Print Edition: March 27, 2013
The Canadian government doesn’t need science. They don’t need scientific discourse or any sort of intelligence to make their decisions about the future of Canada. The Harper government showed their contempt for basic common sense in their stand against, yes, science, last week, defeating a motion put forward to promote the use of science in shaping policy. It was a shocking display of self-interested solidarity by the conservatives: science was thrown out of parliament 157 to 137. Every vote against the motion was conservative.
The motion, introduced by NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, is divided into three sections and reads as follows:
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 first two sections are fairly self explanatory. Basically, by rejecting this third section, changes in environmental legislation can be made without consulting any scientific research or seeking advice from an expert in the field. It makes it harder for scientists to reveal or discuss their findings with their colleagues and the public. It is ultimately an attempt by the Conservative government to further muzzle the voice of reason in Canada.
The third section is in regards to the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), which is a facility for “whole-ecosystem research on environmental problems” in freshwater lakes is carried out, according to the ELA website. ELA research pulls scientific weight internationally, with key areas of influence in the understanding of acid rain, climate change, algal blooms, mercury pollution and green house gases. The defeat of this motion reveals the Conservative government’s lack of support for the vital research the ELA provides.
The defeated motion is not at all surprising coming from the Harper government, who have been forcing omnibus bills through that are catastrophic to our environment; Bill C-38, for example, wiped out nearly every protective environmental legislation in Canada. Obviously our environment is not on the forefront of our government’s mind.
In an underhanded and dishonest method of policy making, scientists are being ignored, or else forced to find the science that supports the policy, rather than using science to shape the policy.
This vote must be dealt with at a local level. It’s repugnant to think that though parliamentarians—such as our own Ed Fast—should be voting for their own constituents on these issues, they are instead voting in solidarity with a party lacking any environmental conscience. It is unacceptable that Ed Fast, who has been elected as our MP three times, is not representing Abbotsford’s views with accuracy. Voting against the use of scientific evidence to shape policy is not a transparent means of policy making. Where is the accountability?