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.