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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 eagee (1308589) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:22PM (#43796049)
    What are you doing? You were my escape plan all during the Bush years - where am I going to go when the right finally tanks the US?
    • Pretty darn lucky the economy is booming dow a new record every day and the deficit heading for 2 percent of GDP not seen sense Clinton. It matters who you vote for.
    • I imagine Mr. Burns sitting watching the TV as the conservative supreme court declares Bush the winner. "Checkmate, hippies! Lets see you legalize marijuana or fight 'global warming' now!" Cut to a disgruntled hippie "Man, I'm gonna move to Canada!" Mr Burns:... We'll see about that. MWHAHAHAHAH!

      I know it was the Koch brothers probably talking to each other, but Mr. Burns is who I picture.
  • 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.
    • 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

      • 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.
        • by Hatta (162192)

          I think your fix would be more reasonable if you cited examples of when liberal politicians ignored science to match their agendas.

          Any liberal politician who has ever voted for or in any way promoted drug prohibition.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by bored (40072)

          I think your fix would be more reasonable if you cited examples of when liberal politicians ignored science to match their agendas.

          While I generally agree that the R's pretty much ignore science, gun control is an example of where the D's ignore it.

          Specifically US related data, while there isn't much, what there is, points at gun control being useless in the US for controlling gun related homicides. Areas with the highest homicide rates also tend to be the ones with the strictest gun control (see Chicago a

          • I don't want to get into another gun control debate, but in terms of ignoring science. If you look at the broader scope, gun control works in may other places. Australia, Japan and the UK are three countries that turned them selves around after enacting stick gun control.

            So once again the R's are ignoring the data as a whole and opting to take a smaller sample, that's only ever had what I could call half assed measures and failed because they lack teeth and are repeatedly repealed because they don't work
          • The 1930s happened and easy interstate transport meant cross border criminal gangs taking advantage of uneven law enforcement and juristictions. Now it's today, and for some reason people have forgotten that lesson and think it's unlikely that criminals will drive for an hour to get a gun.
    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      And sadly, I have serious doubts that the next election will change things around. The PCC is playing its cards well by pleasing their core voter base and just enough of the periphery to ensure a majority at the next elections. The biggest backlashes they get are from social groups that already don't vote for them, so their political calculation is that they don't matter.
      • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

        To make things worse, the Liberal Party was decimated (more like nonagintaeted) in the most recent election, and then went on to pick a playboy (who is the son of one of Canada's most polarizing Prime Ministers) as their new leader. They do not have a hope of winning the next election. At present the only significant opposition party is the New Democratic Party, but their charismatic leader died right after the last election, and their new leader, while competent, is rather boring and hardly the sort of per

  • There, fixed it for ya...

  • 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?
    • 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.

      • Policy decisions can't discredit science. Science has a pretty good method of weeding out bad stuff. That said, government has to manage not just scientific facets of reality but human constructs that may or may not be grounded in science but have very real implications. If you don't understand that and that those human constructs may be more important than the raw science, then at best your policies will never "win" in the political environment. In a worse case, you could cause a drop in standard of li
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by icebike (68054)

      Exactly.

      There may be a few pure science projects on the list, but they are hard to find, and should have been the bailiwick of University Research
      at best, not National government paper shuffling bureaucracies that take on a life of their own.

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

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:52PM (#43796331)

        I clicked one of the blog-troll's links at almost random. It was a hysteria filled column about how the "EVIL Conservatives (who obviously were being lead by the EVEN MORE EVIL Bush family)" were being EVIL by removing an "Environment Canada" logo and text from the weather page. The top-rated 9000 comments were all outrage, but the most recent three explained that the "Environment Canada" web page still exists and that (gasp, shock, horror) this actually helps because the weather page had been the top response when searching for "Environment Canada," and now searching for that term actually gave you what you searched for.

        After reading that, the next link could've had video evidence of their hated PM firing nuclear weapons at baby seals and I still wouldn't care.

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

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Khyber (864651)

          "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 yours

          • 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!"

