Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Michael Harris slams the Cons for their attacks on science:
How far has the government been prepared to go to smother the facts surrounding the ELA? For starters, DFO declined all requests from the media to speak with scientists. Being an equal lack-of-opportunity employer, DFO also turned down all requests from its scientists to speak about their work to Canadians. Remember, these are the same people who sent “minders” with scientists to a recent scientific conference in Montreal, lest they stray from the government line in public. I am beginning to suspect that the government line is based on believing that 10,000 years ago Brontosaurs were cropping grass in the back forty.

You will be comforted to know that DFO extended the ban on ELA information to federal MPs. The department turned down NDP MP Bruce Hyer’s request to visit ELA with an ELA scientist. When an outraged university scientist conducting research there offered to take Hyer on a tour of the facility, DFO threatened to cancel his research privileges. Any wonder that acclaimed international scientist Ragnar Elmgren said that this was the kind of thing you would expect from the Taliban, not the government of a western democracy?
If you are going to wipe out 44 years of work, spark a scientific diaspora from the federal government, and create a white elephant out in the wilderness that will cost untold millions to “remediate”, do the intelligent thing and conduct an audit this summer to see if the facts support that course of action.

The government won’t do that because it is all about putting independent voices out of business, voices that if heard might persuade the public that Harper doesn’t necessarily know best. The PM believes in strategic communication – the amassing of friendly facts and pseudo facts and big fat lies that advance a chosen agenda. His approach to governance is like a bad PhD thesis. Science is about applying empirical tests in controlled situations with predictive validity aimed at finding the facts. The two schools are natural enemies, as antithetical as William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow.

Stephen Harper does not believe in funding any organization that might become a critic, even inadvertently, in pursuit of the facts.
 - Meanwhile, Colin Kenny discusses how the Cons have eliminated exactly the disaster-response capability that's most important in the case of tragic disasters like the Elliot Lake mall collapse:
These cuts fit nicely into the Harper government’s belief that the provinces’ constitutional responsibilities should be funded by the provinces alone. Why that mantra applies to emergency relief when it doesn’t apply in areas like education and justice is a question Canadians should be asking. When a person who matters to you is lying under a heap of rubble, waiting for rescue, you need help from whomever can best provide it. In most cases, the best response is a well co-ordinated effort with every possible level of government involved.

Elliot Lake is not an isolated incident. Think about 1987 (Edmonton tornado), 1996 (Saguenay River floods), 1997 (Red River floods), 1998 (ice storms in Eastern Canada), 2003 (SARS epidemic in Toronto, power blackout in Ontario and Hurricane Juan in Nova Scotia). The list goes on.

The HUSAR squad’s arrival in Elliot Lake on Monday may well not end up saving a single life. But how reckless is Ottawa’s gamble that federal support won’t be crucial in all the disasters to come?
- And in case anybody thought shifting disaster response to the private sector was a viable alternative, think again: in fact, even Enbridge is in the dark as to how cuts to federal environmental staff will affect its own oil spill response plans.

- Which makes for all the more reason to be wary of the Cons' petro-state. And it shouldn't be much surprise - as noted by Andrew Jackson - that the Cons are blacking out the reality of overreliance on resource extraction as part of their attempt to tar-wash Canada's economy.

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