OTTAWA – In 2006, Stephen Harper said, “You won’t recognize Canada when I am through with it.”
It was one time that Harper was open and honest. Many of the attributes that drew me to immigrate to Canada in 1976 have been eroded or severely damaged by the Harper government since 2006. One area that particularly worries me is the attack on science and what some have called the “Death of Evidence”.
Since winning a “false majority” of seats after receiving 39% of the vote under our flawed and undemocratic electoral system, Stephen Harper has ruthlessly pursued his ideologies, systematically attacking any facts that gets in the way of his personal or political agendas.
Some examples include:
Over the last 8 years, Harper has eliminated the Canadian Policy Research Network, the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, the National Council on Welfare, the Canadian Council on Learning, and the Law Commission of Canada.
In 2006 Environment Minister Rona Ambrose forbade an Environment Canada climatologist to talk publicly about …. climate change! Later that was extended to all government scientists. Environment Canada has been subsequently been so gutted that it does not have the capacity to ensure federal oversight over national projects.
Cancelling the mandatory long form census in 2010.
Ordering the Canada Revenue Agency in 2013 to subject non-profits and charities that educate us on policy issues to unusual and oppressive audits in an attempt to quiet or crush them.
Firing many Health Canada scientists, which has made it difficult to make sure our drugs are safe.
That is just a short list!
Formed last year to inform Canadians about the drastic erosion of science by the current federal government, a group called “Scientists for the Right to Know” has assembled an eight-page list of ways that Harper has damaged Canadian scientific oversight and research (see https://scientistsfortherighttoknow.wildapricot.org/timeline).
The list notes the public agencies that have been eliminated, science programs that have been trashed, and the ways that public scientists and watchdogs have been muzzled. Margrit Eichler, President of Scientists for the Right to Know, says, “Canadians are being made more ignorant about our country and ourselves… Good policies must be based upon solid evidence. Democracy requires an informed electorate.”
A particularly egregious example of anti-science was the attempt to kill the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA). The Conservatives tried to axe our world-renowned freshwater research facility in 2012. I led the charge in Parliament to save the ELA, presenting petitions and speaking against the closure. Thanks to the hard work of Dr. Diane Orihel and the tens of thousands of Canadians who acted to save the ELA, it is still open and doing important research.
Researchers at our own Lakehead University are continuing in this spirit of groundbreaking research, looking at Lake Superior and boreal forest ecosystems, and using waste from the forest industry to facilitate mine rehabilitation. Their research puts our university – and our region – and the forefront of environmental science.
Recently, Scientists for the Right to Know held a public forum in Ottawa, moderated by sharp-minded national affairs writer Carol Goar, who wrote afterwards, “The debate has moved beyond a core of muzzled scientists and worried academics. The bigger challenge lies ahead: ratchet up the decibel level, raise the political stakes, and mobilize busy, jaded citizens.”
Well, busy, jaded citizens… are you ready to ratchet up the decibel level, and fight for a government that bases policies on facts and science, rather than on ideologies based on misinformation or deliberate deception? Stephen Harper, like all of us, is entitled to his opinions. He is not entitled to make up his own facts.
Bruce Hyer MP
Thunder Bay Superior North