Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So much for blaming those "Liberal appointees" eh?

If Harper has the teeth marks on his ass checked forensically, he'll find they match his own dental work... his own words coming back to bite him. Way to go, Steve.

Update: The Globe article below is good, but the posting by Jim Bobby connects some interesting dots... worth a read. Let's hope we hear more about this...

Ottawa ignored nuclear hiring advice

Former AECL chief was passed over for Alliance fundraiser

DANIEL LEBLANC AND ALAN FREEMAN
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
December 18, 2007 at 2:16 AM EST



OTTAWA — The Conservative government rejected the findings of independent headhunters last year on the hiring of a new chair for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., picking instead a partisan fundraiser who abruptly left last week during the isotope crisis.

Jean-Pierre Soublière, who was the acting chair of AECL in late 2005, said in an interview Monday he was certain he was twice selected by the independent panel to become the permanent chairman of the board.

The first selection process was launched under the Liberal government of Paul Martin, but the nomination did not proceed because of the 2006 election. The incoming Harper government did not like the results of that process and launched a second one, which also recommended Mr. Soublière, an Ottawa consultant who was linked to the Liberal Party of Canada.

But the Tories refused to appoint Mr. Soublière. Instead, they nominated Michael Burns, a former executive vice-president at B.C. Gas and onetime fundraiser for the Canadian Alliance, a precursor to the Conservative Party.

Health Minister Tony Clement says ‘there has to be new management, there has to be better management’ at AECL. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

Mr. Burns left his position late Friday, and Health Minister Tony Clement said in a television interview Monday the departure was related to the shutdown of an AECL reactor that created a worldwide shortage of medical isotopes.

“I think it's fair to say it confirmed our impression that there has to be new management, there has to be better management, at AECL,” Mr. Clement said.

Mr. Burns did not return telephone calls Monday.

In an interview, Mr. Soublière said it is his understanding he was selected to be the AECL chair, but that he did not get the offer. He confirmed he was involved with the Liberal Party and the onetime leadership race of his friend John Manley, while adding he also donated in the past to the Conservatives.

“The government had the right to do what it did, and it did it. ... I don't take it personally,” he said.

Mr. Soublière refused to comment on last month's shutdown of the AECL reactor in Chalk River, Ont., prompted by a decision from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that feared the lack of backup power on a crucial pump.

Last week, the Harper government blamed the crisis on Linda Keen, the career civil servant who heads the CNSC, alleging she was a Liberal appointee who was putting lives in danger by not permitting the restart of the reactor.

A nuclear industry insider said Monday the government was faced with a difficult dilemma when the prolonged shutdown led to a shortage of medical isotopes, but at no time did he sense Ms. Keen took a partisan approach.

“Ms. Keen was doing only strictly what she had to do under the law,” the insider said. “She applied the law to the letter. She should not be flexible in that job. I was surprised that they attacked her personally.”

The government responded to the crisis last week by adopting emergency legislation that forced AECL to start up its reactor.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Mr. Clement said valuable lessons were learned during the crisis.

“One of the first things that we did in conjunction with Gary Lunn, the Natural Resources Minister, was to make it clear to both the regulator and the AECL that if there was ever in the future an unscheduled event which was longer than the usual shutdown, we would have to be notified well in advance,” Mr. Clement said.

But the Liberals attacked Ottawa's handling of the matter, saying the Harper government was aware for months of the need for repairs at Chalk River.

Liberal MP Omar Alghabra said the government earmarked $71-million in October for upgrades at Chalk River, while Mr. Lunn has said he learned of the shutdown only earlier this month. “For him to say he first became aware of problems at the facility on Dec. 3 is ridiculous,” Mr. Alghabra said in an statement Monday.

Efforts to reach AECL board members Monday were unsuccessful: Quebec City lawyer Marcel Aubut and Calgary governance consultant Stella Thompson did not return calls; an assistant said outgoing Concordia University president Claude Lajeunesse could not be reached; Brookfield Asset Management chair Robert Harding was out of the country until the New Year, according to an assistant, and University of New Brunswick professor Barbara Trenholm, who is on leave, did not respond to an e-mail.

With files from Gloria Galloway and Campbell Clark

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