The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment
This post first appeared at ScienceBlogs.com, a partner of National Geographic.
This is a brief chronology of the current Conservative Canadian government’s long campaign to undermine evidence-based scientific, environmental and technical decision-making. It is a government that is beholden to big business, particularly big oil, and that makes every attempt to shape public policy to that end. It is a government that fundamentally doesn’t believe in science. It is a government that is more interested in keeping its corporate masters happy than in protecting the environment.
As is occasionally my habit, I have pulled together a chronology of sorts. It is a chronology of all the various cuts, insults, muzzlings and cancellations that I’ve been able to dig up. Each of them represents a single shot in the Canadian Conservative war on science. It should be noted that not every item in this chronology, if taken in isolation, isn't necessarily the end of the world. It’s the accumulated evidence that is so damning.
Most of the items come from various links I’ve saved over the years as well as various other media articles I’ve dug up over the last week or so. This series at The Huffington Post has been particularly useful as has this article at the Wastershed Sentinal.
A long list of various environmental programs that the Harper government has discontinued or slashed funding to is here. I haven’t found individual media stories about all of them, so they aren’t in the list below. If you can help me find stories about some of those programs, etc, please let me know. As well, some stories are treated multiple times, with perhaps an initial story telling the big picture or introducing a large series of cuts and later stories fleshing out details.
Update 2013.05.27: An undated list of science or environmental libraries closed is available here: Natural Resources Canada is set to close six of fourteen libraries in 2012-2013, Parks Canada will consolidate 5 libraries into one, Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. An undated list of women’s programs cut since 2006, including many science or health-related, can be found here: Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health
- Apr 2006. One Tonne Challenge funding stopped
- May 2006. Environmental Groups Call on Ambrose to Resign as Chair of International Kyoto Negotiations
- Oct 2006. Circumpolar ambassador job axed
- Jan 2008. Office of National Science Adviser phased out
- Jan 2008. Nuclear safety watchdog head fired for ‘lack of leadership
- Jun 2008. 16 Canadian lakes are slated to be officially but quietly “reclassified” as toxic dump sites for mines
- Jun 2008. It’s the Beginning of the End for Federal Science: Expert Panel on Lab Transfers/divestment (and here)
- Mar 2009. Navigable Waters Protection Act to remove objective definition of navigable and replace it with unaccountable Ministerial discretion (and here)
- Oct 2009. Document delivery outsourced at The Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (national science library)
- Feb 2010. Layoffs at The Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information
- Mar 2010. Information restrictions brought in by government have severely restricted the media’s access to government researchers
- Mar 2010. Interview approval rules introduced in at Environment Canada 2007 have lead to substantially reduced requests, especially about climate change coverage.
- Jun 2010. Statistics Canada discontinues the mandatory long form census
- Jul 2010. AIDS funding announcement insufficient and disappointing, out of step with international community
- Aug 2010. Cuts to Environment Canada weather-service programs have compromised the government’s ability to assess climate change and left it with a “profoundly disturbing” quality of information in its data network.
- Mar 2011. NRC Press privatized to Canadian Science Publishing, removing Open Access to many articles
- Mar 2011. NSERC reduces funding for basic research
- Mar 2011. Tri-Council reallocates funds from discovery to industry research
- May 2011. National Science Agency Axes Food Research including nine experimental farms such as the one in Frelighsburg, Quebec
- Jun 2011. Blocks asbestos from hazardous chemicals list at UN summit
- Jun 2011. 28 term scientists laid off at Environment Canada in Downsview
- Jul 2011. Budget cuts to Climate Change and Clean Air, Substance and Waste Management, Weather and Environmental Services, Water Resources and Internal Services, Action Plan on Clean Water, the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan, Chemicals Management Plan, the Clean Air Agenda, the Air Quality Health Index, Species at Risk Program
- Jul 2011. NSERC Discovery Grants reduced
- Aug 2011. DFO scientist Kristi Miller says that the Privy Council prevented her from talking to the media about her research into the 2009 sockeye salmon collapse in B.C.
