Flaherty’s policy coin toss, reported on November 2, 2006: “You have to either leave it alone or fix it,” Mr. Flaherty shrugged Wednesday. “We were going to see the two largest telecommunications companies in the country not pay corporate taxes. [truth be told, both were actually paying zero taxes at the time as corporations, but who expects Canada’s Finance Minister to be able to read an income statement or a cash flow statement, or Canada’s business reporters for that matter, since we are a financially illiterate nation?] That's a clear and present danger to fairness in the Canadian tax system. I thought we had to act.” [ so he flipped the coin, as rolling the dice has too many outcomes for Flaherty to comprehend, making Lisa Raitt, the intellectual powerhouse of the Harper Cabinet].
Raitt 'ready to roll dice' on 'sexy' isotope crisis
Minister's taped comments revealed after injunction lifted
By STEPHEN MAHER Ottawa Bureau
Mon. Jun 8 - 6:32 PM
OTTAWA — Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt called the medical isotopes crisis "sexy," said she wanted to take credit for fixing it, and expressed doubts about the skills of Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq on a recording obtained by The Chronicle Herald.
Ms. Raitt made the comments to her former aide, Jasmine MacDonnell, in a conversation that appears to have been inadvertently recorded by Ms. MacDonnell on Jan. 30, while the two were being driven to an event in Victoria, B.C.
» Click here to read the affidavit from reporter Stephen Maher and The Chronicle Herald
The news is likely to raise questions about Ms. Raitt's handling of the isotope crisis, and about her judgment, since she promoted Ms. MacDonnell, 26.
Soon after the Victoria trip, Ms. MacDonnell misplaced the voice recorder containing the recording in the press gallery in Ottawa, and asked The Chronicle Herald to hold it for her until she could collect it. Five months later, she had not picked it up.
After Ms. MacDonnell resigned this week — taking the blame for leaving secret files at CTV’s Ottawa studio — the paper’s editors decided to listen to the device.
Ms. Raitt and Ms. MacDonnell had their conversation not long after a heavy water leak at the Chalk River nuclear reactor, west of Ottawa. Problems at the reactor led to a shutdown in May, which has led to a shortage of radioisotopes, which doctors across Canada use to diagnose and treat cancer patients.
As they drive around Victoria, chatting with their driver, Ms. Raitt and Ms. MacDonnell discuss their unsuccessful efforts to get Ms. Aglukkaq to contribute a quote to a news release on the isotope crisis.
Click here to listen to the conversation
“They’re terrified of the issues,” said Ms. Raitt.
“You know what? Good. Because when we win on this, we get all the credit. I’m ready to roll the dice on this. This is an easy one. You know what solves this problem? Money. And if it’s just about money, we’ll figure it out. It’s not a moral issue.”
“No,” says Ms. MacDonnell. “The moral and ethical stuff around it are just clear.”
“It’s really clear,” says Ms. Raitt. “Oh. Leona. I’m so disappointed.”
“Isn’t that interesting,” says Ms. MacDonnell. “They’re just so .... I wonder if it’s her staff trying to shield her from it or whether she is just terrified.”
“I think her staff is trying to shield her,” says Ms. Raitt. “Oh, God. She’s such a capable woman, but it’s hard for her to come out of a co-operative government into this rough-and-tumble. She had a question in the House yesterday, or two days ago, that planked. I really hope she never gets anything hot.”
Ms. MacDonnell says the communications strategy around Ms. Aglukkaq is to never put her out in public.
"You always hear Health officials talking. There is definitely a time and place where you want to keep it at the officials level, but you need to also demonstrate leadership as a minister,” she says.
“Yeah, you do,” says Ms. Raitt. "Wow.’’
Ms. Raitt is the lead minister on the isotope file, but she and Ms. Aglukkaq, who had previously served as health minister of Nunavut, work together to deal with the shortage of isotopes. Canadian hospitals are already delaying tests for cancer patients because of the shortage of isotopes.
Click here to listen to the next conversation
Ms. MacDonnell said the isotope issue is hard to control, “because it’s confusing to a lot of people.”
“But it’s sexy,” says Ms. Raitt. “Radioactive leaks. Cancer.”
“Nuclear contamination,” says Ms. MacDonnell.
“But it’s only about money,” say Ms. Raitt.
Opposition politicians attacked Ms. Raitt last week for allowing Ms. MacDonnell to take the fall for the lost documents while keeping her own job. In the House of Commons, Ms. Raitt has repeatedly said that her staffer made a mistake and resigned, and that Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to accept her own resignation.
Ms. MacDonnell was already the press secretary in the minister's office when Ms. Raitt took the job, but she eventually promoted her to communications director, a job that pays about $120,000 a year.
In January 2008, the Conservative government fired Linda Keen, head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, because she ordered safety upgrades that would have shut down the Chalk River reactor.
At the time, then-natural resources minister Gary Lunn suggested the decision was a matter of life and death."Had we not acted, people invariably would have died, since medical isotopes for serious cancer procedures were not available, and we could not let that happen," he said.
Later in her conversation with Ms. MacDonnell, Ms. Raitt tells the man driving them around Victoria that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff had backed down from defeating the Conservative government on a budget a few days earlier because he got a message from Canadian bankers.
“They did it at the Canadian Council of (Chief) Executives, there was three presidents of major banks who stood up in the room — and this is not from cabinet so I can talk about it — stood up and said, ‘Ignatieff, don’t you even think about bringing us to an election,’” said Ms. Raitt.
“'We don’t need this. We have no interest in this. And we will never fund your party again.’ That was very powerful. So he heard it from very powerful people in the industry. He was definitely muzzled.”
Liberal finance critic John McCallum, who was present for the closed-door Jan. 20 meeting with about 100 executives, says they were against the coalition and an election, but there was “not even a hint of a veiled threat,” and bankers would never make such a threat in a meeting with so many people present.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “Can you imagine a bank president standing up in a room like that with more than 100 people in the room and saying something like that? It makes no sense.”
Elsewhere on the recording, Ms. Raitt suggests that Manitoba Conservative MP Joy Smith could pay for her decision to introduce a private member’s bill that would impose mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking in children.
She starts by lamenting that she can’t go to Hy’s, an Ottawa watering hole favoured by journalists and politicians.“I don’t do the Hy’s thing,” she says. “I can’t. I’d love to, but I can’t. That’ll be a career-limiting move, as we would say. Speaking of career-limiting moves, I’m in shock that that MP Joy Smith brought forward private member’s legislation on human trafficking.”
“I didn’t see that,” says Ms. MacDonnell.
“She’s on Canada AM. And the reason being is that there’s no way any of us should be introducing anything around justice issues or finance issues right now. You just can’t touch those two things.”
The implication is that the Prime Minister’s Office would be displeased with Ms. Smith for putting forward legislation that interferes with the government’s own law-and-order agenda.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Posted by Fillibluster at 7:43 PM