Kenyon taps Wikipedia for uranium expertise

With only six days left in this session, observers have wondered how government politicians can blather away whole days in the legislature without…

With only six days left in this session, observers have wondered how government politicians can blather away whole days in the legislature without debating the budget.

One word: Wikipedia.

On Wednesdays, the Yukon Party has blocked debate on opposition bills by floating its own motions, and then giving long, meandering speeches to run out the clock.

Two weeks ago, the Yukon Party tabled a motion that allowed cabinet ministers to trumpet their accomplishments on education and training for an entire afternoon.

The motion simply asked “the government to continue doing what they are doing,” said Liberal MLA Eric Fairclough.

That discussion trumped any discussion of the $900-million budget, which had not yet surfaced for debate.

Now, budget debate has begun. But there’s still many departments to cover.

Despite this, last Wednesday, Economic Development Minister Jim Kenyon ran out the clock on an NDP motion asking the government to ban uranium exploration and development.

His three-hour-long speech was padded with information pulled from the massive, online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

In fact, Kenyon ripped entire chunks of speech — word for word — from Wikipedia’s entry on uranium.

From Kenyon: “Once Madame Curie discovered uranium and uranium ore, a huge industry developed to mine uranium so as to extract it and use it in glow-in-the-dark paints for clock and aircraft dials,” said Kenyon.

“This left a huge amount of uranium, as you can imagine, as a waste product, since it takes three metric tonnes of uranium to extract one gram of radium, which is also one curie of radioactivity.”

From Wikipedia: “After Marie Curie discovered radium in uranium ore, a huge industry developed to mine uranium so as to extract the radium, which was used to make glow-in-the-dark paints for clock and aircraft dials.

“This left a prodigious quantity of uranium as a ‘waste product’, since it takes three metric tons of uranium to extract one gram of radium, which is also one curie of radioactivity.”

Kenyon also pilfered from the Wikipedia entry on radon.

In total, the News found about 1,500 words of Kenyon’s speech plagiarized from Wikipedia entries.

Not a life-or-death public policy matter, but neither was the speech.

And when Yukon students are registering some of the lowest test scores in Canada, according to a recent national study, is this a good example to set for youth?

Before entering politics, Kenyon was employed at the Toronto General Hospital.

He was assistant vice-president of research.

There are no rules governing the citation of sources or plagiarism in the legislature, said clerk of assembly Floyd McCormick.

“Members get up and say what they want,” he said.

“We don’t have any rules about ensuring the accuracy of what’s said. They have to take responsibility for what they say.”

The speaker can’t hold an MLA accountable on matters of accuracy or citation.

“It’s not the same as somebody who’s writing something for publication where, if they’re using somebody as a source, they have to cite them,” said McCormick.

“There’s no rule that obligates them to do that.”

Said Kenyon: “High-grade ores are found in the Athabasca deposits in

Saskatchewan and can contain up to 70 per cent uranium oxides, and therefore must actually be diluted with waste rock prior to milling, as the undiluted stockpiled ore could become critical and actually start reacting.

From Wikipedia: “High-grade ores found in Athabasca Basin deposits in Saskatchewan, Canada can contain up to 70 (per cent) uranium oxides, and therefore must be diluted with waste rock prior to milling, as the undiluted stockpiled ore could become critical and start a nuclear reaction.”

Cabinet ministers will often tap the appropriate department for a speech on an upcoming debate, or they could use cabinet staff.

Both the NDP and Liberals say individual MLAs, who may get helping compiling information, will write their own speeches from a variety of sources.