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Memo to public servants from Stephen Harper: Be a shill for us or be fired. (PS Liberals: this screams for a non-confidence motion)

Unless you’ve been out all day, you’ll know that Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, finally resurfaced after a couple weeks of being incognito, and decided to fire Linda Keen from her job as Chairperson of The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. That announcement was made at 10 pm Tuesday night; long after the media and MP’s had gone home from Parliament Hill, and the press release put out near midnight; the day before Gary Lunn AND Linda Keen were due to testify at the Natural Resources Committee on the very topic of Nuclear Safety and how the Minister etc. had handle things. Quel concidence!

Kady O’Malley was good enough to liveblog from the hearings today, and I think one of the better points today was made by Liberal MP David McGuinty:

David McGuinty is on fire. On fire! He goes down the list of independent commissioners, officers of parliament and other troublemakers – Marc Mayrand, William Corbett, John Reid, etc – who have run afoul of this government, and paid the ultimate price. “Anyone who tries to do his job in this town tends to lose it,” he notes, calling it a “Republican tactic” never before seen in Ottawa.

McGuinty nails it. The Bush administration over the past 8 years have turned political appointments from being non-partisan civil servants into highly partisan, highly politicized yes-persons for the government willing to parrot the Bush Administration’s positions without question. Harper and his Conservative government are showing off another tactic they’ve decided to clone from their American Idols down south in attempting to do the same thing. Either blindly follow our partisan position, or get canned.

I’ll add one other thing from above: the timing of this firing was designed, I believe, with the hope of silencing Keen for now. She made it well known in her letter’s rebuttal to Gary Lunn’s clumsily leaked correspondence that she would fight any firing of herself from her CNSC chairperson’s position in court, and I don’t doubt the Harperites were hoping that her lawyer would advise her to stay silent and not testify in front of today’s committee for an impending court case so that her side of the issue would for now not be heard and that we’d only get Gary Lunn’s rather biased version of events. For now, they’ve succeeded, but I think Ms. Keen has a very good case here for wrongful dismissal; I wouldn’t even bother trying to get her old job back (I understand she remains on the Commission as a member) she should sue the pants off Lunn and Harper and this government.

One other thing: I’ve seen others calling for this incident as a prelude to a non-confidence motion in the government. I’ll even re-print what the motion should read, as posted here originally:

Whereas the government has:

shown itís disregard for the safety of Canadians;

– disregarded the independence of an arm-length regulatory agency charged with protecting the safety of Canadians;
– attempted to intimidate the head of the independent agency to have the agency ignore itís legislated responsibility to protect Canadians safety;
– introduced and passed legislation placing Canadians safety at risk;
– put the economic interests of a private corporation before the safety of Canadians;
– showed disrespect to a Parliamentary Committee by acting on an issue prior to itís study by the Committee and interfered with the independence of the Committee by firing the head of an independent regulatory agency immediately prior to her testimony before the Parliamentary Committee;
– eliminated the independence of the regulatory agency by putting it under the direct control of the government via an Assistant Deputy Minister;

Be it resolved that this House has lost confidence in the government.

I’ll point out that point #3 isn’t a good one for this motion because all parties did agree unanimously to pass the legislation designed to override the Canadian Nuclear Safety Board’s decision. The rest of the motion I don’t have any problem with. This is as good a reason as any to throw the government out – it has shown its incompetence and its willingness to exert political interference within the previous non-partisan civil service.

13 comments to Memo to public servants from Stephen Harper: Be a shill for us or be fired. (PS Liberals: this screams for a non-confidence motion)

  • Deanna

    I agree with Scott.

    It was not Ms Keen’s job to procure radio isotopes. Her job was to ensure that nuclear plants are operated safely – and to force them to correct problems when they arise. She did her job.

    It was the responsibility of the people who procure radio isotopes to make sure they had a backup plan in case of a hiccup in the regular supply. I draw an analogy to electrical power outages. If electrical power becomes unavailable (regardless of the reason), one expects hospitals to have backup generators.† If radio isotopes become unavailable from one supplier, one should have a plan in place to obtain an alternate supply.

    Better yet, the Canadian government would ensure that more than one Canadian nuclear plant can produce radio isotopes.

    There were several "D’oh!" moments here, but none of them were Keen’s.

  • Gayle

    "People could die because of a lack of isotopes – something this woman didnít seem to care about."

    Her job was to regulate the safety of a nuclear power plant. She has very specific guidelines and she was following them. There is nothing in those guidelines that say she may ignore them if the PM and his cabinet think she should. If Lunn was any good at his job he would know that.

    "the Opposition parties have given the Conservatives the amunition to use against the Ms. Keen and her commission."

    I do not think so. That argument got a lot weaker once it came out that Lunn was not candid with Parliament about what he knew and when. It now comes accross like the conservatives were trying to pull one over on the House. Canadians know this was a tough call, made under stressful conditions without sufficient time to consider it fully. The decision to fire Keen, on the other hand, came weeks later, and coincidently on the eve of her testimony before the committee. If this was really about her competence she would have been fired right after the motion passed, rather than at the last possible moment before she was to testify.

  • The more I read comment about how there were other sources available the more I wondered if MDS Nordion screw up or simply does not want to spend more, since they got a pretty good cost with AECL. Maybe someone can point to sources that would confirm they were able to do that before. I think shutdown or something had occured at AECL before if I remember correctly.

    The other theory will be a conspiracy one. That is they are in collusion with the government to create a crisis but I don’t see how that would benefit the government since this whole thing makes them look bad and they were in the process of privatizing AECL also.

