Joining the Nuclear Club: The Day After

Canada’s decision to join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) is controversial in some circles. The NDP and Greens reject the organization and the Liberals say this decision has not yet been subjected to proper Parliamentary scrutiny.

“It's beyond me how this government continues to believe it has any environmental credentials. It's failing us on climate change and it's solution: Bring in a more nuclear waste,” said NDP environment critic Nathan Cullen.

Meanwhile, CTV News has received a copy of the letter that Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn (left) sent to Sam Bodman, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, who formally invited Canada to join GNEP.

In that  letter (53 KB PDF), Lunn lays down the law under which Canada will participate:

Canada's participation in the GNEP is based on the understanding that: first, the Statement of Principles (PDF) is not legally binding; second, that we are joining the Partnership without prejudice to any future uranium processing options, including the acquisition of nuclear enrichment and reprocessing technology related to the fuel cycle; and third, our decision to join the GNEP does not in any way commit Canada to a policy of repatriation of nuclear waste. Indeed, Canada will not consider the repatriation of fuel waste.

GNEP was happy to have us:

We welcome Canada’s announcement that it will join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and help expand the benefits of safe, emissions-free nuclear energy worldwide to meeting growing energy demand,” Dennis Spurgeon, U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, said. “Canada’s position as the world’s largest uranium producer coupled with its commitment to non-proliferation and safety will make its participation and perspective especially beneficial to this global framework and further demonstrates the diversity of this growing partnership.

Lunn was the busiest minister at today’s Question Period:

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP) :
Mr. Speaker, reluctant as I am to quote the Prime Minister, I have to do so today, because he promised “…to make Parliament responsible for exercising oversight over the conduct of Canadian foreign policy”. He has broken that promise.

He also promised to put international treaties to a vote in the House, but now we learn that Canada is signing on to this so-called global nuclear energy partnership.

There was no notice to the House. There was no debate that took place in the House and there has been no vote on this matter.

Why is the Prime Minister breaking his promise? Why has he not given parliamentarians oversight over this matter?

*   *   *

Hon. Gary Lunn (Minister of Natural Resources, CPC) :
Mr. Speaker, the global nuclear energy partnership that we are signing on to is a voluntary agreement to actually expand technology, to reduce nuclear spent fuel, to reduce or develop technology that is proliferation resistant.

This is very important. Canada is a serious player, the larger producer of uranium of any other country in the world.
We would welcome the opportunity to address the committee, if I were invited, to discuss these issues at any time.
It is great news for Canada to be part of this partnership.

*   *   *

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP) :
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear the minister will come to speak to a committee about it. That is a start.
My question is whether the government will accept a vote on this matter, because the facts are very clear.
Nuclear energy is prohibitively expensive. It takes too long to bring online. It will not stop climate change. It is dangerous because of the waste product and furthermore, national security should be a key part of the discussion.

After all, India's nuclear weapons program got started with a research reactor from Canada, so there is a great deal that must be debated.

My question to the government: Will there be a vote on Canada's participation in this nuclear energy partnership, yes or no?

*   *   *

Hon. Gary Lunn (Minister of Natural Resources, CPC) :
Mr. Speaker, this is about leadership. There are 17 or 18 countries that have now signed on to this partnership to develop technologies, to minimize waste, to recycle spent nuclear fuel, to develop proliferation resistant technology.

This is exactly the type of thing where Canada should be at the table. We are a player. I find it completely unpropitious that the NDP would not want us to be there.

Canada can show leadership. We should share these experiences with other countries.

Mme Claude DeBellefeuille (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ) :
Monsieur le Président, nous savons déjà que le Québec a fait un choix propre en choisissant l'énergie hydroélectrique plutôt que l'énergie nucléaire. Le gouvernement devrait choisir des avenues plus porteuses plutôt que de miser sur le pétrole ou l'énergie nucléaire, surtout qu'en ce moment, aucune solution n'existe pour éliminer les déchets nucléaires.

En adhérant au partenariat mondial pour l'énergie nucléaire, le gouvernement fait le mauvais choix et, à la veille de Bali, envoie le mauvais signal.

