Canada creates science-minister post

Nov 23, 2015

by Nicola James

Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, took office on 4 November — and as one of his first acts, created the post of Minister of Science.

Kirsty Duncan, a medical geographer at the University of Toronto in Canada, will be the first to hold the job. Duncan, who contributed to the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has also written a book about her expedition to Norway to determine the cause of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.

Her appointment marks a change from the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper. His administration placed oversight of science in the hands of a junior minister of state in the Industry Canada department.

“Harper collapsed the purview of science into the purview of industry, and we’ve seen a dramatic decline of pure science and public interest research as a result,” says Carol Linnitt, an environmental policy analyst at the Vancouver-based non-profit environmental group DeSmog Canada.


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28 comments on “Canada creates science-minister post

  • @OP – “Harper collapsed the purview of science into the purview of industry, and we’ve seen a dramatic decline of pure science and public interest research as a result,”

    Canada is well rid of the absurdly stupid Harper, but the new minister is going to have to do some serious work to repair the damage that idiot caused!



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  • At the moment I’m cautiously optimistic. Our new Prime Minister has appointed a cabinet with a mix of experience, but the ones with whom I’m familiar have a good track record. Two in particular that stand out are Stéphane Dion (finally re-vindicated after the hatchet job the previous conservatives did on him), and Catherine McKenna, (Environment and Climate Change).

    However I also remember that the last time the liberals were in power they made some grand promises, (remember Kyoto), on which they never delivered. For all their faults, the conservatives didn’t promise one thing and then do another. Right from the beginning of their mandate they made their disdain for science-based policy widely known and they never disappointed on that score.

    I note that in the current hysteria surrounding the Paris attacks the liberals have now decided to restrict Syrian refugees coming into to Canada to women and children only. To his credit Tom Mulcair immediately called them out on this. It’s not a good sign, and I hope it’s not a taste of things to come.



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  • 3
    InTheGrey says:

    I think you’re forgetting that one of Harper’s original (and significant) campaign platform promises was that they would not run a deficit. Once elected, the Conservatives promptly spent the entire budget surplus left for them by the previous government and consequently had nothing left by the time the 2008 global economic meltdown occurred. That reckless spending caused them to run a deficit non-stop ever since.

    The only reason the budget deficit has been getting smaller in recent years was not due to Harper’s brilliance at fiscal planning (because he doesn’t have any brilliance in fiscal planning), it was through saving money by shutting down scientific research across the country, shutting down coast guard stations, eliminating environmental protections (like his gutting of the Fisheries Act to appease Big Oil, who found it inconvenient). And hey, guess which political party was the only one who thought that eliminating door-to-door mail delivery for the entire country was a great idea? Yes, the Conservatives. They publicly stated — despite hearing from many, many experts that there were all kinds of alternatives used successfully by other countries — that they thought the idea made “good business sense”, while every other party rightfully condemned the idea.

    Harper operated solely by his own ideology and all other Conservative MPs were simply his minions, in that they all toed his line and expressed whatever opinion he demanded they express. Scientific evidence was annoying because it spoke against his plans, so he gagged scientists from speaking to the media about their research. Science itself was useless to him unless it was involved in a money-making operation, so he turned the National Research Council into a concierge service for industry, resulting in depressingly low morale at the NRC. If it weren’t for the Supreme Court of Canada — which Harper grew to detest — there’d be little difference between Harper’s rule and a dictatorship. That’s not hyperbole; many times the Supreme Court put a stop to legislation Harper either forced through or got passed by hiding it in a voluminous omnibus bill, declaring it a violation of the Constitution.

