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Conservatives besiege science for ideological gain

The Conservative government has shut down hundreds of federal and world renowned research facilities as part of their war on science. The bulk of facilities affected pertained to the climate science that has actively gotten in the way of the government's coveted pipeline projects. The Conservatives are silencing their critics as they cut scientific funding in the name of ideological gain.

CBC's The Fifth Estate published a list of the effected scientific facilities compiled by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. The full, long list can be accessed at the end of this article. The impacts are detrimental to Canada's ability to make policies based on evidence and the savage attacks on scientific institutions will be leaving a black mark for years to come.

The Conservatives have fought vigorously in favor of their pipeline project, going as far as to attack world renowned climatologist James Hansen when he joined the world's scientific community raising flags on the project. As a result, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was dealt the humiliating result of having his government be called a "neanderthal government."

While the Conservatives pitch the project as a clean and safe energy alternative, American President Barack Obama has been clear he would reject the project if its carbon emissions wouldn't be neutral. Despite John Baird's aggressive attempt to twist America's hand - to deaf ears, the Harper government's own internal projections would see a 38% increase in emissions by 2030 if the pipeline projects were given a green light. By contrast, Europe intends to cut 40% of its emissions by 2030.

In a report to the UN, the government projects 815 million tonnes of CO2 will be emitted in 2030, up from 590Mt in 1990. Worse, a 2013 Climate Action Tracker analysis done by Germany's Climate Analytics, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Dutch-based energy institute Ecofys suggests Canada's report is low-balling the emissions amount as the natural gas sector, the third largest in the world, could have released 212Mt in 2011 alone.

However, given the cuts to Canada's atmospheric scientists, not long after muzzling them for a few years (a trend that started in 2006 with the Harper government's new media protocol), it would appear the lights are closed on facts and reason. Worse, with the radical changes occurring to our climate caused by this climate change, cutting research in the domain leaves us vulnerable to the unknown as weather patterns become more extreme and more difficult to predict.

To make matters worse, the Conservatives don't deny climate change, they are aware of its impacts. Conservative MP Peter Braid admitted on CBC's Power and Politics earlier this month that extreme weather patterns and climate change are linked.

“We are seeing the effects, the impacts of climate change,” Braid said. “With climate change comes extreme weather events. We saw that through the floods in southern Alberta, we’re now seeing that with the ice storms in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto, with the extreme cold across the country.”

The Conservatives are aware of the environmental impacts, however, a lucrative fossil fuel industry cannot thrive in an era of dwindling support and scientific skepticism. Choosing to turn a blind eye and dice their opponents is the only option viable to a government driven on failed ideology in a desperate attempt to revive Canada's under-performing economy.

Years of talent and work were destroyed by these cuts, as a The Fifth Estate investigation has found. Scientists working on a range of research from historical life to water pollution were given their walking papers and had their years of research seized as their life's work was shattered in mere minutes. Worse, with the company of security guards, these scientists were given 5 minutes to collect their personal belongings before being permanently locked out of their old jobs. Whether their research be deemed useless for the market or inconvenient to Conservative projects, scientists across the country have taken the hit by reckless Conservative ideology. Science, once an independent branch of public policy that has given birth to the modern society we live in today, has been besieged and the damage may well be irreversible.

A shift from science to a $28 million campaign to recreate the War of 1812 has seen Canada's Museum of Civilization, one based on scientific research, be renamed to the Canada Museum of History, one focused on Canada's British roots. In late November 2013, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers became the sponsor of the new Museum of History.

Environmental science isn't alone in besiege. The Conservative attack on public healthcare is leaving scientists at Health Canada scrambling to squirrel away needed information from the besieged research library.

Health Canada Management, looking for cuts, is looking at the research library, which in a report written by a consultant hired by the department, said, "Staff requests have dropped 90 per cent over in-house service levels prior to the outsource. This statistic has been heralded as a cost savings by senior HC [Health Canada] management."

"However, HC scientists have repeatedly said during the interview process that the decrease is because the information has become inaccessible — either it cannot arrive in due time, or it is unaffordable due to the fee structure in place."

