Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Minister Raitt's credibility deficit just won't go away

Update (2:20 p.m.) below.

Remember back in early June, before the House of Commons broke for the summer, when Minister Lisa Raitt kept assuring us about the Australian reactor that was going to come on line and help with our isotope shortage? A refresher:

June 4th:
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to update the House today on progress that we have made with respect to medical isotopes.
The Australians are coming on line much more quickly than they had expected for commissioning.
June 4th:
That is why I was pleased to announce earlier that we have been successful globally in increasing the amount of global isotopes available. Australia has agreed to go online faster than it had originally anticipated.
June 8th: is completely false that the Australian reactor will not be coming on line for six months. As the Australians themselves indicated in the Canberra Times, it is just a matter of weeks.
Keep that one in mind.

June 8th:
Mr. Speaker, again, I think it is important to correct the facts. Yesterday, the member for Ottawa South himself made some statements in the media with respect to reactors. He said that the OPAL reactor is 12 months away from operation. Indeed, that is false. He said that Australia would not be able to export a single medical isotope. Again, that is false.
June 10th:
Now it is time for the world to help us. It is doing so. Australia is shortening its time for commissioning from approximately five months down to a few weeks, and indeed contrary to what has been said by the hon. member opposite, Australia's reactor can provide 20% of the global supply.
Turns out Minister Raitt's representations were indeed wrong and the opposition's information, which Raitt repeatedly put down as false was in fact...true. The Australian delay came to fruition this week and Minister Raitt's representations should not have been made in the first place:
"I've been told unofficially about two months, two-to-three months," said Dr. Christopher O'Brien, head of the Ontario Association of Nuclear Medicine.

"So, some time mid-fall."
The head of the Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine said the Australians warned Canadian doctors in June they had limited ability to refine the raw isotopes from the reactor.
MP Carolyn Bennett also pointed out the difficulties with the Australian reactor in June:
The Australians have yet to put in place a plan to increase the output of their OPAL reactor, and first need to overcome a number of obstacles, including regulatory, labour and raw material considerations. The OPAL reactor was built to secure domestic supply for Australia, which remains their priority. With little experience exporting isotopes, questions about the reliability of shipments between Australia and the rest of the world, and no known supply agreements in place with Canada, there is little reason to think that what little additional isotopes Australia plans to export will make their way to Canada.
Will we hear from Minister Raitt in view of all of her statements above? Wouldn't count on it...

In addition to the Australian news, costs for hospitals continue to soar with no assistance from the federal government forthcoming. The facts keep getting in the way of the Harper government's attempt to ignore or minimize the isotope shortage this summer.

Update (2:20 p.m.): Oh, there she is:
Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt is expected to announce Monday that The Ex will receive $3-million from Canada's Marquee Tourism Events Program. Ms. Raitt's office did not return calls.

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