Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Canada's scientific and environmental leadership: are they gone now?

Canada's scientific and environmental leadership: are they gone now? do you think there has been enough rigorous public debate about these policies? read and decide for yourself: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328585.900-how-canadas-green-credentials-fell-apart.html ... "Canada once enjoyed a deserved reputation for scientific and environmental leadership, but those days are now long gone.
MOST people around the world, if they think of Canada at all, think of it as the national equivalent of the nice boy they'd like their daughter to marry. A bit boring, perhaps, but unfailingly polite, and someone you can always count on to do the right thing. That is a stereotype, of course, but like most stereotypes there is some truth to it, as those of us who live here recognise.
Lately, though, that nice boy has turned into a bit of a bully. Last year, the Conservative Party of Canada, led by Stephen Harper, won a parliamentary majority after being in a minority government for five years. It has since staked out an aggressively right-wing position on many issues, notably science and the environment.
The Harper government has abandoned Canada's climate commitments, cut back on science spending and muzzled government scientists who might stray from the official line. Hardly the cuddly Canada the world thought it knew." ..."Canada's anti-science policies reach beyond the environment. Last year, the government did away with its compulsory long-form census, which was sent to about 20 per cent of households. By making this census voluntary instead of mandatory, the government effectively destroyed its value as an unbiased baseline of information on Canadian society and the economy.
Of course, the government has an electoral mandate and is entitled to enact its programme. But it should also welcome robust debate about its policies, and the reality is that the government is stifling that debate by restricting its scientists' ability to speak frankly about their work.
Environment Canada's media protocol, introduced in 2008, requires scientists to get official approval before talking to the press - a demand that often delays an interview well beyond journalists' deadlines and results in the public never hearing from the scientist at all. It also can lead to the scientist being forced to parrot the official line on an issue. The protocol states: "Media relations will work with staff on how best to deal with the call. This should include asking the programme expert to respond with approved lines." Other departments, such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada, have similar policies.
The result is that Canadians - and the rest of the world - have been denied the chance to hear from some of the most authoritative scientific voices on important issues ranging from the Arctic ozone hole to radiation after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor accident in Japan, and even the effect of aquaculture on wild salmon.
What's worse, the silence comes just when the government's environmental policies are most in need of vigorous public debate. The effect has been stifling. According to a leaked Environment Canada internal document, media coverage of climate change has fallen by 80 per cent since the policy came into force."

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