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, is 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: Undated list of science or environmental libraries closed is 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. Undated list of women’s programs cut since 2006, including many science or health-related, including: Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health
- Apr 2006. One Tonne Challenge funding stopped
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Jun 2011. Blocks asbestos from hazardous chemicals list at UN summit
- 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
- 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
- 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. 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
- 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
- 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.”
- 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. 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. 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. 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
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.
Please feel free to make suggestions and corrections in the comments or to me at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.
Update 2013.05.23. I’ve noticed the large number of posts linking to this one and even a few basically republishing my list, links and all. Since a number of people seem to be finding the spreading of the information in this post useful, please consider it CC0. To the extent possible under law, I am waiving all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this post, The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment. This work is published from Canada.
Update 2013.05.27. Over thirty new items added to the list. Thanks to everyone who made suggestions either in the comments or via email.
Additionally, two quick points.
First, as to why this extended series of posts is named the way it is. I am mindful that this blog is hosted on a US-based site so my main aim is to make “The Canadian War on Science” both catchy and mostly meaningful to a broad audience. In that spirit, something like “The Canadian Conservative Government’s War on …” at least initially seemed to me to be too wordy. It’s also fairly common parlance to refer to the government of a foreign country, no matter the internal situation, just by that country’s name. When I say that “France is doing this” or “Japan is doing that,” I of course mean the French or Japanese governments. It’s a kind of shorthand, if you will, that makes more sense on a non-Canadian site where I’m talking about Canada. So, I’m sort of accepting that while this usage will be somewhat annoying to Canadians, it’s both a useful shorthand and the precedent I’ve set for myself.
Second, on scope. I’ve mostly stuck to the natural sciences, environment and some public health topics here rather than looking more broadly at how the Conservative government treats the humanities, social sciences, memory and heritage institutions and just generally any sort of evidence-based policy- or decision-making. That’s purely for reasons of focus and time. It was quite time-consuming to compile this list initially so I was quite aware of just getting it finished. I’ve also received a huge number of suggestions both in the comments and by email and checking and adding those has also been a significant task. While I have in the past blogged about the challenges at, say, Library and Archives Canada, I decided that that would be out of focus for the purposes of this list. I would definitely encourage anyone out there to tackle creating a broader or a differently focused one. I have put this list under a CC0 licences so please feel free to take what I’ve done as a starting point.