OTTAWA — The federal government has slipped a clause into a budget bill that allows it to sell all or part of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. without public debate about the future of the Crown agency that developed the CANDU reactor, say AECL’s scientists.
“Do not repeat the mistake of the AVRO Arrow,” pleaded Michael Ivanco, vice-president of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, which represents AECL engineers and other technical experts. The future of Canada’s nuclear technology “should not be determined by a line item hidden in a budget bill,” he said Tuesday.
The AVRO Arrow was an advanced interceptor aircraft developed in Canada. The government abruptly cancelled the Arrow program in 1959.
Under Bill C-9, if the federal government decides to dismember AECL or even sell it to foreign investors, it will be “protected from public scrutiny or debate,” Ivanco said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last year that AECL would be split and the CANDU part sold. But some reports have suggested the government plans to sell the entire company. Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
NDP industry critic Brian Masse said his party will make a motion to pull the AECL clauses out of the budget bill, accusing the government of “Americanizing” the process by tacking AECL onto the bill, a tactic sometimes used in U.S. politics.
Liberal natural resources critic Geoff Regan said the government must be “open about where it’s really going and it ought to be allowing a debate in Parliament.”