Cyberwanderer’s Blog

August 30, 2010

Harper Contributed to Steep Increase in Unemployment

Filed under: Canada,Politics — cyberwanderer @ 12:13 am
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Harper’s policy have contributed to the steep rise in unemployment numbers. July numbers showed an unexpected loss of 139,000 full time jobs according to Statistics Canada, the department responsible for census and keeping track of vital benchmark information like job numbers. Without them how do we measure our government’s performance. With expected increase in EI claims, Harper then went on to cut the department that is expected to be busy as they process the increased EI claims. Harper cut 1,200 Service Canada jobs leading to possible delay and increased wait times not only for those claiming EI but also retiree waiting for their pensions.

There could have been more jobs created have it not for some of Harper’s policy. Part of Ontario’s stimulus plan was to build a new Nuclear plant to meet its electricity demand once our economy recover. They were set to award it to the Crown corporation AECL, which is also based in Ontario. But Harper’s campaign to sell AECL to private company put that plan on hold. Harper’s staff even went on smear campaign against AECL claiming it is a sinkhole since billions of dollars have been spent throughout AECL’s history. Perhaps Harper needs to be reminded that AECL have half a century of history and was a prominent and independent scientific institution attracting top scientist around the world. NASA have to consult AECL for assistance in figuring out the cause of the space shuttle crash. Research done at AECL goes beyond Nuclear.

While Harper whine about spending billions for scientific research, he so easily spent billions for a weekend of photo ops in Toronto’s Summit. He so readily spent billions on fighter jet that would have limited use against Afghan guerrilla, benefiting only U.S. weapon manufacturer. Meanwhile, job losses mounts as Harper pursue a lobbyist friendly policy of handing over our Crown corporation to either a foreign government owned or subsidized company, or private corporations. If there’s any failure on AECL part, it is due to constant political tinkering with the Crown corporation. Mulroney sell off all profit to be had from medical isotope production to private company MDS Nordion, leaving AECL to produce the isotope for others to profit. The contract is so lopsided you would think the government of that day was working for private company rather than taxpayers, who are the real owner of the Crown corporation. Now Harper is picking up where Mulroney left off by selling the only profitable division of AECL. All this at a time of expected nuclear renaissance when various government are heavily investing in their equivalent nuclear agency. Even Cambodia is considering building a Nuclear Plant.

All this uncertainty created by Harper has resulted in thousands of job losses in Ontario, and even more from lost job opportunities that would have helped our economy. Hydro Quebec recently delayed planned work on its nuclear reactor due to Harper’s attempt to sell AECL. This put a further chill on the job market. An audit is needed to investigate and ensure taxpayer’s are not shortchanged as Harper charge ahead on selling off our nuclear future in a very secretive process. The banker appointed by Harper to oversee AECL’s sell has close connection to French government owned Areva. An independent audit like one from Sheila Fraser might be needed to clear up any possibility of corruption and under the table deals.

A good read is an article from Montreal Gazette: Going the wrong way on isotopes, reactors.

October 19, 2009

AECL Privatization Does Not Add Up

Filed under: Canada,Politics — cyberwanderer @ 8:36 pm
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The government’s argument for privatizing AECL does not add up. They claimed they are trying to save Canada’s nuclear industry but refuse to put in a condition that the buyer, who could be AECL’s competitor, can’t decide to get rid of CANDU after buying it. They claim Canada is not competitive internationally while contracts are being signed in China, who is expected to be one of the world’s largest market for new reactor build. China already uses CANDU technology and was happy with the on time and on budget completion of the projects. This weekend, international news is talking about deal being work out by AECL and India’s 3 utilities. So imagine all this expected influx of profit in the near future from new nuclear plant going to foreign companies or whichever private firms buy AECL. A likely scenario is Areva or its major competitors buy it just to get rid of the competitor.

