Scott McCannell: B.C. government should stop cutting scientists
Stephen Harper’s recent gutting of science libraries across Canada has stunned many Canadians. Critics argue that federal scientists and their research have been dismissed in order to further a resource agenda by the Conservative government. What continues to fly under the radar are similar practices in the B.C. government to dismiss scientists and experts in the B.C. public service.
Over the past decade, 25 percent of the scientists and licensed experts in the B.C. public service have been laid off or contracted out. These are licensed professional foresters, engineers, geoscientists, and other licensed science officer positions with the expertise to manage B.C.’s resources. The province has pursued off-loading responsibilities to municipalities and deregulation. Technicians have also replaced many scientists and licensed professionals; individuals who had either master’s degrees or PhDs with intimate knowledge on how to best manage B.C.’s resources.
Slashing scientists and science-based thinking in the B.C. government has direct impacts on the people of B.C. and the resources of our provinces. Studies on slope stability no longer take place due to downsizing. There is virtually no capacity to respond to emergencies in many smaller communities because of these high-risk practices.
Research on forestry has mostly stopped. The auditor general has sounded the alarm about the lack of planning, inventory management, and restocking in B.C. forests. These issues will have a significant impact on future government revenues used for public services. Our forests are worth billions of dollars in tax revenue; without experts in our public service, we risk losing this valuable resource.
We think the public should question the B.C. Liberal government’s decision to adopt this high risk, low diligence approach to stewarding publicly owned resources like water, forests, lands, and minerals. Scientists and licensed professionals have the intimate knowledge on how to best manage B.C.’s resources. B.C. has the leanest public sector per capita in Canada. It is time to stop to the shedding of licensed professionals and scientists.