Political Perspectives is produced by the students and faculty of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, Canada's oldest journalism school.


Deciding in an uncertain world

Posted by ealboim under All


Elly Alboim

Some decisions are fiscal, others are moral.  And some contain elements of both. The balancing act can say a lot about values and priorities.

It is undeniable that after 15 years of work and money, the MAPLE reactors were not working as predicted and that any fix was uncertain and bound to be costly.

But it is also true that Canada’s pre-eminence in the medical isotope field rested on its initial invention of isotopes and in its promise to the world that it would invest in the next generation of reactors to produce them.  We reaped financial benefits and maintained a continuing presence in leading edge technology. As a result, no one else did anything to ensure that sufficient new facilities were built and ready to come on line after the forecast useful life of the world’s current crop of 50 year old reactors ended.

The Harper government decided 20 months ago that it would no longer invest in getting the MAPLEs to work. 

Its Plan B? Gamble that the NRU reactor would continue to work, carrying more than 50% of the global burden, could be relicensed until 2015, and assume someone else would take up the job after that. In essence, giving the world an eight year heads up.

Like many gambles, this one has come up short and likely will continue to do so.

As a country our fiscal liability is now reduced. Our moral liability to future patients and world partners seemed less a part of the decision making equation.       

Elly Alboim is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Communications and a principal in the Earnscliffe Strategy Group, specializing in strategic communications and public opinion. He also consulted  last year for MDS Nordion — the company that initially invested in the MAPLE reactors and is now suing the Canadian government and AECL.