The Harper Government's War on Science Continues Apace

The Harper Government's war on science is continuing apace, with their most recent target being the National Research Council of Canada. In his announcement of major restructuring at NRC, president John MacDougall uttered this jaw-dropper: “Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value." It is one of several statements in recent weeks that shows how the Harper Conservatives just don't get science.

MacDougall has been roundly criticized for his remarks by The Star, Slate, StarPhoenix and others. StarPhoenix also notes that the 700 positions being eliminated from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada labs and farms only compounds the problem.

The idea is to move NRC away from basic research and instead to focus on the needs of industry. The transformation began in earnest last year when Minister of State for Science and Technology (and creationist) Gary Goodyear expressed his vision of NRC as a "concierge" service for business. He said "It will be hopefully a one-stop, 1-800, 'I have a solution for your business problem.'" No joke. It is a sad state of affairs for the agency that invented canola oil, the atomic clock, portable bomb sniffers and key-frame computer animation.

In case you were wondering, MacDougall is a Harper appointee. In 2011, after announcing that NRC would be undergoing a drastic makeover, he noted "Surely to God, in a world that has an insatiable appetite for (oil and other natural resources), that should be a natural hook to hang at least some of this innovation agenda on... And it’s very hard to break it away because it’s tied to something here in the ground." Every notice how it always comes back to oil for these guys?

MacDougall's disparagement of basic science adds to a steady stream of anti-science and anti-scientist sentiment from Harper Government MPs in recent weeks. Consider:

Oil companies are already making hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide. Oil was more than $100 a barrel for more than a decade. The provincial government and other leading oil economies were rolling in it. Over that period of time emissions skyrocketed.

The Harper Government's war on science fairly well known by now. An excellent account was recently given by Melissa Mancini in a series of articles for HuffPo about "Stifling Science". You can find them here, here, here and here.

More an more people are speaking up for public science in Canada. Check out these comments by author Margaret Atwood and this article about science versus technology by professor David Schindler.

To wrap up, we should say that there is some moderate good news involving ELA and PEARL. We will comment more on that soon.

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