Posted by John Dupuis – Confessions of a Science Librarian at Science Blogs:
This is a brief chronology of the current Conservative Canadian government’s long campaign to undermine evidence-based scientific, environmental and technical decision-making. It is a government that is beholden to big business, particularly big oil, and that makes every attempt to shape public policy to that end. It is a government that fundamentally doesn’t believe in science. It is a government that is more interested in keeping its corporate masters happy than in protecting the environment.
As is occasionally my habit, I have pulled together a chronology of sorts. It is a chronology of all the various cuts, insults, muzzlings and cancellations that I’ve been able to dig up. Each of them represents a single shot in the Canadian Conservative war on science. It should be noted that not every item in this chronology, if taken in isolation, is necessarily the end of the world. It’s the accumulated evidence that is so damning.
Most of the items come from various links I’ve saved over the years as well as various other media articles I’ve dug up over the last week or so. This series at The Huffington Post has been particularly useful as has this article at the Wastershed Sentinal.
A long list of various environmental programs that the Harper government has discontinued or slashed funding to is here. I haven’t found individual media stories about all of them, so they aren’t in the list below. If you can help me find stories about some of those programs, etc, please let me know. As well, some stories are treated multiple times, with perhaps an initial story telling the big picture or introducing a large series of cuts and later stories fleshing out details.
- Apr 2006. One Tonne Challenge funding stopped
- Jan 2008. Office of National Science Adviser phased out
- Jan 2008. Nuclear safety watchdog head fired for ‘lack of leadership’
- Oct 2009. Document delivery outsourced at The Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (national science library)
- Feb 2010. Layoffs at The Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information
- Mar 2010. Information restrictions brought in by government have severely restricted the media’s access to government researchers
- Jun 2010. Statistics Canada discontinues the mandatory long form census
- Mar 2011. NRC Press privatized to Canadian Science Publishing, removing Open Access to many articles
- Mar 2011. NSERC reduces funding for basic research
- Mar 2011. Tri-Council reallocates funds from discovery to industry research
- Jul 2011. Budget cuts to Climate Change and Clean Air, Substance and Waste Management, Weather and Environmental Services, Water Resources and Internal Services, Action Plan on Clean Water, the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan, Chemicals Management Plan, the Clean Air Agenda, the Air Quality Health Index, Species at Risk Program
- Jul 2011. NSERC Discovery Grants reduced
- Oct 2011. Canadian Environmental Network closes
- Dec 2011. Withdraw from the Kyoto Accord
- Jan 2012. Natural Resources Minister accuses foreign radical environmentalists of hijacking the system
- Feb 2012. Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) loses funding (later partial reprieve)
- Feb 2012. Closure of Kitsilano Coast Guard station
- Mar 2012. Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences closes
- Mar 2012. Guting the Fisheries Act
- Apr 2012. Cereal Research Centre cut
- Apr 2012. Muzzling of scientists at international conferences
- Apr 2012. Repeal of Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, download to provinces
- Apr 2012. Sustainable Water Management Division cut
- Apr 2012. Transport Canada Aircraft Services cut
- Apr 2012. The Centre for Plant Health relocated (later reprieve)
- Apr 2012. Scientists monitored at polar conference
- May 2012. 1000 jobs cut at Department of Fisheries and Oceans (details follow)
- May 2012. Ocean Contaminants & Marine Toxicology Program axed.
- May 2012. Centre for Offshore Oil & Gas Energy Research cut
May 2012. Freshwater Institute cut
- May 2012. Centre for Off-shore Oil, Gas, and Energy Research cut
- May 2012. Maurice-Lamontagne Institute cut
- May 2012. Smokestacks Emissions Monitoring Team cut
- May 2012. Cuts to NSERC Discovery, Major Resources Support and Research Tools and Instruments programs
- May 2012. Mersey Biodiversity Centre slated for closure
- Jun 2012. Eliminate Experimental Lakes Area program
- Jul 2012. Arctic Institute of North America’s Kluane Research Station cut
- Sep 2012. Revamp Species-at-Risk act
- Oct 2012. DFO Habitat Management Program cut
- Oct 2012. Declining grant success rate for Post Doctoral Fellows
- Nov 2012. Bill C-45 weakens environmental laws and democracy, such as Navigable Waters Protection Act
- Nov 2012. Salmon research lab run by Frederick Kibenge at the Atlantic Veterinary College-University of Prince Edward Island targeted
- Nov 2012. Navigable Waters Protection Act altered to give developers more freedom to build around most Canadian rivers and lakes without obtaining permission from the federal government
- Dec 2012. Eliminating the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission
- Jan 2013. Very long list of scientist muzzlings from Democracy Watch
- Feb 2013. Restrict how researchers can share data
- Feb 2013. Department of Fisheries & Oceans muzzles its scientists
- Feb 2013. Information commissioner investigates ‘Muzzling’ of federal scientists, called a threat to democracy
- Feb 2013. Prairies Regional Office: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency closes
- Mar 2013. Muzzling of scientists