Comprend-il qu'il doit faire demi-tour pour s'engager résolument à développer des énergies propres et environnementales, plutôt que de faire la promotion de l'énergie nucléaire?

*   *   *

Hon. Gary Lunn (Minister of Natural Resources, CPC) :
Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear. First of all, certain parts of Canada like Quebec and British Columbia are blessed with a lot of hydro and it is up to the provinces to decide on their own energy mix. We do not take any say in that but where there are provinces that choose nuclear, as they do in Ontario, it is important for us that we provide the leadership, the safety and security of all Canadians.

With respect to the global nuclear energy partnership, we made it unequivocally clear that we will under no circumstances ever accept any nuclear spent fuel back from any other country. So this is a good initiative and Canada should be at the table to ensure that we have a voice.

Mr. Daryl Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings, CPC) :
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Natural Resources announced that Canada has accepted an invitation to join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. This partnership focuses on enhanced safeguards, cooperative research
and developing advanced technologies.

There were some allegations heard in the House here today that joining this partnership will require Canada to import nuclear fuel from other countries. Could the minister once again clarify this issue and further explain what this announcement will mean for Canada?

*   *   *

Hon. Gary Lunn (Minister of Natural Resources, CPC) :
Mr. Speaker, first of all, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is an international partnership that promotes a safer, more secure, cleaner world.

With respect to the spent nuclear fuel, there is absolutely nothing in the stated principles that requires Canada or any other country to take back spent nuclear fuel, but we went even further. We have absolutely, explicitly stated that under no uncertain circumstances will Canada ever be taking back spent nuclear fuel at any time from any country.

Logging off

MTV boss Judy McGrath jokes to Reuters that she considered therapy after she discovered she had fallen asleep on her BlackBerry and Arianna Huffington predicts that the next big thing to hit the digital generation will be logging off. “Everybody's so overloaded,” Huffington tells a reporter at MediaPost Publications. Our “inner lives” are failing to be nourished in the digital age. “We are incredibly sleep deprived.”




Canada joins international nuclear energy club

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn just announced that Canada has joined the Global Nuclear Energy proejct — much to the dismay of the Green Party — and has also decided to look at all options for Atomic Energy Canada Ltd.

Here’s the release from NRCAN:

Canada to Join Global Nuclear Energy Partnership
Structure of Atomic Energy Canada Limited to be reviewed

OTTAWA, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Nov. 29, 2007) – The Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, and the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced today that Canada has accepted an invitation to join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).

GNEP is an international partnership that promotes a safer, more secure and cleaner world through the responsible development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

“As the world's largest producer of uranium and a country taking steps to tackle climate change through the development of clean energy technology, Canada's responsibility is to help shape the safe and secure development of nuclear energy worldwide,” said Minister Lunn.

GNEP will focus on enhanced safeguards, and cooperative research in developing advanced technologies.

“Canada is recognized for its commitment to safety and non-proliferation,” said Minister Bernier. “By joining this partnership, we are making sure Canada can continue to be an effective advocate for those ideals.”

Minister Lunn also announced that, as part of its commitment to good governance, the Government of Canada will conduct a full review of the structure of Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL).

“It is time to consider whether the existing structure of AECL is appropriate in a changing marketplace,” added Minister Lunn. “This review will give us the information we need to make the right decisions for AECL and the right decisions for Canadians.”

The review of AECL will be led by Natural Resources Canada, with the support of the Department of Finance and full collaboration of AECL, and with the assistance of outside expertise. 

And here’s the Green Party:

September 14, 2007

Green Party urges Canada to stay out of Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

OTTAWA – The Green Party today called on the Conservative government to reject an invitation to join the US-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).  Countries in the GNEP will meet in Vienna on Sunday but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has yet to reveal to Canadians whether his government will sign on.

“Stephen Harper must be honest with Canadians on his intent to participate in this initiative,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May.  “The GNEP operates under the guise of anti-proliferation by requiring countries to take back highly radioactive waste, but its true purpose is to act as a security blanket for the nuclear industry by increasing export of uranium and reactor technologies.  In reality, the GNEP will increase proliferation by further spreading nuclear energy, increasing plutonium reprocessing and speeding up the arms race.”

