Evidence for Democracy

Key Arctic Research Station Set to Close Because of Liberal Government’s Funding Cuts

PEARL research centre. Photo: Dan Weaver

Essential information on Arctic climate change, ozone depletion and pollution reaching the Arctic from B.C.’s recent forest fires will be lost unless the federal government comes through with funding to save Canada’s unique high Arctic research station.

After years of funding cuts to scientific and climate change programs under the Conservatives, the Liberal government’s emphasis on making science-based decisions in response to climate change was a welcome relief to researchers, but some are now shocked that crucial projects are about to be lost because the 2017 budget did not renew the five-year Climate Change and Atmospheric Research (CCAR) funding which expires this year.

Unless the Trudeau government comes up with approximately $7-million a year, six projects, including the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) on Ellesmere Island, will close down next year. A seventh — Canadian Sea Ice and Snow Evolution Network — will shut down the following year.

Is Trudeau Quietly Turning His Back On Fixing Canada’s Environmental Laws?

Justin Trudeau Environmental Reform DeSmog Canada

Scientists and environmental groups breathed a sigh of relief when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quickly followed through on a campaign promise to modernize Canada’s environmental laws.

Within a year of being elected, the Liberals initiated four parallel reviews of key environmental legislation weakened or eliminated under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

But now, as that review process is coming to a close, experts are back to holding their breath.

B.C. Government Scientists Say Staff Cutbacks, Outsourcing and Political Interference Threaten Public Health and Safety

Contracting out scientific work to non-government professionals, while cutting back on ministry scientists and experts, is threatening the B.C. government’s ability to make decisions based on sound science, says a highly-critical report released Thursday by the Ottawa-based group Evidence for Democracy.

The report, based on a survey distributed to 1,159 B.C. government scientists in 10 ministries, found that almost half of the 403 who responded to 64 questions believe that Tweet: ½ of 1,159 BC gov’t scientists believe political interference compromises their laws, policies & scientific evidence http://bit.ly/2o1CfbKpolitical interference is compromising their ministry’s ability to develop laws, policies and programs based on scientific evidence and that decisions are often not consistent with the best available scientific information.

Tweet: Since @BCLiberals elected in ‘01, BC public service has been reduced to the smallest per capita in Canada http://bit.ly/2o1CfbK #bcpoliSince the Liberal government was elected in 2001, B.C.’s public service has been reduced to the smallest per capita in Canada and departments with science-based mandates have lost 25 per cent of staff scientists and licensed expert positions, according to the survey, which was partially funded by the Professional Employees Association.

Overwhelmingly, the scientists felt that their ministries had insufficient resources to fulfil their mandates and that means they don’t have the ability to produce the expert reports that they used to,” said Katie Gibbs, one of the report’s authors.

Canadian Scientists Say They’re Unsure What Trudeau Means When He Says ‘Science’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned aggressively on the issue of science in the lead up to the last federal election. And it makes sense that he did: for the first time ever in Canadian history the issue of scientific integrity was a major election issue for voters across the nation.

Images of shuttered libraries, gagged scientists and dumpsters full of books haunted the Canadian imagination under the Harper government.

Trudeau promised to change all of that. Brandishing the language of the scientific community itself Trudeau painted a vision of a Canadian scientific renaissance, with the restoration of scientific integrity and the veritable holy grail of political vows: evidence-based decision-making.

As a scientist, I was personally thrilled with the Liberal government’s vocal support for science, especially regarding the critical role that scientific evidence should play in informed decision-making,” Wendy Palen, associate professor and biologist at Simon Fraser University, told DeSmog Canada.

In the early days of the federal government under Trudeau, there were several events that shored up that sense of optimism including the anchoring of ministerial duties in science in open mandate letters and restored funding for research in the first Liberal budget.

Trudeau also promised to bring social and scientific credibility back to the environmental assessments of major resource projects.

I think I can say the scientific community breathed a sigh of relief over the change in attitude around science and the role of scientific decision-making,” Palen said.

But, she added, that sentiment has stopped short in recent months.

Federal Scientists Officially Unmuzzled in New Collective Agreement with Federal Government

Canada’s federal scientists have won the right to speak freely about their research and science without upper level bureaucratic control, a feature central to restrictive communications protocols under the Harper government.

The move to officially unmuzzle scientists comes after the Professional Institute of Public Service Canada (PIPSC), Canada’s largest union federal employees including 15,000 scientists, researchers and engineers, negotiated to include scientists’ right to speak in a collective agreement deal.

