It's not just fiscal deficit numbers this government is discredited on at the moment. Their treatment of the 2007 Chalk River shutdown versus their treatment of the present day shutdown is totally diametric, as editorialized on by the Star today: "Isotope scramble: tale of two crises." Their handling of the Chalk River challenge calls into stark question whether they know what they're doing and what we can believe from this government.
How can it be that a three week shutdown in December of 2007 was cause to fire the nuclear regulator, who simply wanted to ensure laws were followed and that the licence conditions would be adhered to as the shutdown was managed. How can that shutdown have been cause for the Prime Minister to rail on about the health and safety of thousands of Canadians being placed in jeopardy if the reactor weren't restarted, pronto ("...what we do know is that the continuing actions of the Liberal-appointed Nuclear Safety Commission will jeopardize the health and safety and lives of tens of thousands of Canadians.") Yet now, faced with a three month shutdown, there's not a problem in sight for the Conservative folk. It's blue skies all around. In fact, the Health Minister said this yesterday on the question of the supply of medical isotopes:
Meanwhile, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq downplayed the seriousness of the looming shortage of medical isotopes sparked by the shutdown. "It's not a crisis. There are many tests that can be completed using other options."It's just mind boggling.
Why limit ourselves to the either/or proposition? It's probably both, isn't it?
The health minister can talk to hospitals about prioritizing tests, but that is no comfort to a patient with heart disease or a woman waiting to find out if her breast cancer has spread.
Stephen Harper's Conservative government is either dramatically underplaying the current medical isotope crisis or wildly overplayed the last one.
Here's the kicker in terms of accountability for the Harper gang:
It's not a debatable policy issue we're dealing with here where legitimate choices could be made out of a range of options and we're dissatisfied with what they did do. Here we're talking about a supply of needed medical isotopes that's at stake. That they had fair warning was a problem and yet did apparently nothing about post 2007 crisis.
After the 2007 crisis, the government also appointed a panel of health specialists to study the matter and recommend ways to avoid a reoccurrence. The so-called "lessons learned" panel advised the government a year ago that it should "diversify generator supply sources, preferably within Canada." Specifically, it said that research reactors on university campuses across the country could be adapted to produce medical isotopes.
No apparent action was taken on that recommendation until yesterday, when the government announced funding for McMaster University to upgrade its research reactor to produce medical isotopes.(emphasis added)
This is practical government competence 101 stuff that they're failing.
Update (Sunday 10:00 p.m.): CanPolitico points out that the McMaster facility that is now being funded as of Friday in order to boost production of medical isotopes presently creates 60,000 per year. Versus the Chalk River facility that produces 20 million isotope treatments per year. In case there's any doubt about the makeshift nature of the above referenced announcement.
For more on this topic, see: Blog Post Index: Medical Isotope crisis & Chalk River shutdown.