Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Secret Chalk River files left at CTV. Will Lisa Raitt survive this?

After Natural Resources minister Lisa Raitt spent the day on a parliamentary committee hot seat over safety and production concerns at the Chalk River nuclear reactor, a situation that largely developed under the watch of her predecessor, Gary Lunn, news is breaking tonight that has to make one wonder how much longer Raitt will be spending at the cabinet table:

Sensitive government documents left behind at a CTV News bureau reveal Ottawa has poured far more money into the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor than the public has been told.

The binder of documents was left nearly a week ago at CTV's Ottawa bureau by either Minister of Natural Resources Lisa Raitt or one of her aides. Some of the papers are clearly marked "secret."
The last time a cabinet minister mishandled secret government documents it was Maxime Bernier leaving documents at his ex-girlfriend Julie Couillard's house. And we all know what happened with Bernier.

Raitt was already taking a beating in the Chalk River file. It's hard to see how she walks away from this. Whether it was her or her staffer that left the documents behind, the principle of ministerial responsibility applies, and this is clearly an unacceptable lapse.

What's in the documents is equally momentous:
In documents headlined "Background for discussion with chair of Atomic Energy Canada," the government lists funding for the Crown corporation at $351 million for 2009-2010. That figure was in the January budget.

However, it also lists $72 million to "maintain the option of isotope production." The public 2009 budget does not specifically mention funding for isotopes.

The documents also include a hand-written note that lists total funding for Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. since 2006 at $1.7 billion, and then a talking-point memo to characterize the spending as "cleaning up a Liberal mess."

Other documents highlight cost increases for AECL that have not been made public. In one document headlined "Discussion with CEO Hugh MacDiarmid, CEO of Atomic Energy Canada," it lists $100 million in supplementary funding to keep it solvent.
The Conservatives have mishandled this file badly, and to try to blame this mess on the Liberals is a transparently pathetic attempt at spin. It was clear 18 months ago that there were serious problems at Chalk River. Linda Keen was fired for blowing the whistle. Today in question period Stephen Harper was all about safety first, oddly vindicating Keen's call 18 months ago to favour safety over isotope production.

The government has had 18 months to fix the problems at Chalk River. It has had 18 months to put alternate arrangements in place to ensure an adequate supply of medical isotopes in the event of another reactor shutdown. Instead it has failed on both counts: Chalk River is in worse shape then ever, and there are no back-ups in place. Because of Conservative mismanagement, ill Canadians are going without the medically necessary treatment they need.

It's an epic failure. Once for which, I suspect, Lisa Raitt will soon be walking the plank.

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Steve V said...

I bet Janke is blogging right now, about how these documents were purposely left with CTV, because the Cons knew that the network would report the words "cleaning up a Liberal mess". All that other stuff about unreported money is just cover so the media thinks it's a genuine accident, but really the Conservative geniuses are just planting the new narrative. Don't try to understand Jeff, these guys operate on a different level. Man, they're good.

penlan said...

Hope your right Jeff but a "staffer" will probably be blamed & then turfed even though Raitt is ultimately responsible.

Also, good to see that the hand written note about trying to characterize "cleaning up a Liberal mess" was released in the media. It shows everyone how the Cons work a spin to deflect blame.