(Harper-appointed former AECL chair) Mike Burns says the Crown corporation that he used to oversee is losing money in the isotope business and is having problems bringing the new Maple reactors online. He says the solution lies with private industry.So what's wrong with Alghabra's response? First and most obviously, he looks entirely happy to play along with the Cons' assertion that their mismanagement should be classified as an "atomic crisis" which requires some drastic action.
"Nobody is happy. Government is not happy about putting the money in, Canadians aren't happy about having to pay. We've got out of the airline business, we've got out of the petroleum business ... That's what we should be focusing on," Burns sold Sun Media...
"Isotopes are a little business in which we lose a lot of money," said Burns.
"(AECL) needs more private sector content in the company to make it work," he said, explaining that Crown corporations cannot borrow money to invest.
Burns said an ideal solution would be to follow the model of the French nuclear company Areva which is a publicly traded company in which the French government owns 90% of the shares but the corporation is free to borrow funds against future profits.
Omar Alghabra, the Liberal Natural Resources critic, said a public-private partnership was a possible solution to the current atomic crisis.
"There are certainly good arguments for privatization but a decision like that should not be taken lightly," he said.
But even if one assumes something needs to be done, it's worth noting the utter disconnect between the supposed problem and the proposed solution. After all, if isotope production is indeed a money-losing enterprise, then it stands to reason that a focus on turning a profit will only ensure that it becomes less of a priority. In contrast, a public decision to make needed funding a priority would be the only practical way to ensure that isotopes are actually available in the future.
Of course, the Cons can be expected to present "solutions" which funnel money into corporate hands without actually solving anything. But if the Libs are willing to accept the Cons' reasons for doing so while (at best) quibbling over implementation issues, then it'll be all the more difficult for progressives to ensure that Harper isn't able to decimate the public sector.