Stephen Harper – the Conservative octopus

Enjoy and share!

I thought it was high time we all remembered the crazy old days when Stephen Harper was baiting the public service, muzzling his subordinates and generally NOT wearing warm fuzzy sweaters. The new ad in which he talks about cracking down on crime in a soft, throaty voice reminded me of the Godfather, but that’s another cartoon entirely.

CLICK HERE to see the cartoon…

And make your comments below.

One Reply to “Stephen Harper – the Conservative octopus”

  1. Hey there,

    You didn’t mention all the politicization/censorship of science!

    I wrote a little piece on politicization of science with lots of links (footnotes) at the bottom in case you decide to update your amazing octopus.

    You can facebook me (Bernie Fitzpatrick / Toronto) if you want to discuss. Cheers

    There was a time when science helped governments shape public policy – not the other way around. That era ended with the federal election in January ‘06.

    Take the example of Don MacIver. This guy is one of Canada’s top climate scientists. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the UN climate negotiations. A senior scientist for Environment Canada, he was head of the organizing committee for the international climate talks in Poland last week – except he couldn’t go, because Ottawa wouldn’t let him. Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, said that the reasons were “cost-cutting”. But that’s bunk, because his costs were actually going to be covered by the United Nations [1].

    Ottawa’s censorship of MacIver’s research isn’t surprising to those who work at Environment Canada. Since the Conservatives came to power, scientists are no longer allowed to talk to the media except through media-relations staff [2,3]. In interviews, scientists are instructed to stick to “approved lines”. The Conservative government isn’t even asking scientists for help developing climate change policy. Andrew Weaver, who was the lead author of three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, said “They were making policy without even consulting their environmental scientists. I know that for a fact” [2].

    It seems that Mr. Harper is blocking Environment Canada scientists from saying anything that contradicts his climate-change policies. If environmental scientists aren’t even consulted to make the climate policies, who is? Corporate oilsands executives?

    For another example, consider the suppression of research into the effects of chrysotile asbestos. Canada is a huge exporter of asbestos to developing nations like India and Pakistan, and the government has spent millions to promote these exports. But as soon as the international community looks to classify asbestos as a “hazardous substance” and add it to the Rotterdam Convention, the feds start censoring asbestos research. In 2006, Canada was the only western country that opposed classifying asbestos as a “dangerous substance” [4]. Six months before the 2008 international talks, where asbestos was to be reclassified, two internationally recognized Health Canada scientists made an appeal to the Minister of Health to allow their research to be published. Six months later, the research was still being held up by the Ministry of Health. Three members of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) board wrote an editorial saying that the research was suppressed by order of the Prime Minister’s Office [4].

    For a third example, consider the firing of Linda Keen. She was head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, an independent, quasi-judicial body whose mandate is to determine if Canada’s nuclear facilities meet an acceptable standard of safety. The commission determined that the NRU isotope reactor failed to meet the standard, after it broke a promise to make certain safety upgrades. Ms. Keen was fired for expressing the scientifically valid, if politically unpopular, opinion that NRU didn’t meet the standard [5]. The firing of an indepedent safety regulator for expressing a valid scientific opinion is the most audacious attack on science ever witnessed in Canada.

    And that’s not all. We’ve seen political appointments to Assisted Human Reproduction Canada. We’ve seen the shutdown of the office of the National Science Advisor. We’ve seen research – showing hundreds of lives saved by InSite (supervised injection clinic) -distorted and suppressed by the Ministry of Health and law enforcement agencies.

    In Canada, we have systems designed to provide non-partisan scientific advice, but since Canada’s New Government came to power these systems have been undermined, interfered with and dismantled for political purposes. We have seen science suppressed and distorted. We have seen reputable scientists attacked because the results of their work were inconsistent with the views of the Conservative Party of Canada.

    And it has to stop. This isn’t communist China or Nazi Germany. Our scientists need the freedom to do their work. To work without the fear that their results will be suppressed or attacked just because they don’t support a Conservative agenda.

    85 prominent Canadian scientists wrote a letter in October, which summarized some of the most flagrant abuses of science by the Conservative government. Have a look:

    It’s clear to me that we need a full public inquiry into the censorship and abuse of science under the federal government. This can only come about if it’s forced by the opposition.

    I think the way to go forward is to ask to the Liberal Science Critic, Marc Garneau, to force an inquiry.

    His email address:

    I see no other way to restore credibility to our national labs. Marc Garneau had an interview with the CBC recently, which was pretty boring. All he talked about was copyright legislation. Upholding the integrity of scientific research would be a much better issue for him, I think. I’ve had some good email exchanges with him recently, and he seems receptive. And who could turn down the oppourtunity to dialogue with Canada’s first astronaut?


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