[Date Prev][Date Next]
[cdn-nucl-l] Isotope Fracas
Ottawa ignored nuclear hiring advice
Former AECL chief was passed over for Alliance fundraiser
DANIEL LEBLANC and ALAN FREEMAN
The Globe and Mail
With files from Gloria Galloway and Campbell Clark
December 18, 2007
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 yesterday 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.
Mr. Burns left his position late Friday, and Health Minister Tony
Clement said in a television interview yesterday 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.
Mr. Burns did not return telephone calls yesterday.
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
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 yesterday 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
"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 yesterday, 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
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 yesterday.
Efforts to reach AECL board members yesterday 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.
Randal Leavitt - another Ubuntu user