New York Times slams Harper’s record of muzzling scientists

Julian Wolfe
September 25th, 2013

American newspaper giant the New York Times has slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper for trying to “guarantee public ignorance” in a recent editorial.

The scathing review released Sunday exposes the Harper Government’s censorship of findings made by public sector scientists, notably those in climate science and those with “anything to do with Alberta tar sands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.”

The NYT argues Harper is muzzling scientists to block red flags that would kill a potential trade deal with the United States.

“This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.

“It is also designed to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information.”

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who publicly condemned world renowned American climate scientist James Hansen for criticizing the tar sands, said “Neither I nor any member of my political staff have ever directed scientists not communicate with each other or with the public, nor, to my knowledge, has any member of my ministry.”

Oliver shot back at American opponents to the project who include actors and millionaires, saying while they are free to oppose the project “it would be refreshing if they confined themselves to the facts and the science.”

However, while the New York Times has now put Canada’s name to shame, the fact the Harper Government had been muzzling scientists has been known for a while, even if it didn’t hit international spotlight.

Last April, then-Environment Minister Peter Kent said muzzling scientists was “an established practice.”

At the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, reputable UK newspaper, The Guardian also put Canada’s climate record to shame, calling Canada’s proposal “a pathetic 3% cut on their 1990 emissions levels by 2020 – an offer mired in thick black tar.”

However, as extreme as it gets, nothing beats having the government called “neanderthal” by a well-respected international intellectual like last May as carbon levels exceeded a record 400PPM.

It would surprise some that Harper’s own religious affiliation also opposes science and the environment and could explain many of the political decisions he’s made to date.

What do you think of the New York Times’ scathing editorial against the Canadian government? How do you feel about the active muzzling of Canadian scientists and potential opponents to Conservative tenants?

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