Conservatives again cast a chill on science - 2013-10-14
The federal Conservatives have become internationally known for their disturbing penchant for muzzling government scientists. Perhaps less well known, and arguably more insidious, is the governing party's practice of attacking, ad hominem, scientists critical of its policies. It's the sort of behaviour that can cast a withering chill on a discipline that thrives on openness and debate.
Take a recent fundraising letter, purportedly sent by the president of the Conservative riding association in Kenora, Ont. Discovered by the news website iPolitics, the memo asked residents in the riding of newly appointed science minister Greg Rickford to donate money for an oddly specific cause: to counter claims in a Star op-ed published this summer by a group of four Canadian scientists – or, as the letter-writer refers to them, "the same group of radical ideologues who have lead [sic] a campaign of misinformation about Greg's work to protect the Experimental Lakes Area." (Neither the riding association nor Greg Rickford has answered questions about or taken ownership of the letter.)
The opinion piece in question criticized Rickford for failing to defend the ELA, the world-leading freshwater research centre that sits in his own backyard. The government inexplicably defunded the highly valuable, relatively inexpensive research facility in the 2012 omnibus budget. Given his apparent disregard for Canadian research, the opinion article asked, was Rickford the right choice to be science minister? Reasonable points reasonably made by a group of well-credentialed scientists.