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Canada Science Politics

The Canadian Government's War On Science 474

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-real-science-if-it-doesn't-involve-hockey dept.
FuzzNugget writes "A contributor at ScienceBlogs.com has compiled and published a shockingly long list of systematic attacks on scientific research committed by the Canadian government since the conservatives came to power in 2006. This anti-scientific scourge includes muzzling scientists, shutting down research centers, industry deregulation and re-purposing the National Research Council to align with business interests instead of doing real science. It will be another two years before Canadians have the chance to go to the polls, but how much more damage will be done in the meantime?"
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The Canadian Government's War On Science

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  • by Covalent (1001277) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:23PM (#43796053)
    If there is one thing that conservatives all agree on, it's that you should change the facts to match your agenda, not the other way around.
  • Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mpoulton (689851) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:28PM (#43796089)
    A large portion of that list doesn't look anti-science. Business deregulation? Firing regulatory officials for "lack of leadership"? Discontinuing a mandatory census? Rolling back environmental regulations? Withdraw from Kyoto Accord? Changes to fisheries regulations? Procedural changes for public hearings on pipeline work? And so on... These are not "anti-science" changes. They are anti-liberal, anti-environmentalist, and pro-business political moves. Think there might be some political bias by the author of this list?
  • Hand wring much? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:28PM (#43796093)

    Go read the list, and see if you think more than a small minority of those items affect real science in any real way.

    There are a few, to be sure, but most of them are trimming of non-science paper-shuffling jobs, a shocking number
    of which seem to only employ journalism majors.

    Closing a Downtown Vancouver coast guard station? Really?

  • umm..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nex1998 (1155817) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:28PM (#43796099)
    This is just a liberal laundry list masquerading as an 'objective' assessment of the conservative government's attitude toward science.
    What is actually happening here is called "balancing the budget". The funding of many programs have been cut --from sports to science. Why scientists feel their programs should be immune to budget cuts when governments the globe over are practicing austerity is a mystery.
  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:30PM (#43796117)

    If there is one thing that politicians all agree on, it's that you should change the facts to match your agenda, not the other way around.

    FTFY

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:31PM (#43796129)

    They are anti-liberal, anti-environmentalist, and pro-business political moves. Think there might be some political bias by the author of this list?

    Sadly, while they're doing all of those things, they're discrediting the science behind it.

    They make assertions which don't match facts, and then say the scientists who have the facts have an agenda.

    And you wonder why so much of the US fails in a basic understanding of science? It's because the douchebag politicians do all they can to undercut science.

    Maybe if your positions aren't borne out by science, it's you who has a problem with reality? You know, like the drooling trolls who say "Intelligent Design" should be treated as an equally valid theory to Evolution, even though it's anything but.

  • Re:Dang, Canada... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:33PM (#43796151)

    Wait - Bush and the GOP are is still in power?

    How did that happen?

    Obama is pretty far right compared to the Democratic party in the US, much less the rest of the first world.

  • by Vanderhoth (1582661) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:35PM (#43796159)

    Closing a Downtown Vancouver coast guard station? Really?

    Where do you think the data to do the science comes from? Fisheries and Oceans has closes dozens of data collection sites just in the Maritimes region alone. It's awfully hard to argue that industry is over fishing or that salmon farms are contaminating wild fish stocks when there's not data to back it up and scientist are under muzzle orders.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:35PM (#43796161)

    after public funds. The author uses the word science, but in reality what this boils down to is a political viewpoint not popular with the current politicians controlling the purse strings. I'm sick of seeing the removal of public funding for something being called a "war".

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nemyst (1383049) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:35PM (#43796169) Homepage
    Hint: most environmental considerations come from scientific discoveries and conclusions. "Lack of leadership" is an excellent excuse to fire off people that don't align to your political views. Mandatory census is an important tool in many scientific fields to determine the state and evolution of the population. Changes to fishing regulations go against every scientific studies we've ever made. Pipeline work is being swept under the carpet so that the government can help oil producers in Alberta export their stuff more easily without bothering about public opinion or environmental concerns.