        • You're using the boilerplate approach to denying AGW by stating a known and obvious point that applies to all scientific theories. You'd have a much more effective argument if you'd actually cite a reason why you think the AGW theory is wrong.
          • I never said I didn't believe in or believed in AGW. What I said was that the Kyoto Accord was based on the same kind of science and Piltdown man. I suggest you google it. Kyoto was based on the flawed and flat out fabricated information coming out of the U.E.A. Doesn't mean U.E.A was wrong, it also doesn't mean they are right.

            And I'm opposed to the Kyoto Treaty based on other reasons. It excuses or doesn't affect the people that are actually causing the most harm to the environment, namely many third world

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

        by Again (1351325) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:03PM (#43796439)

        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.

        I remember the Kyoto Accord very differently then you do. The Kyoto Accord was signed by the Liberals at the end of a very unpopular Liberal term. The Liberals never made a plan of how to meet the requirements of The Kyoto Accord because it was impossible for Canada to meet it in the specified time frame. Signing it was a recognized political joke at the time.

        Full disclosure: I voted Conservative for that election and Liberal for the one after.

      • by stymy (1223496)
        Keep in mind that Global Warming is a very good thing for Canada. We'll have more arable land, and the Northwestern Passage is already opening up, creating what could become a major trade route.
    • by Russ1642 (1087959)
      And how many of these are simple funding cuts? The economy has been in various states of suckitude over the last few years so I'd expect to see plenty of cuts in government funding. Doesn't make it an anti-science conspiracy.
    • Re:Excuse me? (Score:5, Informative)

      by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:08PM (#43796465) Homepage

      Here's a very interesting movie about farmed salmon in BC and the ISA virus (an internationally reportable virus like mad cow). http://salmonconfidential.ca/ [salmonconfidential.ca]

      Basically, the Canadian government, despite highly reputable testing, continues to deny that there is ISA and other viruses in the farms, muzzles the scientist who published research on the topic, and almost passed a law making it a felony to report on infections in livestock/farmed fish. All the while, native stocks of salmon plummet due to diseases that fill the narrow passageways in which the farms are located. And no, you can't just replace wild salmon with farmed salmon -- unless you're going to truck them out to the forest and dump them because even the trees get fertilized by dead fish that bears leave around after eating the eggs (and then of course there are Orcas and seals to feed etc. etc). The rivers can provide nutrients to an entire ecosystem including people -- farmed salmon destroy that but provide profit for big business. With most fishermen being small time business people -- guess which wins. http://oregonstate.edu/instruction/fw580/pdf/15.%20MDN%20riparian.pdf [oregonstate.edu]

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

      by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <.vincent.jan.goh. .at. .gmail.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".

    • 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.

  • Hand wring much? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054)

    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?

    • 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.

      • Re:Hand wring much? (Score:5, Informative)

        by icebike (68054) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:39PM (#43796201)

        It was down town rescue station. Largely redundant with Vancouver Police and Fire rescue. There was no science done there.

        It wasn't part of fishery management or fishing regulation. The 12 people were re-assigned to other coast guard stations, some of which actually do get involved in fishing enforcement.

        • Sorry, I'm a dear in the headlights on that one.

          Most of the people in the Maritimes region that were "relocated" were then "work force adjusted" several months later, meaning the relocation was a temporary step to firing them. Then to claim "fishing enforcement" is the same as data collection used to support science!! Data collected in fishing surveys is used to determine how necessary services such as "fisheries enforcement" are, not the other way around.
          You sir are off your rocker.
    • by Dzimas (547818)
      They closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station which provided coverage on Vancouver harbour and English Bay, handling a few hundred distress calls a year. The nearest active station is Sea Island, which has slowed response by about half an hour. Lives will eventually be lost because of the closure of this "downtown" coast guard station.
  • umm..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nex1998 (1155817)
    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.
    • Re:umm..... (Score:4, Informative)

      by MSBob (307239) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:35PM (#43796167)
      Balancing the budget? LOL! This government has blown the hole in the budget that Canada had never seen in its entire history. The federal debt has skyrocketed under this regime while the funds to provinces were cut. The 'tax and spend' Liberals maintained balanced budgets for years and years until these clowns grabbed a hold of the steering wheel. Their first stupid move was cutting the GST by two percentage points just before the debt crisis hit. As for their approach to science they had a creationist as a minister of science; enough said.
      • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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".

