The War on Knowledge by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives

The War on Knowledge by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives
Posted on January 22, 2014 | Rolly Montpellier | Written on January 22, 2014
Comments
Letter type:
Op-Ed

Publisher

Publisher:
BoomerWarrior

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

I am deeply concerned about the callous attack on science and knowledge driven by Stephen Harper's vision of Canada as an emerging energy superpower. This vision is focused on economic growth to the detriment of the environment and the well-being of future generations.

I feel compelled to write about it.

There is trouble in the realms of science and knowledge in Canada. Canada is witnessing a systematic and wilful attack on its scientific community and heritage institutions.

Factual information that is not useful to support government policy and economic growth is ignored. This obsessive political focus on economics ignores the environmental peril, with consequences our grandchildren will inherit.

March of the Lab Coats

The March of the Lab Coats is the title of the first chapter of Chris Turner’s book, "The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada." It documents the ‘Death of Evidence’ march – a mass of white lab coats marching on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in May of 2012. This action taken by scientists marked the first time this ordinarily demure, reasonable, reserved and cautious group felt compelled to hit the pavement to protest the unprecedented actions of the Federal Government.

Turner speaks of the traditional “sort of implicit understanding between scientists and politicians” that facts and science are the foundation of sound policy-making. Under Harper, there is an erosion of this “pact between evidence and policy…an evidence-based social contract.” In reference to scientists in Ottawa, Turner writes:

"they place the highest virtue on reasoned argument and cloistered study, proceeding from the core belief that scientific evidence, objectively gathered and impartially analyzed, must always trump opinion and argument

Bill C-38: a War on Knowledge and the Environment

Bill C-38 which was passed in June of 2012 was seen as an assault on environmental legislation and regulations, as well as climate change.

Many saw the changes to the environmental review process as an attempt to expedite the rapid approval of mega-energy projects involving the Oil Sands and the pipelines to carry the bitumen to market.

On another front, by amending the Coastal Trade Act, the Federal Government was able to open over 900 thousand hectares of Arctic waters for drilling. The list of cuts to federal programs and research facilities is astounding.

The Real Game

The war on knowledge is driven by Stephen Harper’s vision of flat-out resource exploitation, regardless of the far-reaching environmental degradation. Science and knowledge that support that vision do well but facts that are a nuisance to politicians do not do as well.

Dr. Peter Ross is a Canadian marine mammal toxicologist. He worries that:

"What we have done in Canada is turn off the radar.  We are flying along in an airplane, and we've put curtains over the windshield of those pilots, of that flight-crew, and we've turned off the instruments. We don’t know what is coming tomorrow, let alone next year in terms of some of these potentially catastrophic incidents in our oceans."

Dr. Tom Duck (professor of Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University) told Linden MacIntyre of the Fifth Estate:

"We know that climate change is an enormous problem. It is the problem for the next century, so if you want to get out your oil, you have to get it out now, if you want to get it out now, you make sure the scientists aren't causing any problems. If you want to make sure the scientists aren't causing any problems, you take away all their funding."

The next Canadian federal election is scheduled for October 19, 2015 – some 600 days away. Will the Canadian electorate put an end to the Stephen Harper anti-science agenda by defeating the Conservatives at the polls? Will the electorate elect a new government that will repair the deliberate dismantling of science and knowledge institutions undertaken by Stephen Harper?

In the meantime, the Harper agenda continues to unfold:

Do no Science, Hear no Science, Speak no Science.

You can read the entire article at BoomerWarrior.Org: http://bit.ly/KxSF6U

About The Author

Rolly Montpellier is a Climate Leader (Certified by the Climate Reality Project) a blogger, writer, activist and the founder of BoomerWarrior.Org.

BoomerWarrior is for the socially aware and politically... More

Comments

I agree Rolly, its very sad. But, it goes further than environmental science.

Harper is an Evangelist and as such he doesn't believe in evolution, he believes in creationism. All science is evil according to these people. Even on this site in an earlier letter entitled Government vs. Science, a comment was made by a person arguing that science doesn't produce facts and that truth should be left to philosophers.

I've studied philosophy. While I commend philosophers for doing the deep thinking necessary to move humanity forward, philosophy like religion is theory, not fact. Science may not be perfect because its a product of humanity, but no other discipline comes close to discovering as many facts about life in our universe than science. Everyday scientists around the world make new factual discoveries.

Nothing has caused more harm and strife over the last 2000 years than the interference of religion in the governance of nation states. The separation of church and state is ABSOLUTELY necessary for democracy to survive, let alone thrive, in my opinion.

Taking 22 Rabis to Israel was not only an unprecedented move by Harper, because no other Canadian Prime Minister has ever brought religious leaders with him on a state visit, but one that also signals the end of Canada's 'Separation of Church and State' policy. Can you imagine Mulroney taking 22 Catholic priests with him to Rome or Pearson taking 22 Methodist pastors with him to the UK?

For me, the next federal election will be about exactly this... Do we want a secular government that respects the views of all Canadians, uniting us in its determination to discover the truth and lead through real unbiased, factual research. Or do we want a government that is driven by religious doctrine based on one book that was written in a different time, for different people, whose societies are long buried under the sands of time.

