Science and technology in Canada
3 min

Blind assurances

It should come as little surprise to anyone that AECL announced this morning that the Chalk River reactor will be down even longer than anticipated – until spring 2010 at the very least. And while the ministers of health and natural resources are expressing their disappointment and encouraging AECL to work as fast as possible, Liberals Carolyn Bennett and David McGuinty are doing the “Told’ya so” dance.

And this is something about the whole Chalk River issue since the reactor was first shut down in May – the government has consistently been patting the opposition – and by extension the Canadian public – on the heads going “there, there,” and crowing about how they’re “in touch” with the other international suppliers, and how Australia’s reactor was going to be online soon enough and hey, Chalk River will be back up in three months – no sweat!

Except that Chalk River wasn’t going to be up in three months, let alone six, and probably not nine.  And being “in touch” with international suppliers doesn’t mean much when the other reactors are facing shutdowns for their own maintenance cycles, leaving critical shortfalls. And how the Australian reactor isn’t able to even meet their own domestic supply and won’t be able to meet any international demand for several more months, meaning there are increasing shortfalls. Meanwhile, hospitals are seeing their isotope bills increasing by fifty percent, and the federal government has washed their hands of helping them out with those added costs, saying simply that health care is the responsibility of the provinces. In other words, not our problem – even when it kind of our fault.

So what I find especially galling in all of this is for the Health Minister to bitch about having to face the Health committee on Wednesday, saying the opposition was just “playing politics.” Meanwhile, what has the minister been doing on the H1N1 file? Patting the opposition – and by extension the Canadian people – on the heads going “there, there,” while there have already been gaps in the public health coverage demonstrated – hello hand sanitizers for northern reservations.

It’s not playing politics to demand answers when you’re being shut out with platitudes. And it’s not just partisanship to demand accountability from a pair of ministers who haven’t been able to get their acts together on crucial health files in this country, and whose false assurances and empty promises are demonstrating their inability to manage those files in a responsible manner. It’s about the ministers doing their jobs – but that’s something else that seems to be fading in the new Canadian government-of-one.

Elsewhere, Harper now says that the government is “hard at work” trying to get Suaad Hagi Mohamud back to Canada. Uh, right. I don’t exactly see the consulate in Nairobi requesting the Kenyan courts drop the charges against her that came about because of their error, or agreeing to forward the returned bail moneys she will be owed, or helping cover the back rent on the slum dwelling she had to stay in where her luggage is currently seized, because, once again, of their error. (Oh, and the Liberals – want you to know they were hard at work on this case since June).

There was another meeting of the EI “working group” yesterday – no word if anything got accomplished, but both sides have now taken to sniping at one another in the op-ed pages. Really guys? Really? Could you at least try to make the charade of Making Parliament Work™ a little more convincing for another week or two?

And Liberal trade critic Scott Brison blasts the government once again for not engaging the Americans on their protectionism.

Up this weekend: the NDP have their convention in Halifax, and may emerge with a new name. And hey, there’s already drama with a pro-pot activist being booted from the convention, while he mounts attacks via Facebook and Twitter.