Politics

Harper Turns his Back on Science

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 02, 2008

First, the Harper government abolished the office of the national science advisor and replaced it with a "Science, Technology and Innovation Council" that includes private sector executives - because, you know, industry didn't already have enough mechanisms to tell this government what it wants.

The retiring advisor, Dr. Andrew Carty, is widely regarded as a smart, competent scientist, but he was fairly critical of the Harper government's failure to act on climate change.

Aside from the fact that technology ≠ science, advice on the government on what benefits big business is not the same as advice on what science has to say about a public policy issue. Unfortunately, this government has demonstrated repeatedly that it is more interested in playing politics than developing good policy - especially on the issue of climate change.

Rick Mercer recently reported another example of Harper playing politics at the expense of policy:

So what happened this past week when these Canadian scientists came to Parliament Hill for a reception in their honour with their Nobel prize tucked up underneath their arms? The Prime Minister, the guy who's job it is to represent us at these things, refused to attend. The Canadian cabinet refused to attend.

And why? Because these scientists, who - I don't know if I've mentioned this or not - won the Nobel Peace Prize, had the gall to do it by formulating a plan to fight climate change. And my guess is it doesn't call for an increase in oil sands production. So as a result, not a single cabinet minister would cross the hall and shake their hands.

This government promised to be more transparent, more accountable and more professional than the Liberals. Instead, they have been closed to the public and the media, created new avenues for business interests to influence policy, replaced qualified civil servants with partisan cronies, and passed legislation based mainly on manipulating the legislative process (and exploiting the disarray of the Liberal camp).

They believe as a matter of principle that government cannot do anything right, and they're doing their part to make it true. As a result, we're ending up with a dumbed-down national strategy deprived of sound, objective scientific advice but infused with advocates for the industries with the most to lose if we were to follow science.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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