Scott McCannell: B.C. government should stop cutting scientists

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      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.

      Scott McCannell is the executive director of the Professional Employees Association. More than 90 percent of the PEA’s 2,500 members are professionals who work in the public sector and about half work directly for the province. The PEA is entering into contract negotiations with the B.C. government on behalf of these licensed professionals and believes a halt to the downsizing and dismantling of scientists is in the best interest of British Columbians.



      A Scientist

      Jan 16, 2014 at 9:14pm

      I am confused by the facts and statements in this article.

      Gutting science libraries?? Science literature is dominantly associated with research journals all of which are accessible online. Another major source is university libraries which still seem to be around.

      A resource agenda? The resource sector is one of the dominant employers of engineers and geoscientists.

      O wait! So because of a resource agenda by Harper, all the geoscientists and eningeers were fired? So all the engineering firms,environmental consulting firms, petroleum companies and mining companies are now run by monkeys?

      What are you trying to say and where are you getting your facts

      Martin Dunphy

      Jan 16, 2014 at 9:34pm

      A Scientist:

      Google Harper, science libraries, shutting down.
      It's real, and virtually none of the irreplaceable freshwater and fisheries research therein is accessible on the Internet.
      And Harper is destroying any of the tens of thousands of volumes that are not "rescued".


      Jan 16, 2014 at 11:21pm

      What do you expect of a BC Liberal government that created a fulltime task force geared specifically to bulldoze through the Enbridge project.


      Jan 17, 2014 at 8:56am

      @"A scientist"

      Given your confusing of research papers with their source materials, I highly doubt you're what the public thinks of as a "scientist", namely a publicly-minded research scientist.

      Sounds to me like you're a geoscientist, ie, employed in a narrow engineering-type role in the resource sector.


      Jan 17, 2014 at 11:55am

      Frankly, government should NOT have any scientists what so ever, but rather should contract out to Universities, and specialty science organizations on a required basis. This would allow for a greater depth of analysis, plus a wider range of resource.


      Jan 17, 2014 at 12:19pm


      Right. Because we all know there's no need for long-term study.

      But hey, your proposal would have the side benefit of making cutbacks to public science almost invisible! Wait, was that your real aim?

      A scientist

      Jan 17, 2014 at 1:15pm

      I went and looked up the article.

      Yes it is sad how they closed down a scientific libaries important for research.

      I guess my point is, from experience, is that scientists are still able to conduct research as universities across Canada have substantial libraries and materials available.As well there are numerous scientific journals online such as Journal of : Hydrogeology, hydrology, geoscience, geotechnics and rock mechanics, sedimentary petrology... the list goes on. Which offer up to date research and information on topics.

      @ Bruce, Research Journals are commonly the source of other research papers, books are not the only source. But what do I know, I am just a scientist who has read hundreds of research papers at this point in my career.