Science

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.

We Need to Admit the Limitations of Science When it Comes to Pipeline Decisions

Winter Coast Salish Gathering. Photo by Zack Embree.

With federal decisions on major oil pipeline and tanker projects in the headlines, many suggest our elected officials should lean more on science to make these kinds of decisions.

Those exhortations sound very reasonable. But they reveal an enormously important misunderstanding about the role of science in making decisions on major resource projects.

Take the case of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project on the West Coast.

On one side, you have staunch opposition from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and other coastal and Fraser River First Nations, West Coast municipalities like Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria, and a sizable percentage of B.C.’s voting public.

On the other side, you have staunch support from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton, and a sizable percentage of Alberta’s voting public.

Tweet: 'Is one side simply too dumb to understand the science — or simply willing to flatly ignore it?' http://bit.ly/2ly7haN #bcpoli #cdnpoliIs one side simply too dumb to understand the science — or simply willing to flatly ignore it?

Of course not.

Trudeau Promised To Bring Us Out of Canada’s Anti-Science Era, But We’re Not There Yet

The Harper years were characterized by a sustained war on science, as documented by science librarian John Dupuis and Calgary writer Chris Turner, among others.

So when Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a majority government in last fall’s federal election, some commentators suggested that Canadians weren’t necessarily drawn to the Liberal platform, but were so fed up with the Conservative government that they voted for “anyone but Harper.”

The Harper legacy that Trudeau inherited was a troubling one.

It included muzzling of government scientists and cuts to key government-based science-related positions and programs such as the National Science Advisor and the Advisory Council on Science and Technology — to name just a few.

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.

How to Convince Your Neighbors Climate Change Is Real? Stop Calling Them Idiots, Says DeSmog Founder Jim Hoggan

James Hoggan AGU speech

Clean coal.” “Ethical oil.” How could fossil fuels that produce pollution which sickens, kills, and hospitalizes tens of thousands of Americans each year end up sounding so … desirable?

Jim Hoggan, founder of DeSmog, watched these industry-funded campaigns — and an increasingly toxic public discourse around climate change — unfold in the U.S. and Canada and wondered the same thing. 

As Hoggan told an audience of earth and climate scientists at the American Geophysical Union conference today, “These campaigns are not so much about persuasion as they are about polarization, about dividing us.”

Review of 9,000 Studies Finds We Know Squat About Bitumen Spills in Ocean Environments

Nobody knows how a spill of diluted bitumen would affect marine life or whether a bitumen spill in salt water could be adequately cleaned up, because basic research is lacking, says a new study.

The peer-reviewed paper, which will be published later this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, looked at more than 9,000 studies of the effect of oilsands products on the marine environment.

Canada Isn't Immune to Trump-ism

By Sarah Boon from Watershed Moments.

In the days following the U.S. election, two former Canadian ambassadors to the U.S. had some advice for Canadians worried about the future of Canada-U.S. relations.

Calm down,” they said. “Change the channel and watch some hockey.”

This paternalistic statement not only played on the worn cultural stereotype that all Canadians like hockey, Tweet: Nope, sorry. A ‘head in the sand,’ ‘everything will be fine’ mentality is NOT a good way to deal with Trump, Canada http://bit.ly/2gwbt7Ebut it suggested that a ‘head in the sand,’ ‘everything will be fine’ mentality was a good way to deal with Trump.

In truth, Canadians have every reason to worry.

Five Myths Trudeau Rehashed in Kinder Morgan Pipeline Approval

Most Canadians weren’t surprised to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline this week.

Yet Trudeau’s announcement was so thoroughly cut through with political spin and misinformation some have described it as “Orwellian.”

So where did the Prime Minister rank highest on the spin-master index?

Here are our top five myth and misinformation moments from Trudeau’s Kinder Morgan announcement.

Fracking Fluid Caused Months-Long Earthquake Events In Alberta: New Study

Fracking

Fracking has induced earthquakes in northwest Alberta, Tweet: Proof is in the pudding: #fracking causing huge, long-lasting earthquakes in NW Alberta http://bit.ly/2g6F0rn #ableg #cdnpoli #oilandgassome of which have lasted for months due to residual fracking fluid, according to a new study published in Science today.

Earthquakes induced by fracking have been noticed in Western Canada for about four years, but this is one of the first studies to specifically identify the causes that resulted in “activation.”

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.

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