Study shows researchers say Canada has lost ground in science & technology

The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012, shows that half the researchers surveyed considered Canada to have lost ground.

To the editor:

According to MP Ron Cannan, “a recent assessment” by an 18-member national and international expert panel shows that “Canada is a leader in science and technology innovation” (Oct. 10 LCC).

“Canadian science and technology is healthy and growing in both output and impact,” he tells us. “Over the past five years, real improvements have occurred in the magnitude and quality of Canadian science and technology.”

But when you dig up the report, The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012, you find out that half the 679 Canadian researchers surveyed considered Canada to have lost ground across the five years that were studied.

You find out that two key areas of endeavour, natural resources science and environmental science, experienced decline rather than improvement.

Most importantly, you find out that the period of time encompassed by the study was 2005 to 2010 – long before the Conservative government took an axe to scientific funding, laying off thousands of scientists, slashing entire programs, and decimating research into environmental protection and stewardship in the fields of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, and Earth and Environmental Sciences.

We’ve heard it all before.  This is a government that withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty with legally binding CO2 emission reductions targets.  It’s a government that admitted cutting funding for the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy simply because it didn’t like the advice it was getting on climate change and the need for a carbon tax.

This is a government whose replacement for the repealed Canadian Environmental Assessment Act guaranteed cancellation of 3,000 planned environmental assessments—678 involving fossil fuel energy and 248 involving a pipeline.

This is a government that eliminated funding to the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Lab, just when we most need data on the polar atmosphere and climate.  It reduced funding for response to oil spills, just when we might most need that capability.

This is a government that changed the Fisheries Act to eliminate the protection of fish habitats – a pesky obstacle to approval of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  It’s a government that threatens to find similar “efficiencies” in the Species at Risk Act, again to facilitate pipeline approval.

This is a government that eliminated funding for the internationally renowned Experimental Lakes Area and put its research facility up for a sale for a dollar, having built three new labs at the cost of $850,000 just three years ago.

It’s not that the government is completely anti-science.  It has earmarked $1.1 billion for “innovation funding” in 2012 – money for pro-industry R&D and venture capital initiatives.  What it no longer has one slim dime for is the basic scientific inquiry and monitoring that we need in order to have a sound understanding of our natural environment and our interactions with it, leading to sound policy making and environmental protection.

It’s the wrong era for sound policy making and environmental protection.  This is the era of the death of evidence and long life to the corporate profiteers.

It’s also the era of shameless spin-doctoring.  Keep it up, Mr. Cannan, and I’ll keep on deconstructing it.

Dianne Varga,

Kelowna

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