Saturday, January 12, 2008

Nuclear Safety: No Leadership

Stephen Harper and the Conservative party resolutely refuse to accept any responsibility for the shut-down of the Chalk River nuclear facilities which threatened the world supply of medical isotopes.

Rather than show leadership, the Conservatives are trying to shift the blame to someone else. They blame the Liberals, they blame Linda Keen the nuclear safety regulator, heck they even tried to blame the former head of AECL who incidentally was a Conservative appointee with ties to the Conservative party.

Rather than present Canadians with the facts, which given potential public alarm over nuclear safety would seem the right course of action, Conservatives have tried to obscure the facts. Responsibility for the misinformation lies squarely at the feet of Stephen Harper.

Leadership is about more than just ordering people around. And recently (see my last two posts) the Harper Conservatives have demonstrated a flagrant lack of leadership. No Leadership on the ethics of the Mulroney-Schreiber scandal; no leadership on the legitimate economic concerns of the premiers. And if you know what the Conservative positions on the combat mission in Afghanistan or the Environment are, please let me know. Do Conservatives even know what their position is?

All the Conservatives’ talk about Leadership is only half what it seems to be. What about honesty? What about clarity of purpose? What about listening or even just a little executive competence?


The Grumpy Voter said...

Might want to read this:

it isn't necessarily about blame, it's about two federal parties that dropped the ball in a very big way.

Aaron said...


I appreciate the link. I don't typically go to the SUN for news.
I am a bit suspicious of the parts of the report Weston chooses to quote and which he sets up with some fairly leading language. In other words, some of the implications appear to be coming from Weston to the extent that Dhaliwal's response feels tremedously weird (or maybe in fact out of context). That I suspect is Weston's intention. Then again, I tend not to believe anything I read in the SUN.

In any event, every government is going to face emergency situations and they need to take responsibility for them.
The present emergency, the threats of imminent closure and the shut down itself, was fully within the term of the present Conservative government. They have been in power for two years already. That is more than enough time to master the government portfolios. The minister should have been aware of the showdown between the safety regulator and the reactor mangers
and he should have taken steps to manage it. In short, the emergency was avoidable and the conservatives should accept responsibility for it.

Blaming Linda Keen, the safety regulator, is dishonest and entirely beside the point. Blaming Linda Keen suggests that the Conservatives still in a profound sense misunderstand the situation and that is dangerous.

Aaron said...

Further, the whole issue would have faded away had not minister Lunn himself continued to play the blame game over the Christmas break. It was unnecessary. They are really bringing this upon themselves. That's not leadership.

The Grumpy Voter said...

I don't typically quote the Sun as a source either, but in this case, I found the link on Paul Wells blog. Given that during the Chretien years, the government of the day basically cut everything that could be cut in the name of "slaying the deficit", I can see how Chalk River could easily be a low priority for many years. Does this give the Tories a free pass? Absolutely not, they dropped the ball horribly, but in the case of a facility that's been around for more than fifty years and given the circumstances of fiscal restraint in the 1990's, I think Weston's point is laudable. What I am tired of as a non-partisan voter, is the ongoing finger pointing conducted by both Tories and Liberals alike. It's always the other guy's fault -- what I'd rather see, (and I suspect most voters would) is a dialogue on how to ensure this stuff never happens again. So if it's an issue of poor leadership, I am comfortable with saying the Liberals and the Tories blew it big time.

Aaron said...

"It's always the other guy's fault -- what I'd rather see, (and I suspect most voters would) is a dialogue on how to ensure this stuff never happens again."

Grumpy, I take your point. That is in fact what should have happened in this case. The government should have intervened to ensure that the back up generator was installed properly and/or found other sources of isotopes to ease the situation while the repairs were performed. That would have been leadership and you and I would have probably lived on in happy ignorance of the whole affair. But that is not what happened.

What the Liberals would have done in this situation is speculative because they do not now exercise executive control over the facilities. The correspondance that a pre-existing problem had finally in 2007 reached crisis levels was not adressed them. Given imminent threat of closure over the last two years would the Liberals have allowed the situation to boil over into crisis and then blame the safety regulator? Or would they have taken steps to deal with it effectively before the problem "melt down"? (pardon the pun)

I agree with you that the situation could have been handled differently and better.

Aaron said...

And, like you, I would have prefered that the dialogue be about how to improve safety rather than the conversation we are having now.