“Canada’s inability to deal with the nuclear waste we produce domestically is proof that we cannot possibly repatriate nuclear waste from other countries,” added Andrew Lewis, Natural Resources Critic for the Green Party.  “The current nuclear waste management plan amounts to little more than sitting on the waste until we find a community willing to store it.  In fact, there will never be a safe way to dispose of radioactive waste.  We must end subsidies to the nuclear industry and shift to renewable energy.”

Ms. May added that repatriation of radioactive waste is currently contrary to Canadian policy.  She underscored the significant threat to security posed by the transport of nuclear waste and plutonium, stating that moving plutonium around the world is an inherently dangerous activity that increases the risk of terrorist attacks and nuclear accidents.

Climate Change — the view from tomorrow's generation

Barbara Hayes is the 24–year-old National Director for the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. This week, she made a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. While others there talked about science and policy, Hayes spoke about the emotional and generational impact of global warming. Here are her unofficial remarks according to the ‘Blues’ of the committee’s meeting on Tuesday of this week:

Ms. Barbara Hayes (National Director, Canadian Youth Climate Coalition): The committee may not be aware, but Canadian youth have had an impressive if informal history with the UN negotiations. From five youth to the current youth delegation to Bali of 32, complete with logo, the Canadian youth movement and indeed youth globally have long recognized the importance of making the negotiations comprehensible and accessible to youth.

The reason youth have been so active is that although we are the largest effective constituency, we are not party to the UN negotiations. Spanning all countries, all large and small, youth are inheriting a changed climate they haven't created.

Approximately 20% of the Canadian population is under the age of 18 and have no voting rights and no representation either domestically or as part of the international process. If a real negotiating mandate, including absolute targets and hard caps is not achieved coming out of Bali, then these youth must shortly be counted among the growing number of people directly affected by projected climate impacts.

You do not have the right to make this decision for us.

You must hear us.

We are not given a say in this matter, so we are taking the microphone anyway.

A year ago, at the age of 22, I helped to found the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, because with the levels of climate change we have already caused, I will spend the rest of my life dealing with adaptation and mitigation to a changed climate. It's a given.

The Canada of my adulthood would be fundamentally different than the current one as a result of global emissions. I do this work now as a young person because I don't want the global climate to be my daily concern when I am 40. My generation deserves a stable climate, and we deserve some peace of mind.

Ours is a future of fewer possibilities if Canada does not embrace and vigorously work to reach mandatory hard caps. My generation needs progress at the Bali negotiations to ensure that we have the opportunity to be participants in a strong and vibrant Canada. 

My current view of the future holds fewer cultural and economic possibilities, the rapid spread of new diseases, increased incidents of extreme weather events, destabilized global politics, hundreds of thousands of displaced persons.

Since the government has abandoned our Kyoto targets, we can no longer trust our leaders are acting with our best interests at heart. We are now accustomed to be ashamed of our country's poor behaviour. The instructionism we saw at the Commonwealth meeting is sadly no longer surprising. Canadian youth were present at the UN climate meetings in New York, Bonn, and Vienna this summer. We watched our government betray our future and our good name simultaneously.

It is unbelievable that hiding behind developing nations and watering down international commitments is being characterized as strong foreign policy. Undermining a clear, necessary and internationally-agreed upon treaty in favour of vague aspirational goals is frankly a failure of leadership.

The goals, even the legislative tools, are here, and still the government refuses to act. Watching the government try to wiggle out of the Kyoto Implementation Act has been gut-wrenching.

The first step to reducing our emissions is actually to attempt to reduce our emissions. In order to reduce our emissions by the amount necessary, Bali must lead to a plan with firm reduction goals, strict penalties for violators, and a clearcut deadline for these changes.

We are not saying this is an easy task, but we are saying it is both necessary and achievable. It can't be the economic argument that prevents the government from taking action. It is false and frankly an increasingly dishonest choice. The Stern report on climate change estimated the global cost of runaway climate change could surmount the cost of the two world wars combined, crippling global GDP by 20%. He further estimated that acting to avoid the worst impacts of climate change would be only 1% to 3% of global GDP.