Dr. Rudi Mueller retired as a Pathologist in 2012 and agreed with the assessment.

"I look at it as an insidious plan to discourage people from using libraries," Mueller said.

"If you want to justify closing a library, you make access difficult and then you say it is hardly used."

The access problems became bad enough that student library access became a workaround. Another is the squirreling away of important literature.

"One group moved its 250 feet of published materials to an employee's basement. When you need a book, you email 'Fred,' and 'Fred' brings the book in with him the next day," the consultant wrote.

Meanwhile, librarians were being fired leaving scientists to do the work of finding information themselves.

James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, fears that with the changes, "Scientifically, we are going to be a third-rate country." 

Health Canada rejected the consultant's report and claims to be working with scientists on these many concerns. "[The report] was returned to its author for corrections which were never undertaken. As such, the recommendations are based on inaccurate information and have not been accepted," Health Canada responded to CBC News.

The Conservative attack on science is notable and is purely for ideological gain. Scientists working in fields that forward Conservative ideology are likely to do well, but so many that don't fit the political narrative have been extinguished, having a negative impact on the future of Canadians.

"By default, what we have done in Canada is turn off the radar," former Marine Mammal Toxicologist Peter Ross told The Fifth Estate. "We are flying along an airplane and we've put curtains over the windshield of those pilots of that flight crew and we've turned off the instruments. We don't know what is coming tomorrow, let alone next year."

