Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dear Christian Paradis

Welcome to the Natural Resources file from a not so prominent blogger type who happens to be quite intrigued by your new department's goings on. As you will soon discover, there's a little bit of everything going on with your new file. Consider this a bit of a welcome wagon to introduce you to a few of the special issues that await you as the third Harper Natural Resources Minister in four years. Two have flamed out rather spectacularly already. One of them seems to now be entrusted with no more than photo ops. So best of luck, sincerely, you'll need it.

There's a big health care challenge facing you, that you might not be contemplating in those terms as an incoming Natural Resources Minister. But given that you are the Minister technically responsible for overseeing the Chalk River nuclear facility which has been Canada's (and the U.S.'s) main supplier of medical isotopes, you're in the mix now. That's not gone so well under Conservative management. Kind of funny how that doggone old thing never broke down in 13 years of Liberal government, isn't it? But let's not be too partisan on your very first day (hmm, is it one's first day, technically, due to prorogation...). The main point here, those in Quebec in particular are getting quite concerned about the shortage, you might have seen recent articles like this one: "Isotopes: le Québec ne peut plus étirer l'élastique." Translation (which you don't need): on isotopes, the elastic has been stretched to the limit. So best of luck in countering the voices from your home province in particular, they've been quite vocal on the isotope file, not a task I would underestimate if I were you: "Ce gouvernement a une obligation morale de révéler ce qu'il entend faire pour assurer ce service essentiel." Lamoureux, Urbain, names you will get to know.

Let's see, what else...oh yes, the privatization of AECL. Part of the Conservative ideological agenda, hiving off government assets, I suppose we'll be seeing lots of that under colleague Flaherty's coming axeman regime. But for you, it's a tricky one. First of all, the public is on record opposing it. Don't take my word for it, just haul out your own government commissioned polling data. Maybe you should consider that? Huh? Do we count or not?

Still with AECL, there's the whole $1.6B MDS lawsuit thingy, the Ontario government withdrawal from AECL's refurbishing of Darlington and a whole brand spankin' new lawsuit threat from NB Premier Shawn Graham over Point Lepreau's overrun costs. Talk about a tough - and unwise - sale to make. Any fire sale might elicit backlash from the Canadian taxpayer, don't discount it. We've put oodles in AECL, don't think it would be appreciated if it were to be dumped when nuclear demand around the world is thought to be going up and new deals with India are in the background. Not to mention that whole "Canadian jobs" consideration should AECL be sold to a foreign buyer, there are 30,000 in the nuclear industry. And the loss of control over Canadian technology/brain drain implications, well, we could go on.

Then there's the whole question of whether you will actually have much of a role to play here in any event. Not to put too much of a damper on your excitement for the big new job, but your boss has a tendency to hog the limelight and announce in an off the cuff manner quite consequential things having to do with your department and, frankly, Canada. But I suppose that's life in the Harper cabinet and you're apparently on board with that. Just don't let yourself be the Minister to oversee the decimation of the nuclear file. It could really hurt us.

That's probably enough for now, will hold off on that giant energy brouhaha on the east coast, don't want to overwhelm on the first day:) Best of luck with the file. We will be watching.

With best regards,

just another concerned Canadian citizen

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