Dear government spin doctor,
I am working on a story about how the job you’re doing is helping to kill Canada’s democracy.
This article is part of DeSmog Canada's ongoing series “Science on the Chopping Block.”
Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a strong case for parents to accept scientific evidence about the effectiveness of vaccines.
“We do have scientists and medical professionals who do great work and verify this and I just think its a tragedy when people start to go off on their own theories and not listen to the scientific evidence,” he told the CBC in an exclusive interview.
“Don’t indulge your theories, think of your children and listen to the experts.”
Within his own government, scientists and professionals who do research and gather evidence, are urging the prime minister to take a second look at his own theories.
A major survey, conducted by Environics Research and sponsored by the labour union, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, collected dozens of quotes from scientists who believe the Harper government doesn’t know how to use evidence. They allege the government is muzzling them, interfering with their research and ignoring their findings – particularly when it comes to evidence that covers issues such as climate change and other impacts of unsustainable industrial development.
Here’s a list of ten significant quotes from that survey:
Quote 10: The “Banana Republic”
“I am a surplused employee at DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans). I will be leaving my position and the civil service soon. What has been done to environmental legislation and Regulatory Authority in Canada in the last year+ is CRIMINAL! This now also includes a complete lack of capacity and funding. The Public are being grossly misled by Gov’t as to the state of the environment, especially the aquatic ecosystems and likely future negative consequences. The face of DFO is now virtually gone from communities and especially in the North where all the development is occurring. We are becoming a ‘Banana Republic’ when it comes to environmental legislation and regulations. These ‘wholesale’ changes are being led by ideology and not cost savings or common sense. The list of threatened and endangered species continues to grow. Salmon stocks are struggling all along the west coast of NA (North America). The number of contaminated sites continues to grow and clean up efforts are tied up in politicized bureaucracy. We have tens of millions of dollars for The War of 1812 and Canada’s Action Plan but cannot even respond in a timely fashion to the Cohen Report (inquiry into the plight of salmon) that cost $26 million. Canada has also lost significant environmental and scientific credibility internationally b/c of the muzzling of scientists and inaction on climate change. Continually making decisions and policies based on politics and the economy only will continue to degrade the environment around us.”
Quote 9: “Systematic dismantling”
“In my 31 years with the federal public service, I’ve never seen such a systematic dismantling of science capacity. My only hope of ever seeing a scientifically viable and credible public service again is a change in government.”
Quote 8: “Set aside and ignored”
“Because of changes in regulations and shifts in departmental mandates, science disciplines aimed at environmental and human protection have been set aside and ignored, without taking the real risks into consideration (e.g. environmental assessment, toxicology research on freshwater systems, aircraft inspection, food inspection).”
Quote 7: Using funds to equip companies
“I am a researcher in AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) and I have witnessed a strong research branch, which contributed immensely to Canada’s Agriculture and food sector getting dismantled under the guise of ‘transferring’ this activity to the private sector. The new research activities are narrow and serve short-term profit objectives. Funds are used to equip and run individual companies. These are business subsidies and not research programs benefitting all Canadians… I fear the public does not yet realize that within 10 years there will be no one acting in their interests.”
Quote 6: “Political interference”
“The current government’s positions have led to fundamental changes in environmental laws and regulations. Government scientists are as professional as ever but have to do their best in the current political context. Government interference is pervasive in our work, sometimes subtly (communications approval process, muzzling of the public, transparency towards the public) and sometimes very explicitly (changes to laws and regulations). Muzzling, lack of transparency, abandonment of Canadian environmental values for economic values at the expense of the environment, and political interference for economic purposes are the defining characteristics of the current government when it comes to the environment. It is harder to work in the environmental sciences under this government which is trying to do everything it can to avoid answering questions on the environment and serving as a world leader in environmental protection.”
Quote 5: “Orwellian”
“I am outraged by the Orwellian restriction of information under the current government… I am sure that I did not sign a confidentiality agreement designed to protect elected officials from minor embarrassment or surprise. If the public service is truly non-partisan, then our results should not be repressed to serve the interests of one political party over another. Furthermore, every time we have to ask permission to speak to the media, even if that permission is ultimately granted, it reduces the appearance of independence and transparency of government science.”
Quote 4: “Hate every day of my job”
“Despite what the scientists think, we are told what to say and that we have to put a positive spin on everything and to support economic development at all costs. Our role as both stewards and advisors has been silenced. We are tasked with work that we ethically do not agree with and must support. If we do not, they simply bring in project people who are non scientists who will write what senior management wants to hear. I am over worked, disrespected, undervalued, and I hate every day of my job where I used to love coming to work.”
Quote 3: “Minders”
“Up until the Harper govt., when the media called for an interview with me as a research scientist I simply gave the interview and wrote up a media report thereafter. Now managers decide if whoever gets the call is the appropriate contact for the specific topic; the process of waiting for approval is slow (days), and onerous (lots of email, phone calls) and involves minders, therefore I have given up doing media interviews bc it takes so much time from my work. I refer reporters to NGOs that might be involved. I believe other research scientists and biologists do the same based on conversations with them.”
“I’m probably quitting. Harper wins.”
This article originally appeared on mikedesouza.com and is republished here with permission.
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