Liberals decry use of ‘Republican’ tactics





The Conservative government had a personal vendetta against Canada’s nuclear watchdog whose safety concerns about an aging nuclear reactor sparked a shortage of medical isotopes, opposition MPs say.

Appearing before a parliamentary committee yesterday, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn refused to cite one example of what Linda Keen had done wrong in her job, only that she had lost the confidence of the government.

“These are the kinds of Republican tactics this town has never seen before,” Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South) told the natural resources committee.

“The prime minister and the people around the prime minister will stop at nothing. ... They will fabricate, in my mind, a case to dismiss a senior official, an independent regulator,” he told reporters later.

In an extraordinary late-night move Tuesday, Keen, 50, was dumped from her post as president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission — an arm’s length, quasi-judicial agency — on the eve of a scheduled appearance before the committee. As a result, Keen, who has been critical of the government’s handling of the file, was a no-show yesterday.

In late December, the Chalk River region was hit by two small tremors — the very reason Keen had been demanding safety upgrades to the reactor, sparking the showdown with government.

McGuinty charged that the Prime Minister’s Office orchestrated the “dead of night” dismissal to remove an independent officer who had been a thorn in the government’s side.

During his Parliament Hill appearance, Lunn was repeatedly pressed to cite one reason for the decision to dump Keen, who was due to serve as president until 2010.

“I’m going to ask again for the record. What specifically, what evidence are you prepared to table in this committee for Canadians to justify your decision to fire Linda Keen,” McGuinty said.

“The evidence is there that she did not execute her responsibilities in her role ... with the events surrounding the medical isotope issue” said Lunn.