This is an enormous win not only for federal scientists but for all Canadians,” PIPSC President Debi Daviau said in a statement.

Tweet: “Following the defeat of the Harper government, we vowed no government should ever again silence science” http://bit.ly/2hrkIXF #cdnpoli“Following the defeat last year of the Harper government, we vowed that no government should ever again silence science. This new provision will help ensure that remains the case now and in the future.”

Canada's Unmuzzled Scientists Call for Protection From Future Muzzling

It already feels like a long time ago.
 
Remember way, way back when Canada’s federal scientists were shackled to their laboratory tables, unable to speak out or walk freely in the light of day?
 
I don’t mean to sound trivial; the war on science in Canada was real and severe in its implications and in some places devastating in its consequences.
 
But looking back on what Canadians are calling the ‘dark decade’ already feels ridiculous somehow, like it’s a caricature of our past reality. How did things get so bad?
 
That’s something the scientific community at large is asking itself, in a serious attempt to prevent ideology-driven, anti-science policies from taking root once again.
 
“Science should never be silenced again,” Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), a union representing more than 15,000 federal scientists, said in a statement released Wednesday.

The Liberals Just Restored Canada’s Long-Form Census. Here’s Why That Matters

Canada’s new Minister of Innovation, Science and Development, Navdeep Bains, told reporters on Parliament Hill on Thursday that the federal government is restoring the mandatory long-form census just in time for its next rollout in 2016.

Canada conducts a census every five years by sending an eight-question form to Canadian households. However, one-fifth of those households traditionally received a mandatory 61-question census that provides the government with much more insight into the lives of Canadians.

In 2010, the Harper government cancelled the mandatory long-form census, replacing it with a short voluntary survey developed by Statistics Canada. Researchers said the data provided through the voluntary survey lacked detail, leaving major gaps in knowledge about areas with poor survey response rates.

Munir Sheikh, the former head of Statistics Canada, resigned in protest.

Bains said the decision to reinstate the long-form census falls into the government’s commitment to rebuild scientific knowledge in Canada.

Our plan for an open and fair government starts with the reinstatement of the mandatory long form census,” Bains tweeted.

Dear Minister of Science: Here’s What Canada Needs to Get Back on Track

Today is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first day in office and when it comes to science, his new cabinet appointees look like a step in the right direction.

On top of naming Catherine McKenna the first ever Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Trudeau also appointed a Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan, as well as a Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains.

Duncan has a doctoral degree in geography, previously taught meterology, climatology and climate change at the University of Windsor and was a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

These appointments combined with Trudeau’s point blank response to questions about his 50 per cent female cabinet mandate (“Because it’s 2015”), his inclusion of indigenous leaders and his collaborative approach to the upcoming Paris climate talks have inspired a lot of hope in the new Prime Minister.

But with an abundance of commitments about science, electoral reform and transparency some Canadian scientists are left wondering if Trudeau will be able to live up to the promises.

Minister Duncan, we've done some of the intelligence gathering for you and here's what Canadian scientists say they hope to see from the new government.

Experts Call on Federal Parties to Find Pathway to Low-Carbon Economy

A diverse group of experts, scholars, First Nations and civil society organizations recently released a sweeping program that shows just how Canada can transition to a low-carbon society.

Building on a March 2015 report, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, a group of academics from Sustainable Canada Dialogues reached out to individuals and groups from across Canada in an attempt to engage society in the question of our low-carbon transition.

The result, Acting on Climate Change: Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians, brings together a broad range of insight from across the social and political spectrum.

The report comes on the heels of an open letter (attached below) to federal leaders, calling for a “national dialogue on climate change policy.” The letter, released by 60 academics with Sustainable Canada Dialogues, states a national conversation is needed “to identify socially acceptable transition pathways to a low-carbon society and economy.”

We hope each party will enrich its position with ideas put forward by Canadians, before, during and after this election campaign, to restore Canada’s global leadership as a champion for the environment.”

Catherine Potvin, editor of the new report, writes 2015 is an important year for climate intervention.

“War on Science” Top of Mind for Candidates and Public at Science and Technology Debate

A one-of-a-kind debate in Victoria this week brought science and technology to the minds of federal candidates who all, despite their differences, agreed vociferously on one thing: Canada needs to be freed from the “war on science.”

Pages

Subscribe to Evidence for Democracy