Science: Conservatives’ distorted reality

Despite opposition, the Conservative government will open up a new front in the war against science with the continued muzzling of Canadian scientists.

Since they came to power in 2006, Stephen Harper’s troops have fought a battle against scientific research, with the destruction of facts that contradict their ideology as a primary objective. Their political agenda seems to be more important than reality.

Even the prestigious Royal Society of Canada, a century-old institution which brings together scientists from all fields, wrote an open letter a few days ago criticizing the Conservatives’ attitude.

Imagine: researchers that have published their studies in well-known journals like Nature are not allowed to discuss them with the Canadian media. For example, an important discovery by Environment Canada about the hole in the ozone layer was not disclosed to Canada’s media because it contradicted the government’s official discourse.   

In a democratic society, we must discuss what action can be taken based on facts, rather than letting ourselves be blindly guided by ideology.  

The Royal Society of Canada formulated a simple request in its letter: that the government stop preventing scientists from communicating their discoveries to the Canadian public – nothing extravagant.

But I do not have much hope that the scientists’ complaints will be heard.

The Conservatives have been fighting their battle against reason for many years now. Already a few years ago, they abolished the mandatory nature of the census. This decision could only have been made by people incapable of understanding the foundations of the scientific approach.  

The census is one of the tools that made Canada a leader among the most developed countries in the world. It is one way for our country to develop focused and effective public policies. It tells us, for example, the average age of citizens in an area, which helps public health officials to focus their actions. It guides entrepreneurs seeking opportunities my mapping the average income of a given area, and helps community organizations to reach a specific clientele.     

The state of French in the country is another example of the usefulness of the census. Data collected enabled us to accurately monitor linguistic trends, allowing governments to adapt their policies to ensure the vitality of the French language.     

But Stephen Harper doesn’t care about that. He chose to put his ideological interests ahead of those of the country. The mandatory nature of the census has disappeared and national data collected in 2011 are therefore of questionable quality, according to Statistics Canada.

For a government that pretends to be concerned about important things like economic development, public health and the state of French, this is not a responsible attitude.

Allow me therefore to be very sceptical of the eventual end to the censoring of Canadian scientists, as requested by the Royal Society. The Conservatives have decided to sacrifice an important decision-making tool on the altar of their ideology. Instead of working to improve the quality of life of citizens by using accurate and reliable data, they will be making short-term, short-sighted decisions, based on their impressions.

That is exactly the opposite of what New Democrats believe. For us, good public policies must be based on credible, evidence-based facts. We will therefore continue to fight for the freedom of all Canadian scientists: the well-being of our communities depends on it.