The Conservative War on Science Comes to Canada

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When Prime Minister Harper recently decided to emulate a period in American history, you can be certain it wasn’t one of the good ones.

Throughout American history there have been important domestic ‘wars’ fought by American presidents on behalf of the American people. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty sought and succeeded in creating important programs for a social safety net that included Medicare and Medicaid.

FDR before him began a ‘war’ against greed and corruption when he eviscerated those whom he called “money changers,” the big bankers and businessmen who led the world into such despair in his inaugural address, delivered during the darkest days of the Great Depression.

Prime Minister Harper has decided not to fight a war on poverty or a war against the unscrupulous greed and deception that led to the great recession of 2008. Instead he has begun a war on science, taken right from the pages of the neo-conservative playbook used during the disastrous Bush years.

On September 21, the New York Times editorial board published an article outlining the Canadian Government’s (or the ‘Harper government’s’ depending on who you ask) silencing of scientists questioning the environmental impact of climate change, the Alberta tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline.

The editorial states, “Now the government is doing all it can to monitor and restrict the flow of scientific information, especially concerning research into climate change, fisheries and anything to do with the Alberta tar sands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.”

Scientists who are unable to provide their insight and findings to the public, findings that would certainly affect public opinion on the Keystone pipeline creates a dangerous precedent in this country.

When Prime Minister Harper took office he promised a new era of transparency and open government. Instead what he has given us is an administration so adamant about controlling the flow of information that comes in and out of the PMO, it’s difficult to tell what is fact and what is fiction— and I think that’s the point.

This all stems from a phenomenon that has been taking place in the United States for a few decades that now seems to be permeating our current government.

This phenomenon is one which rejects science as intellectual snobbery and the ranting of a right ring lunatic fringe as gospel. The word ‘theory’ has been maligned and distorted to the point where it now means unproven and untested opinion.

There are industries, like the oil industry that Mr. Harper seems so beholden to, that profit off of public ignorance and apathy.

So long as they can turn climate change into a myth or frame it as a natural cycle unrelated to manmade pollution, they can continue their disregard for environmental standards, our health, and the natural beauty of our great country.

A war on poverty and disease, on ignorance and greed— these are the things that make us richer. They will build their pipeline, and for generations to come we will ask, at what cost?