An AECL scientist said:

“Historically, whenever you sell a technology to a foreign country, you lose it,”

The government want to sell off the only division at AECL that has large potential to see huge profit in the near future (the Nuclear plant division) while retaining the research division. But that’s not the end of it. The research division will be contracted out. Based on past contract related scandal, contracting out the research division open up huge potential for corruption. Haliburton, Sponsorship Scandal, the “billion dollar with nothing to show for it” Ontario’s Health Contract are just few of the latest and most prominent scandal. Contracting out work especially when it involves research just does not make sense unless you are a lobbyist of contracting firm.

AECL would do better if they are left alone without constant political interference and constantly changing executive officials made up of political appointee of which ever political party happens to be ruling at that time. We can have the brightest scientist and engineers but if the upper management who are indebted to politicians, who are in turn indebted to their campaign contributor, is constantly reorganizing and restructuring the company, then it won’t matter. Politicians who constantly sell profitable or soon to be profitable division (like Mulroney selling off medical isotope division profit to Nordion) to private firms, then public funds will just continue to be wasted.

Harper’s government claim AECL need to be commercialized. But with Canada’s energy future at stake, can we just simply dumb down the value of scientific research to how much profit we can make right now? What’s more troubling is there’s enough evidence that the expected and inevitable nuclear renaissance, and the foothold AECL’s CANDU already have in China and India – two potentially biggest market in the near future, are about to provide AECL with influx of rich revenue. But the government is now rushing to privatize them? This same division is also where AECL get most of its profit right now with the continuous contract in refurbishment of Canada’s nuclear plant fleet.

Privatize the revenue generating division and contract out research division? Make sense for private company looking to make profit but does not make sense if you care about Canadian interest and its future international reputation in research and technology. So taxpayer would be left with a totally profitless crown corporation and paying more to contracting firm.

For now, Harper is keeping a tight lid on the privatization plan for AECL.

July 16, 2009

Hidden MAPLE War; Hospital’s Budget Take A Big Hit

Filed under: General — cyberwanderer @ 6:56 pm
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There’s more to the isotope MAPLE reactor shutdown than meets the eye. When Mulroney decide to privatize the isotope business and gave MDS Nordion the profit, it left AECL with having to build the reactor for MDS Nordion while not getting any proceeds from the profit. It eventually lead to AECL having to shoulder a bigger percentage of the cost for building the MAPLE reactor with MDS Nordion still getting all the profit from the isotope business. So when AECL decided to shutdown MAPLE, there’s speculation that it was a strategy to avoid having to shoulder all extra cost when there’s no benefit to be had. Which means taxpayers won’t be shouldering the extra cost while MDS Nordion continue to profit from it. As a result, MDS Nordion tried to sue AECL for about $1.6 billion. MDS Nordion has taken its court battle with AECL to Parliament and the press, claiming the reactor produced isotope.

When Mulroney gave away the profit from isotope business, he also underfunded the project leaving AECL to build two MAPLE reactor with little funds, and obligated to MDS Nordion who is the sole profiteer. The result is a problem plague project and budget overrun that taxpayers have to shoulder.  I am not sure if Harper’s motive for shutting down MAPLE was to prevent taxpayers from shouldering the extra cost or to put away a possible liability that could hamper his privatization effort. Either way, he is committing the same mistake Mulroney made when he privatized the isotope business. Harper now wants to privatize the nuclear plant business of AECL just when business are picking up and AECL just signed new contract with China. He wants Canada to get out of isotope business and proudly proclaim we’ll be looking to U.S. for our isotope needs. Privatization of electric and power industry reminds me of the black out suffered by California as private industry focus on maximum profit and refused to build new power, driving up cost of electricity. We could just be following on California’s footstep with skyrocketing electric bills if we end up relying on foreign firm to control new build of our power needs. Akin to constantly rising cost of using Highway 407 in Toronto.

Meanwhile, on my blog from June 17, 2009, I’ve expressed concern that the isotope crisis could threaten our health care.  There are signs that it had already occurred. Hospitals are suffering as cost of isotope skyrocket and shortage continues.  Globe and Mail quoted the president of the Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine as saying:

The price increases are forcing hospitals to absorb additional unforeseen costs at a time when they are under financial strain during the economic recession.

The situation is unsustainable, as hospitals cannot meet their budgets when they are paying higher prices and doing fewer tests because crucial materials are in short supply, said Jean-Luc Urbain, president of the Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine.