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:48PM (#43796279) Homepage Journal

    in favor of their own clear and true vision of paisley pink skies and money trees in the gardens of "job creators."

    facts frequently are at odds with their vision/religion.

    I use the terms "fact" and :"science" here in the dictionary sense, that which has been proven through rigorous and repetitive testing and discovery.

    falling off your barstool after a night of swilling "Old Reaganomics" and getting an epiphany, or something, when your butt hits the tiles is not a fact.

  • Science doesn't have to stop when the government stops paying for it. There are other was to fund scientific research.

    • 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?
      • by Laxori666 (748529)
        Well, if you own a fishery, it's not really in your interest to kill all the fish, is it? That would destroy your source of income. Rather it makes more sense to ensure you will have fish for a long time to come. Problems arise when:
        a) tragedy of the commons - nobody owns the fishery, thus nobody is responsible, thus it's in each person's best interest to take as much as they can from the fishery, and then it gets destroyed, or
        b) the people who own the fishery are incompetent.
        Ideally there would be a w
  • by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @02:58PM (#43796389)

    Then the evidence must be suppressed.

    - *sigh* this got ranty and unfocused, not goint to fix it now -

    Example#1
    This governments plan is to "solve crime" with a "hard on crime" agenda that is being acknowledged in Texas as not being the correct solution. The government also claims to be fiscally responsible.

    So if you claim to be fiscally responsible yet want to setup and plan that is expensive and has been proven not to work you must deny the science.

    The Harper Government has many many plans that ran counter to science. They slashed the census program which gathered data that was used for planning by all levels of govenment. Why they claimed it was because people complained, on file about 2 complaints in 15 years. Really it was if you want to throw money at pet projects you don't have to validate it against actual facts if the facts don't exists.

    So yes this is a deliberate attack on science and it is required because they want to "govern from the gut".
    In Canada our Government is Psychotic, and the general question is why have people lost faith in government? Well is because the government operates on faith and not facts.

  • by booch (4157) <slashdot2010@noSpAM.craigbuchek.com> on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:10PM (#43796487) Homepage

    I would propose this solution:

    Show that the Canadian conservatives are just following what the American conservatives are doing.

    If there's one thing that Canadian politicians don't want to be accused of, it's acting like (or taking direction from) Americans.

  • That I say "religion is poison".

  • by DarthVain (724186) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @03:36PM (#43796729)

    A big one that is missing is AECL, or the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

    Back in 2011 they sold off most of it to SNC-Lavalin. For 15 Million. They might as well sold it for 1$ dollar.

    Hundreds of engineers and nuclear scientists.

    Official:
    http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/media-room/news-release/2011/57/2138 [nrcan.gc.ca]
    CBC:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2011/06/29/aecl-sale.html [www.cbc.ca]

    In case you are wondering who SNC-Lavalin is, Google them and see how many scandals they have been in the last few years, most of them to do with corruption and governments.

    Ironically some of the scandals were in India, and guess where we sold most of our Candu reactors over the years.... India!

    Anyway this isn't about Lavalin, its about Harper basically dumping our national atomic R&D. Remember Chalk River and the international shortage of radiological isotopes for medical use because it had to shut down? Yeah we kept the liability of that, but are not doing any research or design as to how to replace those 50+ year old facilities.

    And on the tinfoil hat side of things: Despite what all the touchy feelies might think, we need atomic energy for our electric grids. Guess what the only replacement is for those things? Solar, wind, puppies, and positive thinking? Nope. Oil and Gas. Funny that. Alberta should like that.

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