New York Times slams Stephen Harper for muzzling scientists

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Both the Harper government and the oil companies have embarked upon expensive lobbying efforts in the United States to sell law makers and especially President Barack Obama on the merits of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

They might be having some success convincing the politicians but they're certainly not changing the minds of the New York Times' editorial board.

In March, the Times — one of the United States' most read newspapers — urged the Obama administration to nix the pipeline that could transport up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

On Sunday, a member of their editorial board published another anti-Keystone piece, this time going after Stephen Harper and his alleged muzzling of Canadian scientists.

Over the last few years, the government of Canada — led by Stephen Harper — has made it harder and harder for publicly financed scientists to communicate with the public and with other scientists.

There was trouble of this kind here in the George W. Bush years, when scientists were asked to toe the party line on climate policy and endangered species. But nothing came close to what is being done in Canada.

It is also designed to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information.

[ Related: NDP tables motion to end muzzling of Canada’s scientists ]

While no mention is made of it, the editorial is likely a reaction to last week's Stand Up For Science rallies — a series of protests across Canada against government funding cuts and against the muzzling of scientists.

In conjunction with the rallies, the NDP introduced a motion — modeled after President Obama's scientific integrity directive in the U.S. — which would ensure communications officers, elected officials, and Ministerial staff could no longer restrict public access to government scientists.

[ Related: Obama’s nomination of 'campaign bundler’ as ambassador to Canada criticized in U.S. ]

Obama has the final say on whether the Keystone pipeline is a go; he is expected to make that decision early next year.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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