One of the most underreported stories in Canada is the proposed sale of one of Canada’s most important crown corporations, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. The AECL is a crown corporation that provides high-level atomic research, development of the CANDU reactor technology, employs nearly 5,000 people across Canada, and produces the majority of the world’s medical isotopes. In 2009, the decision was made by the then-minority Conservative government to privatize parts of the AECL, and made a proclamation on June 10th of that year that the Canadian Government would eventually cease medical isotope production.
But what would a sale of AECL mean? A pall has been hanging over the AECL for years due to their potential sale, having been juggled around between potential buyers such as Bruce Power Corp., SNC Lavalin Group and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System pension fund, in an attempt to finalize a deal that would privatize the commercial wing of AECL. In the meantime, the federal government has slashed up to 85% of the AECL’s funding, from $696 million last year to an anemic $102 million dollars schedualed for this year.
The sale itself looks to be an abandonment of one of the most successful and renowned crown corporations in Canadian history. CANDU reactor technology is widely regarded as extremely advanced and reliable, and the AECL produces 60% of the world’s medical isotopes, which are critical for cancer treatment and magnetic imaging in hospitals. Shouldn’t this be a home-grown industry that Canadians can take pride in? A world leader in two seperate, and extremely important technologies? The government should being doing it’s best to keep this important Canadian company well funded and functioning, rather than trying to pawn it off for a fraction of what it’s actually worth. Instead of giving up on this valuable asset, the federal government should be actively promoting the AECL, creating an environment where the already-important products that it produces are more in demand. Instead, the AECL is treated like the redheaded stepchild, barely even spoken about, let alone portrayed in a positive light.
Now it seems that the government is willing to trot this national treasure around in front of seemingly-disinterested suitors, eager simply to push it out the door, dump it on someone else’s doorstep — anything to sell the AECL at firesale prices. It’s time Canadians asked themselves whether they should stand up and support a well respected, important industry that they own, or whether they should let it be sold for a quick buck.
- Feds to slash funding for Atomic Energy Canada (canada.com)
- OMERS walks away from talks to buy AECL (theglobeandmail.com)
- Election ignores nuclear issues, former watchdog says (thestar.com)