The longer you wait, the more it will cost us, and the less likely we are to adjust in time for Canada's industrial sector to take leadership. So to the current government's legacy of global destabilization and health crises and ecological devastation, you must add crippling economic depression.

Climate change is not just an environmental issue. When farmers crops fail from unnatural droughts, it is a livelihood issue. When our grandparents die from heat waves, it is a health issue. When the animals people traditionally hunt are no longer there, this is a survival issue. When failing to act opens up the Northwest Passage, this is a sovereignty issue. When children can no longer play hockey on outdoor rinks, this is a cultural issue. When I lose my job because industry failed to adapt to a changing world, this is an economic issue.

These were the words of the 40 organizations that came together to address the leadership failure on climate change by forming the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. We are not being fooled by the doublespeak, and we are stepping up to let our leaders know that the words are not a substitute for action. In at least 20 cities across the country, big and small, people are mobilizing for the International Day of Climate Action on December 8 to protest our government's shameful inaction and demand a real mandate for Bali.

This government will not be around to be held accountable for the worst effects of climate change, but 30 years down the road when Canada has become a haven for climate refugees, they will look to me and my peers, the current youth of our rich industrialized and polluting nation, and say, “Why did you let this happen?”

So I'm asking you now, “Why, with everything we know and all the tools you have, why are you letting this happen?”

Harper and Williams to bury the axe?

Prime Minister Harper will be in Newfoundland and Labrador tomorrow where he and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams look end the biggest spat in Confederation since Eddie Shack looked the wrong way at John Ferguson.

Williams, of course, has been throwing a tantrum/defending his province when it comes to Harper and the federal  government. Williams has given to derisively referring to the Prime Minister as ‘Steve’ but, since he won a landslide re-election and has been cutting deals with oil companies, the PMO figures they’re going to have to deal with him somehow and, so, tomorrow, the two men (but mostly Harper) will begin a rapprochement. Here’s a statement issued this afternoon by the Premier’s office:

Premier Williams said he is pleased to have the opportunity for a face-to-face discussion with the Prime Minister on issues of importance to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I will take the opportunity to discuss with the Prime Minister the numerous commitments that have been made by the Federal Government to our province,” said Premier Williams. “Primary among these will be the issue of non-renewable resource revenue, 5-Wing Goose Bay, the fishery and also the impact of the strong Canadian dollar on many of our industries. I will also outline for the Prime Minister the aggressive agenda for growth and prosperity our government has been successfully implementing for Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The only thing we have so far from the Prime Minister’s Office is this itinerary:

St.George’s, Newfoundland

1:30 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make an announcement. He will be joined by Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, Chuck Strahl and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Loyola Hearn.

The Federation of Newfoundland Indians Museum
Main Road
St.George’s, Newfoundland

Holyrood, Newfoundland
7:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will deliver a speech at a Conservative Party of Canada members event. He will be joined by members of the Conservative caucus.

Royal Canadian Legion – Branch 64
Conception bay highway, Rte 60
Holyrood, Newfoundland.

My friends Campbell Clark and Brian Laghi have a good look at the political imperatives behind this meeting in today’s Globe and Mail.

Slow down and save gas

Liberal MP Mike Savage, who represents the Nova Scotia riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, got an e-mail from one his constitutents today. The correspondent’s spouse is serving on HMCS Toronto, which is steaming for its home port of Halifax right now after a mission with NATO's Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), where Toronto and her crew helped with a search–and-rescue operation of nine missing Yemeni soldiers after a volcanic eruption on Jabal al-Tair island, about 140 kilometres off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea. Toronto rescued one man and located the bodies of two more.

The correspondent’s spouse said that the ship’s captain, Commander Stephen Virgin, has advised the crew that Toronto will be two days late arriving in Toronto for no other reason that he has been ordered to drive slow and save gas.

