Sadly, Stephen Harper's Keysone Kops government has just acquired a new member. She’s none other than Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt. I use the word ‘sadly’ because she stood out in the Harper cabinet as articulate, cool and even funny. No kidding. Funny and still part of the Harper cabinet!
After meeting and hearing her recently in Calgary I mused that the Honourable Ms.Raitt would be far more at home with the Grits. She’s from Cape Breton – lots of Grits come from Cape Breton – and she is the daughter of a man who worked in the mines and earned his keep for a time as a union negotiator. She has three degrees from three top schools and won a scholarship that allowed her to train with British barristers in the Middle Temple in London. She also has a distinguished record of public service. She was Canada’s first female harbourmaster and just prior to getting elected in 2008 she served as President and CEO of the Toronto Port Authority. And - get this - she’s married to a comedy writer. Now that is a Liberal resume! It is certainly not a resume one would expect to find in the files of the dark and brooding, xenophobic, and unworldly government of Stephen Harper, unless it was on some enemies list.
Alas, poor Lisa as been stuck in deep political doodoo now for several weeks. First of all, there is the problem of shutting down the Chalk River nuclear reactor thus causing a world wide shortage of medical radioisotopes. As a result probably tens of thousands of cancer patients have to go without treatment. The problem falls under her department’s responsibilities and it has come to prominence on her watch. Her government is seen to have bungled the issue. Bad stuff indeed for any minister to face.
Last week Ms. Raitt’s fortunes took a turn of the worse. A couple of secret briefs on Chalk River were left inadvertently at the CTV news offices in Ottawa after a visit from Ms. Raitt and her chief aide, Jasmine MacDonnell. Jasmine up to that time was having a remarkable meteoric rise career-wise. A mere child of 26 years of age, Jasmine’s boss had promoted her to communications director, a gig that paid 120 grand a year. CTV hung on to the briefs for a week before doing the honourable thing of releasing its contents to the public. Jasmine, thankful at the opportunity of having served the Minister at such a young age and at such a high salary, took the fall and resigned. All of which was treated by the opposition in the House with the usual angry and indignant questions followed by loud guffaws and catcalls heaped upon the government. Raitt however stood her ground and fessed up to the botch-up glibly,coolly, and very alone. Her performance generated considerable admiration and even sympathy from many political observers.
Yesterday, life became much more complicated for the Minister. Steve Maher, a press gallery reporter for The Halifax Chronicle Herald reported that he had a tape of Raitt nattering away in a car between two political events in Victoria. On the tape the Minister called the isotope crisis “sexy” – hardly a worthy comment considering that thousands are going without cancer treatment because of it. About the isotope issue she said on tape,
"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."
The tape also had the Minister opining that her fellow minister, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq was not up to the task running her department, an opinion not likely to contribute to the peace and tranquility of the Conservative caucus. Read: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9012061.html
And how did the redoubtable Maher get his hands on the tape? Enter the absent minded, probably ditzy, highly paid, twenty-six year old ex- communications director. According to Maher, she left the tape in a women’s washroom on Parliament Hill. Maher did the honourable thing by contacting MacDonnell and telling her he had the tape. She expressed interest in getting it back, but for several months thereafter did nothing about it. After MacDonnell’s resignation, Maher and his superiors decided they should hear what was on the tapes. Presto! A five hour treasure trove of nasty politics!
MacDonnell, or people behind her, did not take this turn of events lightly. They immediately applied to the Courts for a publication ban. The Judge wisely decided that there were no legal grounds for such a ban and so Canadians everywhere now know the story. The Prime Minister’s Office has denied that the government nor the Conservative Party was behind the court application to keep the tape under wraps. Ahem. Read: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/isotope-crisis-a-sexy-story-raitt-says/article1174367/
Come to think of it, after some consideration I think the Minister should stick with the Conservative Party.