Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Canadian anti-environment budget bill triggers scientific revolt

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
PM Stephen Harper

A problem with neighboring the United States (other than receiving enough passive-aggressive jealousy to form its own multiverse) is that its conservative lawmakers’ infatuation with oil sometimes flows northwards, which is particularly problematic when we’ve got a Republican-lite like Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. And after months of growing tensions as a result of his government’s politicized vetting of the country’s scientific class, leading researchers have had enough and are mounting an open revolt:

Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, faces a widening revolt by the country's leading scientists against sweeping cuts to government research labs and broadly pro-industry policies.

The scientists plan to march through Ottawa in white lab coats on Tuesday in the second big protest in a month against the Harper government's science and environmental agenda.

Harper is accused of pushing through a slew of policies weakening or abolishing environmental protections – with an aim of expanding development of natural resources such as the Alberta tar sands.

His government is also accused of jeopardising Canada's scientific reputation by shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a research station that produced critical evidence to help stop acid rain.


Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, was even more pointed. "It's not about saving money. It's about imposing ideology," he said. "What's happening here is that the government has an ideological agenda to develop the Canadian economy based on the extraction of oil out of the Alberta tar sands as quickly as possible and sell it as fast as it can, come hell and high water, and eliminate any barriers that stand in their way."

It all began to boil over after the passage of last month’s research-busting budget bill:

The showdown between the government and scientists was set late last month by the passage of a budget bill that weakened or abolished scores of environmental laws.

The government claims the cuts are intended to shift more resources towards monitoring development of the Alberta tar sands, the core of Harper's economic strategy.

Critics say the changes gut the country's strongest environmental law, the Canadian Fisheries Act, by easing earlier requirements on mining and other industries to protect fish habitat.

In addition, the C-38 budget bill cut dozens of jobs for government scientists, scrapped research projects, and pollution control programmes. It abolished the unit in charge of monitoring emissions from power plants, furnaces, boilers and other sources, for a net saving of about $600,000.

It cut funding entirely for two-well established bodies: the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, an advisory panel, and the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science, which awards research grants. It also cut other research grant programmes.

I think Bush was so unhappy when President Obama reversed his destructive environmental policies that he secretly traveled to Canada and infected Harper’s brain as to live out his hydrocarbon bukkake dreams through him, instead. (Or maybe it was Cheney, who’s already known for his prowess as a sinister puppet-master.) Meanwhile, ThinkProgress has more.

Honestly, for all the good that can still be said about the U.S., I have to wonder about the intelligence or sanity of anyone who looks at its crumbling scientific infrastructure and comes out thinking, “Yep, that’s a good model for my country.”

(via @todayspolitics)