    Science isn't just about particle accelerators and battery tech.
  • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:38PM (#43796189) Homepage

    The conservatives in power at the federal level in Canada have been figuratively rounding up all the intellectuals, scientists, educators, and scholars who do not toe the line. It is disgraceful and eerily familiar to historians, who BTW are about to undergo a government investigation of how Canadian history is to be taught [ottawacitizen.com] since the conservatives do not much recognize anything but their own mythology.

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Covalent (1001277) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:39PM (#43796209)
    You must be a conservative.

    I hate to break it to you, but the Kyoto Accord is based on science, whether you like that science or not. This is exactly the point: you don't like the science, and neither do most conservatives, because it indicates that a BIG business (fossil fuel based energy) is bad. Since those businesses have a fair amount of money, the Kyoto Accord is pretty anti-fossil fuel business.

    Despite that fact, it is still based on valid science.
  • by citylivin (1250770) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:41PM (#43796225)

    " It will be another two years before Canadians have the chance to go to the polls, but how much more damage will be done in the meantime?"

    This statement assumes that canadians will not re elect the conservatives again. Unfortunately, most of my fellow countrymen only care about one thing - the economy. Witness the recent election in BC where the BCliberals (really conservatives, just liberal by name) were super corrupt (head of party resigned in shame) and most people agree are doing a bad job, were re-elected. Why? They ran on the platform of creating more industry jobs, ignoring the effects of climate change, and selling off resources to china which they say will make us and our children rich.

    Unless the housing market collapses, and takes the broader economy with it, before the next election, the conservatives will most likely win again. There are many theories as to why this is, but the fact is people have been led to believe that the government having closer ties to business equals a better economy. Thanks in no small part to the shit ton of propaganda (economic action plan = propping up construction sector) that reinforces this belief and glosses over reality. Science is facts, and the conservatives hate fact based policy. They base policy on ideology and authoritarianism. Its stupid and backwards, but thats been the state of canada since 2006.

  • Re:umm..... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:42PM (#43796237)

    While I'm no great fan of Harper, that might have something to do with being in a global depression where every government is trying to borrow and spend their way out. Take a look at how much the national debt has exploded in other Western nations.

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:48PM (#43796281)

    the rest (like 'environmental' science) are just a political whores at best, where 'truth' is defined by number of paid 'papers', not by soundness of argument or reproducibility of experiments. No wonder it gets discarded on the side of the road now and then.

    No, the groups which do that are mostly shell companies and think tanks paid by large corporations to kick out position papers which support their claims.

    People are doing actual science in many domains, and large corporations and political groups try very hard to say "see, we have science too".

    That's usually a lie -- the tobacco companies claimed for years smoking wasn't harmful when they knew damned well it was.

    There's science, and there's shills. It's important to know which are which. If you can convince the masses that science is just what a bunch of people want you to believe, you can undermine it to the point where you can make any claims you like.

    So go find me some scientific evidence for Intelligent Design, because you can't, since there's absolutely zero science behind it.

  • Re:Dang, Canada... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:51PM (#43796325) Homepage

    Wait - Bush and the GOP are is still in power?

    Yes they are -- power has been handed over to the New GOP (AKA Democrats) so that all the Executive branch power grabs and Constitutional abuses of the GWB era can be legitimized as the "New Normal".

  • by CyprusBlue113 (1294000) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:58PM (#43796387)

    Bingo. Eisenhower warned about the Military-Industrial Complex, but everyone seems to forget his other warning in the same speech about the government-science complex.

    At least 90% of the results I see from government-funded 'science' look to be a total waste of my tax dollars.

    The other 10% form the foundation of our economy. Most of them were unintentional. Which is why anyone who responds with the above just looks like an uninformed fool.