I will be voting for science over religion because the Rapture--my Republican friends--is not real. It will not happen, no matter how hard you pray.

James - my apologies for this late response to your comment.

I'm totally in agreement with you on the separation of state and religion. The U.S. is the most powerful nation on earth and it guarantees freedom of religion in its constitution. Americans claim to have separated religion from government and yet the religious right wing fundamentalists control the Republicans. Politics and religion are in the same bed. That is a dangerous combination - only slightly less dangerous than militant religious groups in the Middle East.

As for Harper, again I agree that it's more than just environmental science. By the time he leaves office, Canada will not be recognizable. Our international reputation will take decades to repair. His attack on the science, research and knowledge industry has been ruthless.

On climate change, the defining crisis of our times, Canada has become the joke of international talks aimed at tackling global warming. How can a family man with small children simply not get it? Surely he must know that humanity cannot continue on its path to oblivion. Is he so single-mindlessly focused on re-election in 2015 as to ignore climate reality? He wants Canadians to believe that only the Conservatives can protect their jobs and provide ongoing prosperity. Good luck with that in 2015.

James - my apologies for this late response to your comment.

I'm totally in agreement with you on the separation of state and religion. The U.S. is the most powerful nation on earth and it guarantees freedom of religion in its constitution. Americans claim to have separated religion from government and yet the religious right wing fundamentalists control the Republicans. Politics and religion are in the same bed. That is a dangerous combination - only slightly less dangerous than militant religious groups in the Middle East.

As for Harper, again I agree that it's more than just environmental science. By the time he leaves office, Canada will not be recognizable. Our international reputation will take decades to repair. His attack on the science, research and knowledge industry has been ruthless.

On climate change, the defining crisis of our times, Canada has become the joke of international talks aimed at tackling global warming. How can a family man with small children simply not get it? Surely he must know that humanity cannot continue on its path to oblivion. Is he so single-mindlessly focused on re-election in 2015 as to ignore climate reality? He wants Canadians to believe that only the Conservatives can protect their jobs and provide ongoing prosperity. Good luck with that in 2015.

In an attempt to be an open-minded person who tries to see both sides of a situation, it would seem that on the face of it, the government is in fact trying to suppress the science that supports climate change. Not that I have ALL my facts straight, but here's what I do know - the recent announcement to close the fisheries libraries is probably just an attempt to find ways to save taxpayers' dollars on little-used facilities. (If there was some way to scan all that information before destroying or closing the facilities, the information could be saved. That would probably take many hours of effort of volunteers who are completely convinced that the information would be used and valuable. If there is someone out there who would champion that effort and approach Gail Shea (Minister) to hold off on the closing of the facilities until this monumental task was accomplished, then it would serve the Conservatives well in showing good faith about not trying to muzzle knowledge).

As an environmentalist who also happens to watch "Sun News", just to see what "the other side" is saying about the oil sands and pipelines, and watching all the efforts of the government to forge ahead with considerations of Arctic resource exploration, the argument in favour of the resources being shifted to the Arctic would be that pipeline building and oil extraction itself is not what is degrading the environment. Technically, there is some truth to that, it is the burning of the oil that is the issue (and considering that not extracted oil is burned, some of it is used in plastics and other products we use). The way I understand it, the reason the anti-pipeline protesters tend to take the "all or nothing" stance on discontinuation of oil extraction is this: if we continue to put as many resources into fossil fuel energy, when we could have invested in alternative energy that is less degrading to the environment (and the science IS in fact in on that, read about CO2 affecting the acidity of the oceans) then we are delaying the solution we need for our future. We don't really have the taxpayers' dollars to have it both ways, and we really need to choose soon.

Regarding James' point about Harper being an evangelist and only believing in creationism and thus being uninfluenced by the science, I don't think I've seen any evidence of that in any media over the last few years of observing our Prime Minister and so if we are discussing evidence-based information here, please share links to that information. My understanding is that he attends a Christian Missionary Alliance Church, as do I, but that doesn't necessarily assume certain knowledge and beliefs on the part of attendees. I have taken quite a bit of time to inform myself about how faith and science can coexist, that it doesn't have to be one or the other.

Although I don't know much about the background science training of Prime Minister Harper, my impression of his economics is certainly not very favourable.

Thank you Liz for your comment. Me apologies for taking so long to respond.

I appreciate that you are an open-minded person. I try to be as well.

The attack on science, research, libraries, in short the knowledge industry, has nothing to do with balancing the budget. This government is engaged in suppressing the gathering and dissemination of any information that can disrupt its narrow agenda of developing the Oil Sands. The pipeline infrastructure proposed by Harper will compromise the future of generations of Canadians. You are very right in saying that the investment of billions of dollars on developing a fossil fuel infrastructure will leave nothing for the transition to a low-carbon future. Other countries are focusing on the future while Canada is putting all its eggs in petroleum. Thirty years from now when the world has moved on, what will we do with the pipelines?

I encourage you to read two posts on my site: http://bit.ly/QZilr0

The War on Knowledge by the Harper Government (Author of post is myself) http://bit.ly/KxSF6U
Free Expression is at Risk (author of post is Franke James) http://bit.ly/1nfYg3P