Monday, July 06, 2009

Lisa Raitt & isotope shortages back in the news

Following up on Calgary Grit's post earlier of some of the transcripts from the Raitt Gate courtroom proceedings, a few points.

First, the clear upshot from that transcript is the argument advanced there by Jasmine MacDonnell's lawyer, that it was the Minister who left her own binder behind at that CTV station. The clear suggestion made by Ms. MacDonnell's lawyer is that Ms. MacDonnell left the CTV station with all the materials she was supposed to, it was the Minister who did not.
AWAD: “You don’t know whether Ms. MacDonnell had her own binder that she in fact left with that day?”

MAHER: “No, I don’t know”
AWAD: “My friend also mentioned that, I guess Mr. Maher, in his draft article, has characterized Ms. MacDonnell as careless, the Minister’s judgment may be questionable in that she promoted Ms. MacDonnell. That’s how they want to spin this story my lord. It’s not about medical isotopes. The Chalk River shutdown was in May – the conversation that was recorded inadvertently was in January. This isn’t about last week or the last two weeks medical isotope issue, this is about a private conversation. Not a confidentiality question, a privacy question, and the rights exist, in my submission, in this country. Mr. Grant suggested that the binder that was left at CTV was Ms. MacDonnell’s; there’s no evidence of that before your lordship, that’s never been demonstrated. Similarily that she “lost” her job, my lord the evidence is absolutely that she resigned.”
As the BCer points out this afternoon, the Conservatives were intent on framing this resignation-worthy incident as one that was the staffer's responsibility. Now we have evidence to suggest otherwise.

Second point, following from the first. The Minister of lost binders remains in charge on the isotope file. In La Presse yesterday we were given a reminder of the severity of that crisis that remains. On July 18th, the Dutch reactor that Canada has been relying upon for ramped up production of isotopes goes down for maintenance. The prediction from medical experts about the impact as a result of that shutdown is dire. In Quebec, the reports are that at least 12,000 diagnostic tests reliant upon medical isotopes have been put off, likely more since that report's date. Now they're predicting more.
Hospitals have been warned they will lose three quarters of their usual supply of isotopes.
This means that approximately 3000 patients per week will have their appointments postponed.
The closure of the plant in Petten for a month could be the prelude to a much more serious. The reactor will be out of service for repairs in depth at the beginning of next year. Then it will cease to produce medical isotopes for six months.
The Conservatives have little credibility on this file to begin with. Following the Chalk River shutdown in December 2007 which Harper decried at the time would "jeopardize the health and safety and lives of tens of thousands of Canadians", they've done little to nothing to ensure a backup plan in the case of future shutdowns. They've additionally moved to cancel the new MAPLEs reactors that experts have testified may indeed be a workable long term solution to the aging Chalk River facility. They could be acting on that expert testimony, investigating it as a viable solution at a time of dire need, yet they're essentially putting that decision on hold too as a ministerial panel meanders along.

What's more, they've decided to privatize AECL, yet a PMO spokesthingy has publicly trashed AECL and the Ontario government has consequently and not surprisingly backed down from buying new reactors from AECL. A series of questionable decisions from the Conservatives for which they bear responsibility.

Not a good moment for the credibility and competence of the minister to be coming into question yet again.

For more on this topic, see: Blog Post Index: Medical Isotope crisis & Chalk River shutdown.