- Sep 2011. Arctic ozone monitoring & research unit & databases shut down as well as 40 year archive of ice cores
- Oct 2011. Scientist David Tarasick speaks out after finding ‘record’ ozone hole over Canadian Arctic
- Oct 2011. Canadian Environmental Network closes
- Dec 2011. Withdraw from the Kyoto Accord
- Jan 2012. Natural Resources Minister accuses foreign radical environmentalists of hijacking the system
- Feb 2012. Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) loses funding (later partial reprieve)
- Feb 2012. Closure of Kitsilano Coast Guard station
- Feb 2012. Canada threatens trade war with EU over tar sands, over the bloc’s plan to label oil from Alberta’s vast tar sands as highly polluting
- Feb 2012. Cuts to the ozone monitoring program are affecting ability to monitor air quality and ozone depletion, Canada is jeopardizing the scientific community’s ability to monitor for holes in the ozone, especially over the Arctic
- Mar 2012. Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences closes
- Mar 2012. Gutting the Fisheries Act
- Apr 2012. Cereal Research Centre cut
- Apr 2012. Muzzling of scientists at international conferences
- Apr 2012. Repeal of Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, download to provinces
- Apr 2012. Sustainable Water Management Division cut
- Apr 2012. Transport Canada Aircraft Services cut
- Apr 2012. The Centre for Plant Health relocated (later reprieve)
- Apr 2012. Scientists monitored at polar conference
- Apr 2012. National Aboriginal Health Organization’s funding cut
- Apr 2012. Parks Canada cuts affect four national marine conservation areas
- Apr 2012. 47 scientists and researchers at the NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics laid off inWinnipeg and Calgary.
- Apr 2012. 2012 Budget cuts Women’s Health Contribution Program, Canadian Women’s Health Network, National Network on Environments and Women’s Health, Federal Tobacco Control Strategy
- Apr 2012. 2012 Budget cuts Centre of Excellence at B.C. Children’s and Women’s hospitals in Vancouver, Quebec Network of Action for Women’s Health, Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence
- May 2012. NSERC cuts to Canadian Neutron Beam Centre
- May 2012. List of cuts to NSERC MRS program
- May 2012. Limiting fish protection to “serious harm” is a serious problem, benefits oil & gas industry
- May 2012. 1000 jobs cut at Department of Fisheries and Oceans (details follow)
- May 2012. Ocean Contaminants & Marine Toxicology Program axed.
- May 2012. Centre for Offshore Oil & Gas Energy Research cut
- May 2012. Freshwater Institute cut
- May 2012. Centre for Off-shore Oil, Gas, and Energy Research cut
- May 2012. Maurice-Lamontagne Institute cut
- May 2012. Smokestacks Emissions Monitoring Team cut
- May 2012. Cuts to NSERC Discovery, Major Resources Support and Research Tools and Instruments programs
- May 2012. Mersey Biodiversity Centre slated for closure
- May 2012. Transport Canada library closed
- May 2012. Environment minister Peter Kent accuses environmental charities ‘laundering’ foreign funds
- May 2012. Killer whale expert out of work as Ottawa cuts ocean-pollution monitoring positions
- Jun 2012. Eliminate Experimental Lakes Area program
- Jun 2012. Addictions Research Centre cut
- Jun 2012. When asked if he believes in evolution, Minister of Science and Technology refuses to answer question; suggests MP who asked the question has brain damage and here
- Jul 2012. Arctic Institute of North America’s Kluane Research Station cut
- Aug 2012. Major Resources Support (MRS) Program Moratorium impacts National High Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Centre, the Canadian Centre for Isotopic Microanalysis and the Canadian Charged Particle Accelerator Consortium and others
- Sep 2012. Revamp Species-at-Risk act
- Oct 2012. DFO Habitat Management Program cut
- Oct 2012. Declining grant success rate for Post Doctoral Fellows
- Oct 2012. Ozone science group falls victim to government cuts
- Oct 2012. Job cuts at NRC
- Oct 2012. Navigable Waters Protection Act changed to weaken environmental oversight, changes sought by pipeline industry
- Nov 2012. Bill C-45 weakens environmental laws and democracy, such as Navigable Waters Protection Act
- Nov 2012. Salmon research lab run by Frederick Kibenge at the Atlantic Veterinary College-University of Prince Edward Island targeted
- Nov 2012. Navigable Waters Protection Act altered to give developers more freedom to build around most Canadian rivers and lakes without obtaining permission from the federal government
- Nov 2012. Environment Canada scientists Derek Muir and Jane Kirk discouraged from commenting on oilsands contaminant study
- Dec 2012. Eliminating the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission
- Jan 2013. Very long list of scientist muzzlings from Democracy Watch
- Jan 2013. Canadian Space Agency battered by budget cuts, Steve MacLean leaves, sweeping changes expected
- Jan 2013. Oil & Gas Industry thanks government for changing a series of environmental laws to advance “both economic growth and environmental performance.”