Federal programs and research facilities besieged

Source: CBC's The Fifth Estate 
  • Environmental Emergency Response Program
  • Urban Wastewater Program
  • Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Smokestacks Emissions Monitoring Team
  • Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission
  • National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy
  • Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Winnipeg Office
  • Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey
  • Environmental Protection Operations
  • Compliance Promotion Program
  • Action Plan on Clean Water
  • Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) (PEARL lost its $1.5 million annual budget when the government stopped funding the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science (CFCAS) . In May 2013, the federal government announced the facility would get a $ 1 million a year grant for the next five years. But according to Professor Tom Duck, of Dalhousie University, with the loss of CFCAS, atmospheric and climate research will be funded at less than 70 per cent of the level it was funded at in 2006.)
  • Sustainable Water Management Division
  • Environmental Effects Monitoring Program
  • Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan
  • Chemicals Management Plan
  • Canadian Centre for Inland Waters
  • Clean Air Agenda
  • Air Quality Health Index
  • Species at Risk Program
  • Weather and Environmental Services
  • Substance and Waste Management
  • Ocean Contaminants & Marine Toxicology Program
  • Experimental Lakes Area (Under the Bill-38 the ELA was shut down. As of January 2014, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Ontario government are working out an agreement with the federal government to take over the facility.)
  • DFO Marine Science Libraries
  • Centre for Offshore Oil & Gas Energy Research
  • Kitsilano Coast Guard Station
  • St. Johns Marine Traffic Centre
  • St. Anthony’s Marine Traffic Centre
  • Conservation and Protection Office
  • Conservation and Protection Office (L’anse au Loup, NL)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Trepassey, NL)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Rigolet, NL)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Burgeo, NL)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Arnold’s Cove, NL)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Baddeck, NS)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Canso, NS)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Sheet Harbour, NS)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Woodstock, NB)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Port Hood, NS)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Wallace, NS)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Kedgwick, NB)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Montague, PEI)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Inuvik, NT)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Rankin Inlet, NU)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Clearwater, BC)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Comox, BC)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Hazelton, BC)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Quesnel, BC)
  • Conservation and Protection Office (Pender Harbour, BC)
  • Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures Program
  • Species-at-Risk Program
  • Habitat Management Program
  • DFO Institute of Ocean Sciences (Sidney, BC)
  • Freshwater Institute - Winnipeg
  • Oil Spill Counter-Measures Team
  • Maurice-Lamontagne Institute’s French language library
  • Canadian Coast Guard Management
  • Water Pollution Research Lab (Sidney, BC)
  • Water Pollution Research Lab (Winnipeg, MB)
  • Water Pollution Research Lab (Burlington, ON)
  • Water Pollution Research Lab (Mont-Joli, QC)
  • Water Pollution Research Lab (Moncton, NB)
  • Water Pollution Research Lab (Dartmouth, NS)
  • St. Andrew Biological Station
  • Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility
  • Ice Information Partnership
  • Motor Vehicle Fleet
  • Inshore Rescue Boat Program
  • Species at Risk Atlantic Salmon Production Facilities
  • Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
  • At-Sean Observer Programs
  • Financial Management Services
  • Pacific Forestry Centre, Satellite Office (Prince George, BC)
  • Canadian Centre for Remote Sensing
  • Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program
  • Isotopes Supply Initiative
  • Clean Energy Fund
  • Sustainable Development Technology Canada – Next Generation Biofuels Fund
  • Program of Energy Research and Development
  • Pacific Forestry Centre
  • Astronomy Interpretation Centre – Centre of the Universe
  • MRI research, Institute Biodiagnostics
  • Polar Continental Shelf Progam
  • Canadian Neutron Beam Centre
  • Aquatic Ecotoxicology, Aquatic and Crop Resource Development
  • Molecular Biochemistry Laboratory, Aquatic and Crop Resource Development
  • Plant Metabolism Research, Aquatic and Crop Resource Development
  • Human Health Therapeutics research program
  • Automotive and Surface Transportation program
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research
  • Environmental Risks to Health program
  • Substance Use and Abuse program
  • First Nations and Inuit Primary Health Care program
  • Health Infrastructure Support for First Nations and Inuit program
  • Interim Federal Health Program
  • Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration
  • Environmental Knowledge, Technology, Information, and Measurement program
  • Science, Innovation and Adoption program
  • Rural and Co-operatives Development program
  • Farm Debt Mediation Service
  • Centre for Plant Health (Sidney, BC)
  • National Aboriginal Health Organization
  • First Nations Statistical Institute
  • Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth
  • First Nations and Inuit Health
  • Fertilizer Pre-Market Efficacy Assessment program
  • Enforcement of Product of Canada label
  • RADARSAT Constellation Mission
  • Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik Research station
  • Kluane Lake Research Station
  • Bamfield Marine Science Centre
  • Microfungal Collection and Herborium
  • Biogeoscience Institute
  • Coriolis II research Vessel
  • OIE Laboratory for Infectious Salmon Anaemia
  • Canadian Phycological Culture Centre
  • Brockhouse Institute
  • Polaris Portable Observatories for Lithospheric Analysis and Research
  • Mount Megantic Observatory
  • Smoke Stacks Emissions Monitoring Team
  • National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy
  • Environmental Protections Operations Compliant Promotion Program,
  • Sustainable Water Management Division,
  • Environmental Effects Monitoring program,
  • Fresh Water Institute
  • Canadian Centre for Inlands Waters (Burlington)
  • World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre
  • Environmental Emergencies Program
  • Parks Canada
  • Montreal Biosphere
  • Statistics Canada
  • Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences
  • Laboratory for the Analysis of Natural and Synthetic Environmental Toxicants
  • National Ultrahigh-field NMR Facility for Solids
  • IsoTrace AMS Facility
  • Canadian Phycological Culture Centre
  • Canadian Resource Centre for Zebrafish Genetics
  • Neuroendocrinology Assay Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario
  • Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding
  • Portable Observatories for Lithospheric Analysis and Research Investigating (POLARIS) (Ontario)
  • Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics
  • Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research
  • St. John’s Centrifuge Modelling Facility
  • Quebec/Eastern Canada high field NMR facility
  • Félix d’Hérelle Reference Center for Bacterial Viruses
  • Canadian Neutron Beam Laboratory
  • The Compute/Calcul Canada
  • Center for Innovative Geochronology
  • Biogeoscience Institute
  • Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences
  • Pacific Northwest Consortium Synchrotron Radiation Facility
  • Centre for Molecular and Materials Science at TRIUMF
  • Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research
  • Canadian Cosmogenic Nuclide Exposure Dating Facility
  • Atlantic Regional Facilities for Materials Characterization
  • The Canadian SuperDARN/PolarDARN facility
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