A brief history of the government’s war on environmental science

On the eve of May Long Weekend, when good patriots celebrate the reign of Queen Victoria by getting drunk on, in, or beside a freshwater lake, the federal government delivered another wave of walking papers.

“Enjoy your lakes and fish while you can,” seemed to be the message the Conservative government gave Canadians, as employees at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Winnipeg packed up for an extra-long-weekend.

In yet another blow to scientific and environmental research, the federal government is closing the Experimental Lakes Area research station. Since 1968, the ELA  was a one-of-a-kind area, with 58 small lakes and their surrounding watersheds designated entirely to the study of hydrology. For years, scientists have used the ELA to study the effects of chemicals, acid rain, phosphates and other pollutants on freshwater systems.

“I think we have a government that considers science an inconvenience,” said David Schindler of the University of Alberta. According to the Globe & Mail, Schindler

“said employees were told that the facility will be closed as of March, 2013, and that universities, not governments, should be doing this kind of science. But he argued this type of large-scale, long-term research requires government support.”

The Conservative government has a history of hating hard on Science that goes back, privately, to a worldview based on the comic book adventures of the Lord Jesus Christ, and publicly at least back to the dismissal of Arthur Carty, national science adviser, in 2008. His position has yet to be filled.

Since then, Steve & Co have been on fucking fire when it comes to pummelling into submission any semblance that Canada is interested in the environment, or science in general, beyond the economics of intensive resource extraction. Here’s a couple of their Greatest Hits:

  •  2007 - Conservative government gives up on Kyoto Accord, abandoning all hopes of reigning in carbon emissions whatsoever.
  • 2009 - Canada is shamed on the world stage during Copenhagen climate talks. Canada clearly delineates itself from much of the world, especially developing countries.
  • 2011 - Stephen Harper and the Conservative party finally achieve majority status in the House of Commons. The true environmental evisceration begins.
  • August 2011 - 800+ employees at Environment Canada are relieved of their jobs, cutting services the federal agency previously provided (environmental monitoring, data collection & analysis - you know, science shit).
  • October 2011 - Feds cut key funding to the Canadian Environmental network, which linked local and provincial environmental networks across the country.
  • January 2012 - Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver very publicly draws the line in the sand: radical environmental groups on one side (ie. The Wrong Side), and good, patriotic Canadians on the other.
  • April 2012 - Hundreds of Parks Canada employees are axed. Many Parks will now offer reduced services, and little to no environmental monitoring.
  • May 2012 - Foreign Minister John “Brass Balls” Baird comes right out and fucking tells Canada that the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy was shut down earlier this year because the government didn’t fucking like hearing about the environment anymore. Period. Fucking. Do it, bitches.

Like all Greatest Hits compilations, many strong and subtle moments in the Conservative’s canon have obviously been left off this list, for brevity’s sake. And because it’s Friday, and I’ve got a lake to enjoy while it is still (relatively) pristine. Have a wonderful weekend while you still can, Canada! See you at the beach.

Globe and Mail PhotoXpress

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