“It backs up the whole system,” he said.

Doctors are warning of layoffs as some results to dark age style more invasive procedure (i.e. more painful and higher chance of complications) for cancer and heart diagnosis.

July 8, 2009

Globe and Mail Misrepresented Facts – CNSC

Filed under: Canada,Politics — cyberwanderer @ 9:02 pm
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CNSC fires a retort letter to Globe and Mail regarding an article where Globe and Mail claimed Canada’s reactor design is unsafe and quoted CNSC as the source. CNSC sent a letter to Globe and Mail which was not published in full by Globe and Mail. It makes me wonder if Globe and Mail, owned by CTV, is helping Harper’s men in their continuous attempt to discredit Canada’s nuclear industry. Harper’s spokesman and his supporter have been doing their rounds in the media trying to discredit AECL even using the isotope crisis that they were partly responsible for, all in an attempt to justify their attempts to sell AECL to their foreign competitors.  China and India are set to build more nuclear plant with China being a likely repeat customer due to the successful completion of their CANDU plant, which was build on time and on budget. CANDU built in South Korea and Romania were winning praises. Three nuclear plant AECL build for South Korea have one of the highest lifetime capacity of nuclear reactors. But listening to Harper’s men talk about Canada’s nuclear industry, you’ll think we have a crappy product.

The Globe and Mail article went into supposedly technical details which were untrue. It created an image of an unsafe Canadian nuclear plant design. Canada’s nuclear industry experts dismissed Globe and Mail’s report as false. But I doubt the experts will be given equal space to correct the misrepresentation of facts. What is worse is it appears that Globe and Mail did ask CNSC specifically about the document which CNSC clarified but Globe and Mail went on to put it out of context. According to the CNSC’s letter:

“As part of its ongoing regulatory oversight and analysis, the CNSC continues to update and undertake research to ensure a clear understanding of any potential challenges with current nuclear facilities. It is in this context that the referenced document was prepared. This was explained to the reporter during the interview with CNSC staff. It was therefore surprising that the reporter misunderstood and misrepresented the issue.”

The expert cited by Globe and Mail was Greenpeace, an anti-Nuclear group. Globe and Mail also misrepresented the fact that MAPLE was shutdown because of positive reactivity, hence it means positive reactivity is bad. Positive reactivity is part of safety feature of CANDU, which has multiple layers of  shutdown system, coolant and containment and uses positive reactivity as a trigger to shutdown. MAPLE would have been approved even if it has the slight positive reactivity if their original design stated it as such. However, MAPLE’s design only mentioned negative reactivity which was the sticking point that CNSC wants ironed out before they can be licensed.

The article only contain few words quote and no paragraph or sentence quote so it’s hard to dissect which ones are actually on the document and which one are being misrepresented as claimed by CNSC.

By now, it is pretty obvious that I have no problem with building new nuclear plant. For anti-Nuclear group who thinks that selling Canada’s nuclear industry would mean no more  nuclear plant will be build in Canada, think again. It would only mean that the nuclear plant that would eventually have to be built would be controlled by U.S. or French company and profit going solely to them. I wish solar power and wind turbine could be more reliable. Conservation can only go so far. Imagine telling the seniors or ordinary Canadians to turn off their Air Conditioning when there is a heat wave.

In the absence of a more reliable and consistent alternative source and with increased electricity demand, as economy recovers and the push for electric car increases, the practical and reliable alternative non-polluting energy source seems to be nuclear. Nuclear safety should be maintained by strengthening CNSC and keeping  it free from political interference. Nuclear industry in North America remains the most regulated and safety conscious industry and I see no reason for hyperbole and irrational fear.

I respect the anti-nuclear group for various possible and legitimate reasons that they might have for opposing a new build, as long as they carry out healthy debate and don’t misrepresent facts or result to fear mongering. Harper on the other hand is just plain corrupt. If every Canadians are given a dollar for every time Harper misquote, misrepresent or put facts out of context, we’ll be ringing in some hefty amount of personal revenue courtesy of Harper’s government.

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