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:59PM (#43796405) Journal

    Something "based on science" isn't Science. It is something "based on science". I can be against Kyoto accord (policy) for reasons other than the "science" behind it (policy). This is something liberals cannot fathom.

    Kyoto Accord has about the same amount of science behind it as does the Piltdown Man did. Remember, Piltdown man was accepted as "science" for years and many PhD in sciences were awarded to people who did their Thesis on it. Just because Science claims something doesn't mean it is true.

  • Re:Dang, Canada... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:01PM (#43796417)

    True. He turned out to by a crypto conservative plant, a false flag operative operating under the guise of hope and change. He is right of Ronald Reagan on a lot of issues, much to the absolute horror of the actual liberals in this country.

  • by Vanderhoth (1582661) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:03PM (#43796433)
    Yeah, let private industry do their own wild life and fish surveys and use the data to self regulate. What could go wrong?
  • Re:Dang, Canada... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:06PM (#43796455)

    I agree. But what we're talking about here is science and scientific research.

    I can understand a fiscal conservative's opinion that government has no business funding scientific research - and considering this horseshit, I would think that a liberal might side with that just for the reason of science getting politicized even more.

    But when a government starts meddling with science and research because it pisses off their backers - industry - then we are headed for some serious trouble. The Bible thumpers don't scare me because, although a pain in the ass, they are easily defeated.

    Industry scares me. They have the deep pockets to get their way and it's very hard to fight them.

    Examples of industry screwing science over to get their way:

    Cigarette industry - fought for decades that their products were safe and later, there was no proof that they were dangerous.

    Automakers and every safety and pollution control system demanded. And decades ago, they fought tooth and nail to KEEP lead in gasoline. That's why it tool so many decades to get rid of it: the auto industry bullshitted the US Congress.

    Fossil fuel producers and doing everything they can to misinform the public about global climate change.

    Those are just off of the top of my head.

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent.jan.gohNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:18PM (#43796577) Homepage

    It's possibly more accurate to say the Conservative government here is anti-information, or anti-data. Anti-science is just part of that.

    Eliminating the mandatory long-form census has made some data entirely unusable. It went from 94% participation to somewhere in the 60% range. Some areas of the country now have no information by which to base decisions on. You can correct--to a certain extent--for discrepancies that occur in large population centres where the participation rate wasn't bad and you have good anchor data from past years, but this last census was supposed to form the basis of NEW anchor data.

    Statistics is science. Information collection is critical in a country as spread out and diverse as Canada.

    But again, this is just one more thing on the pile. Muzzling scientists, shutting down a world-class lakes research facility (that only cost $20 million/year to run--the Conservative government has spent twice as much on advertising about how good a job they've done with the economy, and they haven't really done a great job there), ignoring scientific advice from all quarters, etc. The list is long, and it all has the same common thread throughout it: "we don't care what the data says, and if we can make sure that nobody else sees the data, they can't accuse us of making decisions that are contrary to the data".

  • by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent.jan.gohNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:23PM (#43796633) Homepage

    What BS. Nobody has ever been jailed for failing to fill out the long-form census. It was mandatory and there were potential fines and jailtime in place, but if you go looking, basically nobody ever runs afoul of the laws. The census people just come and talk to you and help you fill out the form.

    That participation is vital. As a result of not having it be mandatory this year, we now have big chunks of data that have to be completely thrown out. Something like 40% of municipalities in Saskatchewan have no relevant data this year. It's criminal. How do you make decisions in a country without data to base it on?

    There's never been a freedom problem with the census. It's a red herring that the Conservatives used to tenuously justify a move so absurd, the head statistician of Statistics Canada felt it was his moral obligation to step down in protest.

    An accurate census is fundamental to any government that's interested in actually governing. Without it, all your decisions are just shots in the dark. You can't set any metrics that determine success, because you don't even know what problems you're supposed to be solving anymore.