- Mar 2013. Experimental Lakes Area environmental research project loses funding
- Mar 2013. The government votes against public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making
- Mar 2013. $100 million cut from Department of Fisheries & Oceans over three years
- Mar 2013. National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy closes
- Mar 2013. Centralizing, Slashing Federal Web Info
- Mar 2013. Quit UN anti-drought convention
- Mar 2013. Unnecessarily sabotaging ongoing research at the Experimental Lakes Area and deliberately robbing international and domestic scientist of the 2013 field season
- Apr 2013. Create barrier to public participation in pipeline hearings
- Apr 2013. Environment Canada name removed from it’s weather website, replaced with government promotional links
- Apr 2013.Closure of Department of Fisheries & Oceans libraries
- Apr 2013. Prime Minister & cabinet take over power to dictate collective bargaining and terms for other salaries and working conditions at the CBC and three other cultural or scientific Crown corporations
- Apr 2013. Scientist at National Water Research Institute in Saskatoon muzzled
- Apr 2013. Minister blames David Suzuki, Environmental Groups To Blame For Pipeline Opposition
- May 2013. Minister of the Environment Peter Kent refuses to correct Conservative MP’s crackpot views on polar bears
- May 2013. Minister of Natural Resources insults oil sands critics
- May 2013. National Research Council overhauled to do business-friendly research rather than basic science
- May 2013. Hundreds of jobs cut at Agriculture Canada
- May 2013. Agriculture Canada cuts including Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, Semi-Arid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre and various centres for beef and dairy research
- May 2013. Free-speech report takes aim at Harper government’s ‘culture of secrecy’
This list is no doubt incomplete. There may also be link errors or duplications.
In particular, if you have updates on any of the stories, including reversals or reprieves, I want to hear those too.
Please feel free to make suggestions and corrections in the comments or to me at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.
As reported earlier on this blog, in March I sent an email and follow-up letter to my MP, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, describing my concern for poor decision-making and what appeared to be “muzzling” the staff at Library & Archives Canada. I was thrilled when I was contacted a week later to speak on the phone with Dr. Bennett.
My conversation with Dr. Bennett was short but very useful. We concurred that activities at LAC – from the cutting of staff, programs and services to their controversial Code of Conduct as well as the obvious lack of passion and respect LAC Head Daniel Caron had for Library and Archives Canada as an institution, for colleagues specializing in libraries and archives, and for the care and preservation of our Canadian heritage as a whole.
When I asked Dr. Bennett for advice on what concerned Canadian citizens could do — aside from making a ruckus via social media — she was very helpful in suggesting a plan of action. And this is important, my friends, because what we need to do is quite simple: we need to demonstrate evidence of damage caused by bad decisions at LAC.
And this is where we need to work together — to gather evidence that can be delivered to our representatives that speak for us in the House of Commons. We are librarians, we do this every day. Let’s use our skills and expertise now for the good of our country.
Our Mission: Do the Research, show the Evidence
Here are some examples of how we can show evidence of damage as a result of activities at LAC:
- Issue: We know that our National Library and Archives do not receive adequate funding, that funding has been inadequate for many years, and funding continues to be diminished.
Task: Look into what other OECD countries invest in their national libraries and archives. I suggest we take a look at the G7 countries, to start: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. We could also look at Australia and New Zealand, since those countries seem to be making good decisions recently. Create a simple table to show what the G7 countries have invested in their national libraries and archives over the past 10 years, and include Canada. The table will show very clearly that Canada is way down the list.
- Issue: Earlier this year the wildly popular InterLibrary Loan program at LAC was terminated. Given it’s popularity, it will be missed – but we need to show who will miss it, and what will happen as a result of terminating the service.Task: Find data that indicated the number of ILL requests, ILL requests fulfilled, and the types of material. This is a tough one, since this information may not be easy to find. Still do your best. You may want to try the Way Back Machine to look for cached web pages from before the service was removed. Be crafty. Then, speak to your local library systems, who were the intermediaries that received the ILL materials from LAC and delivered them to the patrons. They likely have data on how often the system was used. And then, we need stories from these libraries – now that ILL is gone, what are the patrons doing to get the information they seek? A popular ILL system has disappeared — we need to uncover the consequences.
These are just two issues of many, but it seems to be they are the most obvious issues where we can find evidence of damage. There are so many more, and I encourage you to find ways to show evidence of damage being done.