- Jan 2013. Leona Aglukkaq, MP for Nunavut and Minister for the Arctic Council, prioritizes resource development in her vision for the North’s potential rather than issues such as food security, community health or engaging youth. (and here)
- Feb 2013. Restrict how researchers can share data
- Feb 2013. Department of Fisheries & Oceans muzzles its scientists
- Feb 2013. Information commissioner investigates ‘Muzzling’ of federal scientists, called a threat to democracy
- Feb 2013. Prairies Regional Office: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency closes
- Mar 2013. ELA research programs being prematurely wound down
- Mar 2013. Muzzling of scientists
- Mar 2013. Experimental Lakes Area environmental research project loses funding
- Mar 2013. The government votes against public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making
- Mar 2013. $100 million cut from Department of Fisheries & Oceans over three years
- Mar 2013. National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy closes
- Mar 2013. Centralizing, Slashing Federal Web Info
- Mar 2013. Quit UN anti-drought convention
- Mar 2013. Unnecessarily sabotaging ongoing research at the Experimental Lakes Area and deliberately robbing international and domestic scientist of the 2013 field season
- Mar 2013. Environment Canada/Peter Kent give mixed messages to First Nations and oil industry about reform of conservation laws
- Mar 1013. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says that Canadian oil imports are greenest option for US, as rationale for Keystone XL support
- Mar 2013. Burrard Inlet Environmental Action Program and the Fraser River Estuary Management Program (BIEAP-FREMP) closing
- Mar 2013. 2013 Budget cuts: Health Canada’s Controlled Substances and Tobacco Program, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, Drug Treatment Funding Program, Drug Strategy Community Initiatives Fund, Public Health Agency of Canada, Patented Medicines Prices Review Board
- Apr 2013. Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear remarks that “no government in the history of this country has supported science as much as this government has.”
- Apr 2013. Kenora MP Greg Rickford hides from constituents rather than talk about ELA closure
- Apr 2013. Create barrier to public participation in pipeline hearings
- Apr 2013. Environment Canada name removed from its weather website, replaced with government promotional links
- Apr 2013.Closure of Department of Fisheries & Oceans libraries
- Apr 2013. Prime Minister & cabinet take over power to dictate collective bargaining and terms for other salaries and working conditions at the CBC and three other cultural or scientific Crown corporations
- Apr 2013. Scientist at National Water Research Institute in Saskatoon muzzled
- Apr 2013. Minister blames David Suzuki, Environmental Groups To Blame For Pipeline Opposition
- Apr 2013. Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver condemns climatologist James Hansen, says he should be ‘ashamed’ of his ‘exaggerated rhetoric’ on exploitation of tar sands (andhere)
- Apr 2013. Conservative MP Ryan Leaf has been peddling what researchers describe as “bogus” information on polar bears and citing U.S. climate skeptics as experts on the iconic creatures
- Apr 2013. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told the editorial board of Montreal’s La Presse newspaper that “people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees.”
