Greg Rickford, Canada's new science minister, has poor track record - 2013-07-18
Prime Minister Stephen Harper missed a prime opportunity this week to smooth over his strained relations with Canadian scientists. This tension has been fed by a myriad of poor policy decisions, from the gutting of environmental laws and defunding of leading research centres to the muzzling of government scientists. In his cabinet shuffle, the prime minister could have held out an olive branch to scientists, but instead he appointed Greg Rickford as the new minister of state for science and technology.
As a former lawyer and nurse, Rickford lacks the science and research pedigree that should be a prerequisite for such a position. But it is Rickford's past performance on science issues that is raising eyebrows in science circles. An examination of his track record on the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) would be a particularly enlightening predictor of how he will handle the science and technology portfolio. Rickford is the Member of Parliament who, despite strong protest by scientists worldwide and his own constituents, blindly supported the government in shutting down the ELA science program in his own riding.
Turn back the clock to 2011. Rickford, as MP for the Ontario riding of Kenora, stood proudly alongside federal government scientists to announce the opening of ELA's new fish laboratory, which was funded to the tune of $1 million under Canada's Economic Action Plan. Then, he spoke glowingly about ELA, referring to it as "Canada's most innovative freshwater research centre."