Thursday, March 14, 2013

"The Harper government" bulk orders MuzzleMate!

Good Day Readers:

While listing to Sunday Edition on the weekend came upon an interesting piece.
Have enjoyed S E for a long time - it's a thinking person's version of Charlie Rose on radio and for CyberSmokeBlog a good source of "postables." During the weekly segment where host Michael Enright read the mail from the previous show, one piece caught our attention so went to the website but couldn't locate it. A special thank you to Susan Mahoney, Acting Executive Producer who promptly assisted us.

This will appeal to those who remember the good old days when it was the Canadian government before the Prime Minister started referring to it as the Harper government.

Muzzling Science

Some Canadian scientists employed by the federal government say they are being muzzled by Ottawa. They are being told when, if and how to speak to the public about their research.

On last week's program, I spoke to climateologist Gordon McBean; he's a professor at Western University in London, Ontario, and president-elect of the International Council for Science, a major non-governmental organization which brings scientists together from around the world.

Many of you who wrote to us about that interview, had inside knowledge they wanted to share.

This is from Marley Waiser in Saskatoon, who recently retired from her position as a scientist with Environment Canada after 25 years. Dr. Waiser writes:

In 2012, my research showed that the Regina sewage treatment plant was having a deleterious effect on water quality, as well as, on plants and animals living not only in the creek but in the downstream. Qu'appelle River and lake system.

I was prevented from talking to the media. I was first told, by media relations in Winnipeg, that -quote - we - unquote did not want to upset the City of Regina. Then I was told that I did not have the appropriate media training.

I think part of a scientist's mandate is to elucidate problems so that something can be done about them. As an employee of the Canadian people (and not Stephen Harper) I felt strongly that this was my duty. The truth is, that the scientific message is now strictly controlled.

That was from Dr. Marley Waiser in Saskatoon.

John Neilson writes from St. Andrews, New Brunswick:

From my own experience, I would add that the current government's insistence on the development of media lines and multiple levels of approval before scientists can address media queries, delays the flow of information to Canadians to the point that media seek their sources elsewhere.

In some instances I am personally familiar with, this has resulted in the media getting interpretations of science from non-governmental organizations with a distinct bias. This policy ultimately undermines an important role of government scientists in providing factual and unbiased information on issues of importance to Canadians.

That was from John Neilson in St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Dick Pickrill, a recently-retired science manager in Lake Fletcher, Nova Scotia, agrees that government scientists are being prevented form speaking out, but he says there's an even more serious problem. He writes:

For the last eight years, there has been a damaging, insidious, hollowing-out of research facilities across the country. Staff have not been replaced, budgets cut, facilities allowed to run down, and cross-disciplinary research discouraged. This decay has had a devastating impact on staff morale and scientific output.

Leading scientists have left for greener pastures and recruitment no longer attracts world class applicants. Sadly, Canada's one proud scientific reputation is rapidly slipping to developing world status.

This comes from Aaron MacNeil in Townsville, Australia:

Speaking as a Canadian citizen, I was delighted to hear your interview with Gordon McBean.

As an Australian Government scientist I have been appalled at the chasm between what my Canadian colleagues, and I are able to say to the press. I have witnessed first hand, the reprimand of Canadian scientists for speaking to the media when they have stated only well established facts. I, on the other hand, am empowered to convey clearly to the public the best possible science at every turn. It is, put simply, my job to do so.

These two counties are ideal for comparison; they are of similar size, with resource-based economies and a highly educated populous. Yet Australia takes science seriously, while Canada does not.

The difference, I believe, is political. While the Commonwealth government takes science on-board in its policy decisions, the Canadian Government regards scientific information that contradicts its pre-established policies as a threat.

This muzzling - and that is exactly what it is - is disgusting and a misappropriation of public funds. Canadians pay for information, not for its subjugation to political ends.

That was from Aaron MacNeil in Queensland, Australia.

Write to us about anything you hear on The Sunday Edition. Our e-mail address is thesundayedition@cbc.ca.
Perhaps the last word should go to Thugsy Mugwhomp who's there to make sure CyberSmokeBlog gets it right.
"Hi Mr. Harper it's me again Thugsy Mugwhomp. Silly man, don't you know you can't muzzle cats? My friends and I are still busy out here protesting by 'marking' your Southwest Calgary riding and backyard at 24 Sussex Drive. We're next taking our campaign to the social media. Say hello to Stanley for me. Talk to you soon to let you know the latest."

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk

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