The correspondent who wrote Savage and who hasn’t seen his or her spouse since July 1, is upset at the penny-pinching ways of the admirals who are delaying the reunion of families so that Canadian taxpayers can save a few thousand dollars.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier, and new defence deputy minister Robert Fonberg will appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence in about 40 minutes to go over the department’s budget for the year. The Navy’s chronic shortage of money to buy basic things like fuel may come up here.

Water, the West, and the Thirsty Dragon

Fred Pearce, in The New Statesmen, warns about water shortages:

Water consumption has tripled in the past 30 years and there's a growing danger that disputes over the most necessary of resources could erupt into violence.

Water is rapidly becoming one of the defining crises of the 21st century. Climate change is making its availability increasingly uncertain. And we are using ever more of the stuff.

In the past three decades the human population has doubled but human use of water has tripled – largely because, tonne-for-tonne, modern ‘high-yielding’ crop varieties often need more water than the old crops.

A typical Westerner consumes, directly and through thirsty products like food, about a hundred times their own weight in water every day. That is why some of the great rivers of the world, such as the Nile, Indus, Yellow River and Colorado, no longer reach the sea in any appreciable volume. All their water is taken…

Meanwhile, in the current issue of The New York Review of Books, Chinese activist Dai Qing looks at the 'thirsty dragon' that is Beijing as it prepares to host the Olympics:

Perhaps if this spectacle had been held three hundred years ago, or even a hundred years ago, the environment of Beijing might have been able to sustain it. After all, the city is surrounded by mountains on three sides, has five major water sources, and once had numerous lakes and marshes with underground springs constantly welling up and disgorging crystal-clear water. It was a rich and fertile place, and was home to five imperial capitals. But today Beijing is entirely different. Its reservoirs are 90 percent dry, and all of its rivers flow at historically low levels. The aquifer under Beijing has been drastically lowered by long-term overuse . . .

Baird and cabinet sued for violating Pablo's bill

Liberal Pablo Rodriguez is one of a handful of MPs to have tabled a private members bill in the House of Commons and watched it become the law of the land. So it was, though, with Rodriguez's C-288, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act which received Royal Assent on June 22, 2007.

That bill required, among other things, that the Minister of the Environment to do the following:

9. (1) Within 120 days after this Act comes into force, the Minister shall prepare a statement setting out the greenhouse gas emission reductions that are reasonably expected to result for each year up to and including 2012..

The Friends of the Earth — and many others, I should add — believe that the Minister of the Environment, John Baird, has not done what the KPIA required and has broken the law of the land by failing to do so. And so yesterday — 159 days after the KPIA received Royal Assent — The Friends of the Earth filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Canada asking for a judicial review of the conduct of Baird and cabinet. The ultimate goal for FoE would to have a judge issue a court order stipulating that the governnment obey the directives in the KPIA.

You can review the FoE brief filed with the court here (PDF).

Baird, incidentally, appears today before the House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development where the Committee expects him to outline the government's intentions with regards to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali next week. The world's governments are expected to use that meeting to lay the framework for a treaty that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol when that expires in 2012.

Getting ready for Mr. Schreiber

For the first time since 1913, the Speaker of the House of Commons, acting on the authority of the House, has ordered an individual, through a Speaker's Warrant, to appear before a committee of the House. And so, today, Karl-Heinz Schreiber was transported from a Toronto jail to Ottawa so that he may testify in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Pat Martin (Winnipeg South) is the NDP member of that committee and he answered questions from several reporters outside the House of Commons today:

Reporter: What are the questions you want Mr. Schreiber to answer tomorrow?

Martin: Well, the top-of-mind questions for most Canadians is, was the $300,000 payment to Mr. Mulroney in any way connected to a kickback associated with the Airbus purchase. Those are the obvious ones. Then of course we can go into more depth and detail to find out the extent of Mr. Schreiber's list of friends in Ottawa. We believe Mr. Schreiber had a list of contacts that spanned both of the major parties over many different governments. The obvious top-of-mind questions would be what was the $300,000 for and why cash? And what did you expect from Mr. Mulroney in return for that $300,000? I think we have to keep our line of questioning fairly simple and straightforward to get to those main top-of-mind issues that most Canadians — that's bothering most Canadians.