  • I’ve compiled a timeline of the event and one questionable thing that have not been mentioned a lot is when Gary Lunn called Keen trying to pressure her, she told him there’s legal stuff that needs to be taken care of. Then Gary Lunn instead of helping suspended Ministry of Justice service to CNSC. Perhaps if they have coordinated between Minister of Justice and CNSC to help them expedite whatever amendment need to be made,† there would be no need for name calling and emergency legislation. But I guess that is less sexy for Harper and they cannot take as much credit if it is behind the scene. IMO.

  • Jay

    "I am usually a pretty easy going guy but over the last number of months I have noticed that the liblogs are full of people who donít care about anything but trashing Harper – is return to power all you care about – does the damage you are doing to the system and the country even matter?"

    Thats pretty rich there Ron. The current government is the one doing everything you claim the opposition is. Liberals are not destroying the independednce of independent commissions, nor dod they have a play book to disrupt committees. I would even bet that if the liberals were in power there would have been SEVERAL REAL meetings with the premiers. Nor would a liberal government sit idly by letting manufacturing in this country die just so Alberta could get its greedy hands on more people to enslave in their GHG industry.

    By the way, look up what Linda keens job was. It had nothing to do with health canada or the health of people in other countries, she worked for a NUCLEAR safety commission which is not part of health canada.

    Its people like you that are destroying this country by allowing republicans to take it over. If you want to talk about† people who donít care about anything but† power you may want to check out the PM and his voiceless MP’s hiding in the shadows.

  • a different Ron

    " I am saying is that by having supported that emergency legislation, they have helped to build the Conservatives case"

    Ballooney – Keen did her job, ie made a call based on her narrow mandate for safety.† The Parliament – which has a much broader mandate – did theirs

  • [quote comment="12376"]I read some place that we can get isotopes from Europe….. and we have before. So why didn’t Lunn tell them to do that, and we would have time to fix whatever had to be fixed and it could be done in time to make our own isotopes under safer conditions, than it is now.[/quote]
    Eight weeks worth. The upgrades would’ve taken two weeks. Keen was well aware of this. Lunn should have this information too.

  • Scott…. "Also, the overruling of the CSNC didnít mean that the Parliament on the opposition side of things was approving the sacking of Ms. Keen"… I’m not saying that they are approving it. But what I am saying is that by having supported that emergency legislation, they have helped to build the Conservatives case. They’ve helped things get to this point, and if they had stood up to the Conservatives sooner, then maybe Ms. Keen wouldn’t have been put through all of it.

    Catelli… I don’t argue that the Conservatives nature and their seeming need to control absolutely everything, even those things that they are not supposed to control (i.e. CNSC and Ms. Keen) is a problem here. But like I said above, the Opposition parties have given the Conservatives the amunition to use against the Ms. Keen and her commission. That’s why I feel that all the Opposition Parties need to publicly admit that they were wrong in supporting that legislation in order to try to get themselves back on the right side of the issue. It’s one thing to make that initial mistake, but to stand up and say "Hey, we screwed up" does help in mitigating some of that mistake.

  • I dunno Cam, the high-handedness of firing the head of the commission goes beyond the isotope problem.† The Cons could have moved/or introduced or whatever the process is to fire her, and get parliament to agree.† They are showing an absolute contempt for any parliamentary procedure.† If this were an isolated case, there would be a weaker argument.

    Its not about the decision to shutdown the reactor or to restart it.† Its the usurping of authority for partisan† gain that should bring this government down.†

  • Cam:

    Hence why I said in the piece that point #3 needed to be removed before you use this motion for non-confidence.† Also, the overruling of the CSNC didn’t mean that the Parliament on the opposition side of things was approving the sacking of Ms. Keen. That was brought up at the Committee today by Opposition members, and it needs to be repeated over and over again.

  • Scott…. I agree that this would be a good confidence motion, but there is one big flaw, and that is that all of the Opposition Parties did support the Conservatives legislation on this. In doing so, all of the Opposition parties gave up the high ground, and gave the Conservatives something to defend their actions with. In my opinion, if any of the Opposition parties want to get the high ground back on this one, they are going to have to basically admit they screwed up by supporting that bill. Annie is right, there are other sources of Isotopes out there, and while the Conservatives have been running around trying to basically paint the blood of non-existent dead on Ms. Keen’s hands, they have not been able to show that lives were directly in danger (I go into that a bit deeper on my blog).† The Opposition parties gave these Conservatives an inch, and now they’re trying to turn it into 100 miles, and sadly, they can’t blame anyone but themselves for that.

  • I read†some place† that we can get isotopes from Europe…..†and we have before. So why didn’t Lunn tell them to do that, and we would have time to fix whatever had to be fixed and† it could be done in time to make our own isotopes under† safer conditions, than it is now.

  • Ron

    I have a question for you – does the appointment to one of these arms-length boards allow†one to perform in a reckless or incompetant manner without any recourse by the Parliament? This women made a decision to close down the isotope producing reactor. All parties and memebrs present voted to overrule her decision and order the re-opening of the reactor. At what point do the citizens of this country give up their right to hold people like her responsible for her actions and decisions? We can only imagine the screaming coming from you and the media if the government had sat back and wiped their hands of this issue because of the independance of the commission. People†could die because of a lack of isotopes – something this woman didn’t seem to care about. I am usually a pretty easy going guy but over the last number of months I have noticed that the liblogs are full of people who don’t care about anything but trashing Harper – is return to power all you care about – does the damage you are doing to the system and the country even matter? If the Liberals truly thought this woman made the right decision, the time to stand up for that view was during the vote when Parliament voted to overrule her decision – now it is pure political point scoring and who cares who gets hurt. Disgusting. I do agree the Liberals should stop their†scummy, two-faced†performance in the House – stand up and vote no confidence — If they get re-elected I can live with democracy – BUT if the people of Canada return the Conservatives the Liberals have to shut up for a year — unlikely but everyone needs a dream.

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