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:27PM (#43796657) Homepage Journal

    "I can be against Kyoto accord (policy) for reasons other than the "science" behind it (policy). This is something liberals cannot fathom."

    I fathom it just fine, speaking as someone way more 'liberal' than the term implies. That coming from the POV of a multi-national research director.

    Doesn't matter your thoughts on th policy - the science behind it is with a 5-sigma degree of certainty FACT. (6 sigma is almost undeniable, but 5-sigma is damned close.)

    And that is something ill-educated people such as yourself cannot fathom - the rules and regulations the REAL scientists have set forth.

    Policy means SHIT in the face of fact.

  • Re:Dang, Canada... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:38PM (#43796757)

    The whole right, left perspective is an illusion. When are you people going to wake up?

  • Re:Dang, Canada... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:42PM (#43796815)
    True. He was also leftmost viable candidate available.
  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:42PM (#43796817)

    Of course it is, it's a completely falsifiable proposition.

    A non-scientific statement would be, "It is right to reduce carbon emissions," or "It is not in our best interest to restrain global warming regardless of the cost."

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:50PM (#43796919)

    Science is a method not an outcome and as such is amoral. "We must reduce carbon emissions in order to reverse global warming", is not a scientific statement.

    You're obviously right. Similarly "you should step off the tracks before that freight train barreling along kills you" is not a scientific statement. However "if you don't step off the tracks before that freight train arrives then you will die" is a scientific statement. Many people think the recommendation to step off the tracks is obviously, if not scientifically, a reasonable recommendation under those circumstances. Some may disagree.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:00PM (#43797003)
    I think your fix would be more reasonable if you cited examples of when liberal politicians ignored science to match their agendas.

    Preferably some example where the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies support the opposite side. Like climate change, where 97% of studies conclude that climate change is real. Or evolution. As opposed to some other issue where there is much more support for either side.
  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:23PM (#43797199) Journal

    So the part of Kyoto which exempted gigantic polluters such as China and India... exactly what science do you consider to be justification for that?

    That's what GP was talking about - one can certainly be against a proposed political action, and not really care what scientific measurements or papers were touted to back it up.

    Now try and say that, and suddenly you don't get the whole sentence out before everyone of a certain ideological persuasion points and screams "He's anti-science!"

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quantaman (517394) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:24PM (#43797213)

    I'm not sure you're seeing a bias by the author as much as a list of actions by the Conservatives (which are generally anti-liberal, anti-environmentalist, and pro-business political moves).

    Firing regulatory officials for "lack of leadership"?

    This head of the Nuclear regulatory agency got fired over controversy that led to an important research reactor (that manufactured important medical isotopes) being shut down for a while over safety issues. The minister eventually fired the head of the agency and the government forced the reactor to restart. Overall most people felt the reactor should keep running (and I'd agree). Either way I'm not sure I'd really call it an attack on science as much as a struggle over agency independence. Looking through the article (from 2008) I found this fun little tidbit

    A ministerial directive on Dec. 10 ordered the CNSC to reopen the site. The agency refused, insisting a backup safety system be installed to prevent the risk of a meltdown during an earthquake or other disaster.

    Too bad she couldn't have found a job in Fukushima.

    Discontinuing a mandatory census?

    Stopping the collection of good scientific data in favour of some fuzzy ideological principals? Since then we've had a few provincial elections where the polls turned out to be completely inaccurate, I wouldn't be surprised if that was related.

    Rolling back environmental regulations? Withdraw from Kyoto Accord? Changes to fisheries regulations?

    Environmental regs are largely suggested by science, as are carbon emission regs and regs to keep fisheries healthy.

    Frankly the message I get from this is they care more about the short term economic impact than the environment, and combined with their other actions in gutting research and muzzling scientists there seems to be an active effort to cripple science so that science can't contradict their policies.

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:44PM (#43797387)

    They just might not get the funding taken forcefully taken from everyone's pocket book to fund their research.

