternoon of December 8th, 2007. That's the call in which Lunn pressured Keen to restart the reactor. Keen described him as abrupt and demanding. He left the call at one point and had his staff continue the call. It's at pages 17 and 18 of the chronology appended to Ms. Keen's letter to Lunn.

I've pushed throughout this incident for Harper to apologize to Ms. Keen. Maybe that day will come. It certainly won't be done of his own free will. But hopefully it will come as a result of a court's judgment.