Katie Gibbs

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.

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.

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.

“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.”

Federal Leaders Have Never Been Asked About Science Policy in an Election Debate. Ever.

This is a guest post by Katie Gibbs, PhD, a biologist and the Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy and Alana Westwood, a PhD Candidate at Dalhousie University and research coordinator for Evidence for Democracy. Evidence for Democracy is a not-for-profit organization promoting the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making in Canada.

Science, unquestionably, improves our everyday lives.

The work of scientists is everywhere; their efforts are reflected in everything from the cleanliness of our water to the success of medical treatments to the smartphones glued to our hands.

Will the War on Science Become an Election Issue?

Death of Evidence Rally

The number of anti-science decisions the federal government has made in recent years is staggering: axing the long-form census, trying to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area, sending media relations personnel to accompany scientists at international conferences.

There are so many mindboggling instances, in fact, that the non-profit organization Evidence for Democracy has decided to create an interactive website to chronicle them all.

Even for those of us who are following the issue closely, it’s still hard to keep track of it all,” says executive director Katie Gibbs.

Report: Federal Departments Muzzling Scientists, Engaging in Political Interference

stand up for science rally, zack embree, muzzling scientists, canada

Media policies in most Canadian government departments do not effectively encourage open communication between federal scientists and journalists, says a report released Wednesday.

Published by Evidence for Democracy (E4D) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), the report said more than 85 per cent of the 16 departments studied were assessed a grade of C or lower in terms of openness of communication, protection against political interference, rights to free speech, and protection for whistleblowers.

The 22-page report also said that when compared to grades for U.S. departments (scored by the Union of Concerned Scientists), all but one Canadian department performed worse than the U.S. average.

Overwhelmingly, current media policies do not meet the basic requirements for supporting open communication between federal scientists and the media,” Katie Gibbs, E4D’s executive director and an author on the report, said in an accompanying media release.

These policies could prevent taxpayer-funded scientists from sharing their expertise with the public on important issues from drug safety to climate change,” Gibbs said.

Critics Call Harper Government’s New Climate PR Campaign ‘Orwellian’

environment canada, climate change, pr campaign

Facing criticism in the lead up to today’s UN Climate Summit, which prime minister Stephen Harper is not attending, the Harper Government released a new public outreach campaign through Environment Canada, praising the country’s action on climate change.

The campaign points to four pillars of Canada’s climate progress including efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, investing in climate adaptation, “world-class scientific research to inform decision-making,” and international leadership in climate action.

Already critics are pointing to the apparent disparity between the Environment Canada campaign and Canada’s waning reputation on the international stage for its climate obstruction, the muzzling of scientists, the elimination of environmental legislation and massive cuts to federal research and science programs.

Reading the Harper government’s claims about its climate efforts is like reading one of Orwell’s books,” Mark Jaccard, professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environment Management, said.

Eliminating policy is to implement policy. Blocking and abandoning global negotiations is to lead global negotiations. Muzzling scientists is to have science inform decision-making. Working hard to increase carbon pollution is to decrease it. Black is white. Dishonesty is truth.”

Katie Gibbs: Canada's War on Science is Raising a New Generation of Science Advocates

Katie Gibbs. DeSmog Canada.

There has been a lot of discussion around Canada’s “War on Science” over the last two years, prompted by a major gathering of scientists in Ottawa during the summer of 2012 who announced the “Death of Evidence” in the country. The scientists marched in response to the infamous Budget Bill C-38 that killed funding for numerous federal science positions and research labs coast to coast. The rally’s lead organizer, scientist Katie Gibbs, says the Death of Evidence protest made way for a whole new breed of young Canadian scientists who are eager to stand up and defend their laboratories. It’s about more than just science, says Gibbs, it’s really all about democracy.

Katie Gibbs was known around the lab as the graduate student who cared deeply about the implications of her science. “While I was doing my PhD, I was kind of the rabble-rouser on the floor. You know, I always had volunteers coming to the lab to pick up posters, or storing protest signs under my desk, that sort of thing,” she told DeSmog Canada.

Most of the professors she worked with didn’t participate in any kind of advocacy, she said. “My supervisor, in particular, he wouldn’t even write a letter to the editor.”

In the summer of 2012, however, it wasn’t Gibbs pushing for the Death of Evidence rally, the event that forced Canada’s science crisis into the public eye. Instead a group of professors at the University of Ottawa began organizing a public event and turned to Gibbs when they realized they needed someone brave to be the face of the march.

What was interesting was that it was a group of professors that started thinking around the rally. My supervisor poked his head into my office one day and said a bunch of professors were meeting to talk about doing something in response to the Omnibus Budget Bill. He said, ‘does anybody want to come,’ and I was like ‘hells yeah!’” Gibbs said, adding she became lead organizer after that meeting.

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