- Apr 2013. Agroforestry Development Centre wound down (and here)
- Apr 2013. Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration with numerous environmental benefits closed
- Apr 2013. Amends list of industrial projects requiring environmental reviews
- May 2013. Minister of the Environment Peter Kent refuses to correct Conservative MP’s crackpot views on polar bears
- May 2013. Minister of Natural Resources insults oil sands critics
- May 2013. National Research Council overhauled to do business-friendly research rather than basic science
- May 2013. Hundreds of jobs cut at Agriculture Canada
- May 2013. Agriculture Canada cuts including Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, Semi-Arid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre and various centres for beef and dairy research
- May 2013. Canadian Government PR campaign in US targets Keystone XL, including newspaper ads, websites and visit to NY
- May 2013. The federal government removed some oilsands projects from a list of those requiring environmental screenings, after being told in an internal memorandum that this form of industrial development could disturb water sources and harm fish habitat (and here)
- May 2013. Montreal’s Biosphere museum’s future in doubt
- May 2013. NRC morale is very low
- May 2013. Free-speech report takes aim at Harper government’s ‘culture of secrecy’
- May 2013. Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre budget reduced by a third
- May 2013. Science, Technology and Innovation Council finds that Canada losing ground in global science race
- May 2013. Astronaut MP Garneau snubbed at museum opening of Canadarm exhibit
- May 2013. Government identifies PR challenge of promoting both energy efficiency & green programs at the same time as massively supporting oil & gas industry
- May 2013. Prime Minister Harper tells US Keystone XL pipeline ‘needs to go ahead’ — in spite of how bad an idea it is
- Jun 2013. Environment Canada convened a ‘secret’ meeting on climate dangers in 2012 but Canadian spy agency, top security officials invited but didn’t attend
- Jun 2013. Genome Canada to stress practical results
- Jun 2013. The federal government employs nearly 4,000 communications staff in the public service, an increase of 15.3 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2006
- Jun 2013. Centre of the Universe education centre in Saanich closing by summer’s end in bid to pare costs
- Jun 2013. Northern cod threatened by new fisheries rules: A Department of Fisheries and Oceans plan to increase northern cod quotas could devastate the species.
- Jun 2013. Environment Minister Peter Kent fields questions from Conservative colleagues about climate change. He defends the science yet the government does little about it. This gives weight to idea that they are more beholden to industry than science they appear to agree with.
- Jul 2013. Federal government reducing science and tech spending: Science and technology investment down steadily since 2009-10, Statscan says
- Jul 2013. Libraries consolidated (ie. trashed) at Department of Fisheries & Oceans, making it harder to find obscure information
- Jul 2013. Greg Rickford, new Minister of State for Science & Technology, has the ELA in his riding and toed the government line on its fate (and more)
- Jul 2013. Cabinet shuffle continues tradition of poor science knowledge and lack of clout in science-related departments (and here)
- Jul 2013. Minister of State Greg Rickford will also focus on the economy in his new role: “our science and technology has to focus on job creation, economic growth and developing our prosperity”
- Jul 2013. The government included communications strategists in closed-door discussions that led to an estimated $60 million in cuts at Environment Canada in the 2012 federal budget
- Jul 2013. Government maintains an enemies list (and here)
- Aug 2013. Stats Can’s cancelled University and College Academic Staff System (UCASS) report no longer provides the policy community in government or universities innovation data
- Aug 2013. Experimental Lakes Area process for handover to private operator, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, begins with final handover in 2014
- Aug 2013. Scientist miffed Tory MP Joyce Bateman takes credit for saving ELA
- Aug 2013. Beaver Lake Cree case reveals flaws in environmental review process
- Aug 2013. Government touted a special funding program for environmental community projects that is seeing its budget reduced, mainly to supposedly eliminate administrative costs.
- Aug 2013. Canada’s Emissions Trends Report 2013, usually out in August, has been delayed and is still not released likely due to Keystone XL context
- Aug 2013. Government supports putting a price on carbon emissions as part of a global climate change strategy yet still harshly criticizes opposition for supporting similar things when it’s called a carbon tax
- Aug 2013. Government says some of Canada’s best known environmental groups are doing “significant” policy analysis and research even though it has described them as radical foreign-funded groups trying to wreck the Canadian economy
- Sept 2013. Canadian cuts to scientific research spending are almost as bad as in the US under sequestration
- Sept 2013. PM Harper cuts off questions about muzzling scientists while in New York
- Sept 2013. Is Health Canada bringing measles back by approving ineffective homeopathic remedies?