Martin: …. Really, we were charged with the responsibility of looking at whether public office holders breached ethical standards and whether our current codes of conduct are robust enough to prevent that from happening again and I think it would be wise for the committee to limit itself to that course.

Martin: No, I think one of the things that we're looking at is perhaps [the committee's legal advisors] should open up and set the tone for the meeting by introducing the witness, perhaps giving some council and advice to the witness about his rights and responsibilities. For instance, not everyone's aware that you do not have the right to remain silent in this setting whereas witnesses in court do. So I think it would be good for Mr. Walsh to set the tone, perhaps swear the witness under oath to make it clear what his rights and responsibilities are.

Reporter: Do you know whether it is illegal or unethical under the code in 1993 for an MP to accept money while in office?

Martin: Well, I don't think Mr. Schreiber would be an expert to ask that question to but I do intend to ask that question to Mr. Mulroney before Christmas. Mr. Mulroney, the obvious question is why did you swear under oath in 1996 that you had only a passing acquaintance with Mr. Schreiber when you were meeting privately with him in 1993 and 1994 accepting big envelopes full of cash? That would be a logical question to ask Mr. Mulroney.

Reporter: You're asking the question, right, not the parliamentary lawyers, right?

Martin: Oh absolutely. The MPs ask the witnesses in our normal rotation as agreed to – the Liberals first, the Bloc next

Reporter: (Liberal MP and committee chairman Paul) Szabo suggested perhaps lawyers could ask the questions.

Martin: No, Mr. Szabo is toying with ideas to make sure it's run in an orderly way but all we've talked about so far is that the lawyer would begin the meeting by setting some ground rules and some parameters. The order of questioning is still as per a normal committee meeting, limited to seven minutes plus each turn for the parties in each of their turns.

Reporter: (Schreiber) may not say anything if he comes up here. What do you make of that?

Martin: Well, Mr. Schreiber does not have the right to remain silent and that will have to be made known to him and how that's enforced remains to be seen but his rights and his obligations are different as a witness before a parliamentary committee than they are under a court of law.

Martin: …. I'm having a meeting as soon as I walk away from this mic with the Speaker on behalf of the committee to urge the Speaker to allow Mr. Schreiber to stay in his own home with access to his own papers and his own clothes. We want a well-rested, cooperative witness, not an angry, hostile witness who has been up all night listening to drunks be dragged in and out of the Ottawa Detention Centre. That's not conducive to a productive exercise. Let's remember, Mr. Schreiber's never been convicted of anything and I don't believe he's a flight risk. He should be allowed to stay in his own home where his papers are and where his clothes are and sleep in his own bed so he's well-rested and cooperative.

Reporter: Has that been agreed to?

Martin: That has not been agreed to. I'm going to urge the Speaker. He's in the custody of the Speaker. It's completely within the rights of the Speaker to dictate the terms of his custody. That's the approach I'm going to make on behalf of the committee in two minutes now.

Reporter: The issue of decorum, the issue of decorum. Quickly, grandstanding often happens when the cameras show up. You're a pretty dramatic fellow. Are we going to see a lot of grandstanding?

Martin: No. We've all stipulated ourselves to the highest standards of conduct because of the importance. We don't want to blow this. This is really important to all Canadians and I resent those who say it's going to be a circus and a gong show. We're the elected representatives of the people asking questions on behalf of the problem and we're going to do it properly and with the dignity that a parliamentary committee deserves.

A challenge to professional journalists

Andrew Cline, a journalism school professor at Missouri State University, puts out the challenge to professional journalists: When we get a chance to ask politicians something, we should be asking questions that tend to elicit information that actually matters to somebody:

Citizen journalists, bloggers, people who go to town hall meetings, usually ask substantive questions because–SUPRISE!!!–they are interested in governance–the stuff that affects their lives. When you're worried about health care or the moral direction of the country, it's damned hard to work up any interest at all in which candidate has raised more money this quarter or who's ahead in the polls in Iowa.

… professional political journalism isn't ready for this concept I call “critical reporting.” The pros won't be ready until they learn to do the very basic task of asking the kinds of questions that get the kind of information people actually want and need.