Harpers Nuclear Opportunism
Never one to miss an opportunity to make a purse out of a sows ear, Harper once again used his autocratic power as PM to supposedly solve the crisis by 'firing' the head of the AECL and demand the reactor be put back on line. Except the 'firing' was a big lie.
AECL chair tendered his resignation in November, long before controversy was made public
The former chairman of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. lashed out Tuesday at attempts to blame him for the Chalk River nuclear reactor controversy, calling the Harper government's handling of his resignation “a clumsy piece of political opportunism.”
Michael Burns told The Globe and Mail he submitted his resignation as chair of the Crown corporation on Nov. 29, before the medical isotope crisis stemming from the Chalk River shutdown became public. His departure was announced last Friday with no explanation, but was soon linked by a key cabinet minister to the Chalk River situation.
“I was quite taken aback two weeks later when I heard my resignation had been accepted by the Prime Minister in the midst of the crisis,” Mr. Burns said.
Health Minister Tony Clement has since connected leadership changes at AECL, including the replacement of Mr. Burns, a Vancouver energy executive and onetime Tory fundraiser, as well as the appointment of a new CEO, with the need to give the organization better management.“Well, maybe they do [need better management],” Mr. Burns shot back. “But this is a clumsy piece of political opportunism. If they're going to do it, they could do it with a little more skill.”
Mr. Burns said he submitted his resignation, which becomes effective on Dec. 31, after a little over a year in the job because of delays in getting a series of proposed reforms instituted at the Crown corporation. He would not elaborate on the nature of the reforms.
Mr. Burns also took issue with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's attack on Linda Keen, chair of the Canadian Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which ordered the Chalk River reactor to extend a routine maintenance shutdown in order to install additional safety equipment, provoking the isotope shortage. Emergency legislation was passed by Parliament last week overriding the regulator and forcing the reactor to restart.
Mr. Harper labelled Ms. Keen, a career public servant, as a Liberal appointee who put the lives of Canadians in danger by cutting off the supply of isotopes.
Asked whether he thought Ms. Keen had acted in a partisan manner, Mr. Burns responded: “I think not. There's no politics in that. There may be administrative politics but there are no party politics in that dispute.”
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