- Sept 2013. Greg Rickford, Minister of State for Science & Technology, thinks universities vet researchers’ work same way his government does
- Oct 2013. Dramatic drop in NRC publications since Conservatives took power.
- Oct 2013. “I was in Oslo, just recently at the climate ch- ah climate conference, ah environment ministers conference, sorry” — Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq (from here)
- Oct 2013. Stephen Harper’s environment minister casts doubt on climate change
- Oct 2013. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq turns IPCC report into an opportunity for partisan attacks rather than substantive discussion and action
- Oct 2013. Despite the abundant evidence, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said heroin-assisted treatment for addicts isn’t a safe and effective option
This list is no doubt incomplete. There may also be link errors or duplications.
In particular, if you have updates on any of the stories, including reversals or reprieves, I want to hear those too.
May 28, 2013 at 3:25pm
No doubt Harper views environmental monitoring as an obstacle to unrestricted expansion of Oil Sands and Natural Gas production to fuel economic growth. Clearly he's out of step with the majority of Canadians, who deeply value Canada's air, water and ecology.
May 28, 2013 at 4:46pm
I beg to differ with Mr. McQueen's assessment about "the majority of Canadians," valuing the environment. I wonder if he has noticed that Canada has a conservative majority government and that in BC a Liberal (squishy Conservative) government was just re-elected. It seems to me that most Canadians have decided that the environment can take a back seat to promises (perhaps empty) of jobs.
May 28, 2013 at 5:49pm
In response to Hazlit's comment, Harper won with a 39% majority government, that's hardly a glowing mandate by the Canadian people for the Conservatives and their agenda. Meanwhile in BC, if the vote on the left hadn't been split with the Greens the NDP would have been elected in twelve more ridings and the Liberals would have lost. (There is also some suggestion that the Liberals tried to plant the idea that Adrian Dix would flip-flop on the environment and it would be better, if people really cared about environmental issues in this provence, to switch their votes to the Greens, unfortunately, it worked) . Either people on the left need to vote strategically or we really need to work on electoral reform because what's been happening lately in Canadian elections is not what I'd call democratic or representative of the people .
May 29, 2013 at 1:22pm
On the other hand it's easy to understand. Selfish and stupid. And that *is* by the way, a description of the majority of Canadians also. Democracy, at least the way we run it, does not work.
May 31, 2013 at 11:50am
Proportional Representation would have finished off the BC Liberals last election. A few Greens might have gotten in. NDP would be in power.
Mail Room Dude
May 31, 2013 at 2:43pm
I swear I saw a guy just like that in the Mail Room sorting Mail...:)
So this is what happens when the Vote is split and 37.9% elect the majority Government.
You get morons...:)
May 31, 2013 at 6:37pm
FYI Our Dear Leader in the last federal election had the support of 25% of the total electorate and receives a majority government which surely is not a democratic solution to who governs. The fact is that less than 60% of eligible voters voted and Our Dear Leader received less than 38% of that total eligible voter turnout. This is NOT democracy as it should be practiced.
Jun 1, 2013 at 11:20am
Conservative philosophy is to control us and stay in power by keeping the population blind. Our windshield is to be kept cloudy and opaque so we cannot measure the destruction the Harper admin is doing to Canada. Plus we cannot argue how rudderless and directionless Conservatives are as we're lead into the gutter.
Jun 1, 2013 at 5:17pm
The Conservative war doesn't end with science - it extends to morals, democracy, the poor, the unemployed, veterans, and anyone who dares challenge their lies and spin.
For all the Liberal's failings - at least they did some good and the economy worked for more Canadians while they paid down the national debt.
Jun 1, 2013 at 9:58pm
Christy Clark banning the Enbridge pipeline, doesn't mean a damned thing. She is giving David Black $16 billion of our tax dollars, towards a $25 billion refinery at Kitimat Port. How does the oil get to Kitimat? Someone has to bring in oil tankers, to pick the oil up?
As usual, the BC Liberals have lied AGAIN. Christy works for Harper, as Campbell did before her. We also know, Harper has his own Scientists, who will say there is no such thing as climate change. Also, the Enbridge pipeline will be perfectly safe.