    Oh boy, you're one of those types that think taxes are equivalent to jackboot thugs raping your daughter. This is going to go all sorts of fun places.

    But no, it IS a war on science. The Canadian government has a lot of ways they can decide what to do. They can get a public vote, they can go with their gut, or they can ask an expert. You know, like a scientist. If they decide to get rid of that portion of their organization it's like they're waging war on that fundamental. If they, somehow, worked towards ignoring everything the populace wanted them to do, we'd say they were waging a war on democracy.
    It's like if a programming firm decided to axe their QA department, you could say they "waged a war on testing".

    What about the mandatory long form census. Do you wonder where that data comes from? From threats and violence against citizens.

    How can you sit there and hyperbole like this and claim it's not a war on science? Are you the chosen one who is solely allowed to exaggerate?
    Listen, there's this form, you have to fill it out. Do your civic duty otherwise there is a fine. Yeah, yeah, paperwork is a pain in the ass, but it's not the end of the world. And it's not jackboot Nazi thugs breaking down your door.

    Considering scientists have become advocates of specific policies and ideologies instead of simply doing research, I'm in favor of defunding them as well. If all scientists did was provide the data on things like the fishery or global warming, more power to them. The moment they come in support of carbon taxes or any kind of policy, they are not doing science any longer.

    When the science is screaming that the boss is screwing over generation of fishers just to get a couple of tax dollars, and it's your job to go do that science, you'd become an advocate too.

    The longer you live in old age, the greater healthcare costs.

    Scientists don't like to point that out because they have souls. You're literally suggesting we should let people die from health complications when they're young. Because it's expensive to take care of them in old age. Whoa dude. Whoa.

    This is actually kind of an issue. The "hard truths" have a hard time getting publication and circulation because people, well, don't want to be evil. But since we're talking about policy here, I'm actually ok with the darker facts of life not being implemented. I mean, the euthanasia/eugenics/forced-sterilization crowd don't need much encouragement before they go all crazy. They're kinda already there.

    Scientists being on the government payroll and being involved in politics has ruined any notion of objective science.

    As opposed to being on the corporate payroll?
    Or do you have unyielding faith in the scientists of academia?
    Good science ain't cheap, and someone has to pay. Or you can live in ignorance (which is often more expensive).

    There is a war on science and we're going to fight you.

  • So untrue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by microbox (704317) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @05:44PM (#43797911)

    The whole right, left perspective is an illusion. When are you people going to wake up?

    That is so lazy intellectually. Some politicians are power hungry pathalogical liars (e.g., Issa). Some politicians are plain old cranks (e.g., Inhofe/Bachmann). Some politicians really believe in things and fight for them, and are often indistinguishable from cranks (e.g., Rand Paul). Some politicians really believe in things and fight for them (e.g., Paul Ryan).

    The trick to understanding politics is sorting out the grand-standing from what people really believe in. The GOP is currently defined by hatred of all things Obama. They don't care about deficit/debt reduction (they could have it if they wanted it). But you gotta believe that if Obama supported traditional marriage, a ban on stem cell research, or tax cuts of the super wealthy, then the GOP would be all over it in no time.

    So you see, they do believe in things, and there really are differences.

    If you're pro-life, or a homophobe, tax-cuts-for-the-rich, then the GOP will represent you. If you pro-choice and pro marriage equality, and want a progressive tax system, then the Dems will support you.

    So what do you support?

  • Re:So untrue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by microbox (704317) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @06:30PM (#43798249)
    Sounds like you are a moderate democrat. If you see yourself as a moderate conservative, then sure, but your congressmen represent people far to the right of you. Most democrats ignore radical liberals. (e.g., those who believe everyone should be vegetarian.)
  • Re:So untrue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RoknrolZombie (2504888) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @06:42PM (#43798355)
    Or maybe the idea of labeling someone according to a very broad group of beliefs is flawed.

    Nah...can't possibly be - we've been doing it for thousands of years and it seems to be working out really well for us.

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