Have Evidence, Will Send to the House of Commons
This evidence won’t do us a whole lot of good unless we provide it to our representatives who can speak for us in the House of Commons. A good first step is to contact your MP in your riding, but here are some other MPs who hold a position on the Heritage Committee who are in our corner, and are doing their best to bring attention to our concerns:
- Rob Moore, Chair (MP Fundy Royale, NB; Conservative)
- Pierre Nantel, Vice Chair (MP Longueuil-Pierre Boucher, PQ; NDP)
- Scott Simms, Vice Chair (MP Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor, ON; Liberal)
- Ray Boughen, Member (MP Palliser, SK; Conservative)
Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, Member (MP Hochelaga, PQ; NDP)
Gordon Brown, Member (MP Leeds-Grenville, ON; Conservative)
Paul Calandra, Member (MP Oak Ridges-Markham, ON; Conservative)
Andrew Cash, Member (MP Davenport, ON; NDP)
Matthew Dubé, Member (MP Chambly-Borduas, PQ; NDP)
Jim Hillyer, Member (MP Lethbridge, AB; Conservative)
Blake Richards, Member (MP Wild Rose, AB; Conservative)
Terence Young, Member (MP Oakville, ON; Conservative)
- Christine Holke David - Clerk of the Committee - 613-947-6729
Michael Dewing - From the Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament
Marion Ménard - From the Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament
Let’s Get Started
I’m going to begin with the two tasks I’ve outlined below, and I will share my results so many of us can send evidence to our MPs. Please let me know if you’d like to help me with this. Many hands mean light work
OTTAWA — The head of Canada’s National Library and Archives resigned Wednesday, surprising librarians and archivists who say they hope his replacement as the country’s top librarian is a better advocate for the trade.
Daniel Caron landed in hot water with Heritage Minister James Moore this week after it was revealed that he spent nearly $5,000 of taxpayer funds on private Spanish lessons last year.
On Wednesday, the NDP released a document outlining what Heritage critic Pierre Nantel called Caron’s “titanic expenses” over the past two years.
The publicly available figures show Caron expensed $87,000 in each of 2011 and 2012, dwarfing Moore’s own expenses, which averaged $46,000 in each of those years.
Expenses ranged from business meals, vaguely described as “lunch with a consultant” at expensive Ottawa restaurants such as the Rideau Club (31 visits costing more than $2,000), to stays at pricey hotels in Quebec City and Puerto Rico, and travel costs to Toronto, Europe and Australia.
While he was not available to comment on the numbers released Wednesday, Caron had earlier defended his efforts to learn Spanish on the public tab, saying he was trying to reach a basic competence in the language for attending international conferences, including the Forum of National Archivists in Toledo, Spain, and the International Federation of Library Associations in Puerto Rico.
But the Conservative appointee received a ministerial dressing-down earlier this week, in which Moore “spoke with Mr. Caron and made it clear that spending taxpayer’s money on Spanish lessons was wrong,” Moore’s spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher told the Citizen.
Caron announced his sudden departure in a short internal email, sent to LAC staff Wednesday, with no reason given for the resignation. “Over the last four years, we have made a lot of progress in modernizing our institution,” he wrote. “I am very proud of the accomplishments and conscious of the work yet to be done. The challenges remain vast and fascinating. I now believe it is time for someone else to take on and build the necessary support to continue to make the institution increasingly responsive to the digital environment. I would like to thank all of those who have largely contributed to the progress made and encourage you to continue this collaboration.”Caron’s critics, however, would call his tenure neither productive nor progressive, saying instead that his policies barely adhered to the Library and Archives legal mandate to acquire, protect and preserve documents and artifacts important to Canada’s history and identity.
Coping with a $10-million federal budget cut, Caron oversaw major staff downsizing to the department, reduced funding to scores of tiny archives across Canada, halted most acquisitions of historical artifacts, closed the National Archival Development Program, and stopped a system of inter-library loans through which Canadians could access material from its vast collections.
In the process, he alienated many of the country’s librarians and archivists, who said his training as an economist did little to inform his policy-making for the national repository of Canada’s political, military and cultural history.
Myron Groover, with the British Columbia Library Association in Vancouver and author of the blog Bibliocracy, said Caron “showed pretty profound contempt for the professionals that he needed to work with to get things done.”
Groover said that since the beginning of Caron’s tenure in 2009, he “wasn’t very interested in working with librarians, archivists or technology specialists, thinking instead that he could just go it alone and figure out this huge modernization push without any sort of grounding in fiscal or professional reality.”
Groover called many of Caron’s policy decisions “baffling,” saying that Caron spoke about preserving Canada’s digital history “in guarded or obtuse terms” while failing to understand or commit resources to the time-consuming, expensive and detail-oriented work needed to fulfil his promises.
“He would talk about how he wanted to modernize and digitize. But then he wasn’t really able to show that he was building any infrastructure to support those activities in the long run.”
Groover said his colleagues across the country were breathing a collective sigh of relief at the news, but wondered who Caron’s replacement would be.
“I think the general consensus in the community is that we would really like to see someone who has a professional background and some demonstrated experience with successfully running libraries and archives. That would seem to be a good baseline.”
In an emailed statement, Kelly Moore, executive director of the Canadian Library Association, said Caron’s resignation “will allow Library and Archives Canada to turn a page and return focus to delivering on its core mandate.”
“The Canadian Library Association has long called on the need for a professional librarian or archivist to run LAC,” she said.She added that the association would underscore its opinion in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that “a qualified professional librarian or archivist” should take on the next phase of leadership at the LAC.
In the interim, Hervé Déry, assistant deputy minister of policy and collaboration, will take over Caron’s job.
— With files from Chris Cobb
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