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COMMENT: Shadowy background to Harper’s war on science revealed

Miranda Holmes
By Miranda Holmes
May 11th, 2013

Much has been written in the past year about the Harper government’s war on science.

The almost daily drip, drip of abandoned environmental treaties, nobbled scientists and access denied to existing government science is a bit like Chinese water torture for those who believe government policy should be evidence-based, rather than ideology-based.  

The full list of  programs (and the scientists who run them) axed at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada is painstakingly detailed by Joyce Nelson in the current issue of Watershed Sentinel.

Despite this seemingly irrefutable evidence, Science Minister Gary Goodyear continues to declare no such war exists, pointing to the more than $5 billion the government has contributed to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to fund scientific research.

Nelson has looked into the CFI, asking the not unreasonable question: Just who is deciding which science should be funded by taxpayer dollars?

As Nelson explains: “The CFI has a governing body of 13 Members, seven of whom are appointed by the Minister of Industry. These Members then select the other six Members. This governing body then appoints seven of the 13 CFI Board of Directors, receives reports from the Board, appoints auditors, approves the Annual Report, sets strategic objectives and makes final decisions about what science projects will be funded, including at universities.”

Her examination of the list of CFI Members and Directors indicates that “a highly politicized body (including a founding trustee of the Fraser Institute)” is deciding which science should be funded.

Both lists are peppered with individuals who have close connections to water privatisation and biotechnology interests. And, as Nelson reveals, “CFI Co-Chair David Fung is so thoroughly embedded in China-Canada business/trade collaboration that he may as well be seen as a de facto vice-president of China National Offshore Oil Corporation.”

Nelson’s research suggests the Harper government’s war on science has some obvious goals, including “getting rid of all federally-funded science that would impede water export, as well as any science standing in the way of aquaculture, tar sands and natural gas export.”

Her full – and very alarming – article can be read on the Watershed Sentinel website

Do Conservatives hate science?

Meanwhile, as to whether or not Harperites are anti-science, the votes are in.

For those who missed it, on 20 March 2013, NDP science and technology critic Kennedy Stewart put the following motion to the House of Commons:

"That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making; (b) federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; and (c) the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.”

The motion was defeated by 20 votes. Every Conservative MP present voted against it.

 Miranda Holmes is an associate editor of Watershed Sentinel magazine. Image: "Death of Evidence" mock funeral staged by scientists in Ottawa, July 2012 ©

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Categories: Op/EdPolitics