OTTAWA — Lisa Raitt finally said sorry Wednesday for her controversial comments, but the tearful regrets did little to silence critics who accused her of presiding over an escalating crisis affecting thousands of cancer patients.
Raitt offered a belated and emotional apology for describing the shortage of isotopes used in cancer tests as a “sexy” issue from which she could benefit politically.
“Today, I want to personally convey my deep regret for wording I used in a private discussion earlier this year which was inadvertently recorded,” she told a hastily arranged news conference.
She had refused to apologize a day earlier despite heavy criticism from the opposition and the public. Outraged cancer survivors and their supporters demanded Raitt resign or at least apologize for remarks they considered to be insensitive and calculating.
Raitt choked up as she described watching her father die of colon cancer when she was a child, and then losing her brother to lung cancer as an adult.
“As somebody who has been, in their personal life, deeply affected by cancer, my intent was certainly not to show any disrespect for cancer victims, survivors or their families,” she said.
“I want to offer a clear apology to anyone has been offended by what I said.”
She later made calls to three organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Society, to personally apologize.
In the House of Commons, Raitt launched an attack on the Liberals, accusing the former government of knowing in 2003 that a project to replace the aging Chalk River, Ont. nuclear reactor — which produces one-third of the world’s isotopes — was doomed to failure. She said the Liberals were either “ignorant to the situation, or not caring themselves.”
That prompted an explosion from Liberal Ralph Goodale, natural resources minister at the time.
“All of the crises have happened on their watch, not on our watch,” he shouted. “It’s time to get serious.”