    Trudeau is a breath of fresh air after 9.5 years under the darkness of a completely opaque government that never asked for anyone’s opinion on any of their decisions, yet always (always) defended those ideas as being “what Canadians want”. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    http://scienceblogs.com/confessions/2013/05/20/the-canadian-war-on-science-a-long-unexaggerated-devastating-chronological-indictment/



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  • 4
    InTheGrey says:

    It might be worth noting that under Harper there were three Ministers of Science and Technology:

    Gary Goodyear – a chiropractor
    Greg Rickford – a civil lawyer
    Ed Holder – an insurance professional



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  • The previous government effectively muzzled all government scientists. They could not speak or go to a conference without the prime minister’s office permission. The previous government believed basic research was a waste of time. They cancelled it in favour of doing little research tasks for corporations. The Prime Minister was a climate change denier who ensured no research counter to that view saw the light of day. The scientists were “dancing jigs” when the election results were announced. PM Steven Harper belongs to a fundamentalist Christian church. He never directly mentioned his religious beliefs.



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  • 6
    InTheGrey says:

    Harper also left a little “F**k you, Justin” present behind as his final gesture before leaving office, trying to throw a wrench in the Liberals’ plans. This only serves to reinforce my opinion of Harper as an ass-hole.

    The move by Harper’s government constrains Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ability to put his government’s stamp on some key agencies like the National Energy Board, which regulates things like the construction of pipelines and the import of crude oil and natural gas.
    http://ipolitics.ca/2015/11/23/doomed-harper-government-made-49-future-patronage-appointments/



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  • Ding dong, the witch is dead. Finally, Canada has a real government again, and we are long overdue. I’m still disturbed however, that we have an electorial system that allows a party of imbeciles to grab and hold power for almost a decade against the wishes of 2/3’s of the electorate. I’m also disturbed that these people just get to walk away after a decade of ideology-based negligence, the flagrant abuse of power with concerted efforts to control what the public gets to see and hear, and more than a bit of petty-vandalism of pre-existing libraries and data thrown in just for fun. In fact not only are they not to be held to account for their actions (that would probably be criminal if we had forseen we needed laws for such things), but they’ll receive huge pensions on the public-purse as well. Unbelievable.



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  • 8
    InTheGrey says:

    Well, one of Trudeau’s campaign promises was to end first-past-the-post voting, so we’ll see what happens; I don’t think he’s the first politician to make that promise. You can track Trudeau’s progress on his campaign promises here: https://www.trudeaumetre.ca/

    Wish we had something like that for Harper.



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  • Harper – along with other denialist muppets has left a legacy for the future!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34915448
    Global average temperatures in 2015 are likely to be the warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

    Data until the end of October showed this year’s temperatures running “well above” any previous 12 month period.

    The researchers say the five year period from 2011 to 2015 was also the warmest on record.

    The rise, they state, was due to a combination of a strong El Nino and human-induced global warming.

    The WMO said their preliminary estimate, based on data from January to October, showed that the global average surface temperature for 2015 was 0.73 degrees C above the 1961-1990 average.

    Their scientists also found that global temperatures were approximately 1 degree C above the 1880-1899 period, mirroring a recent finding by the UK Met Office.

    The record-breaking five year period from 2011 to 2015 was 0.57C above the average for 1961-1990.

    The WMO said that levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new highs. In the northern hemisphere, the spring of 2015 saw the three-month global average concentration of CO2 cross the 400 parts per million barrier for the first time.



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  • @OP – Her appointment marks a change from the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper.

    Perhaps a statue of Harper should be erected to remind people of his contribution to the melting. flooded. and peat-burning future of the Tundra lands, and the wider climate problems of the planet!

    Could I suggest the artist uses Tar Sands as the medium of choice for the construction of the statue – with perhaps a little sawdust for stiffening! Perhaps a kneeling posture with the head buried in ordinary building sand would be an appropriate!



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  • @Roedy

    All true but will True d’oh make any real difference other than superficially?

    He is heading to Paris with the same Harper targets for tackling climate change.

    He called David Suzuki’s conservation ideas “sanctimonious crap” (agreed DS can be sanctimonious but the impression left by this kind of disrespect is one of a thoughtless supporting of the status quo).

    He says the multi billion dollar deal with those Saudi sods to supply them with LAVs is OK by him. They are “only Hummers”.

    If Harper had been somehow persuaded by that useless GG, Johnson, and others that science and climate change were crucial, he might have been far better at tackling what’s to come than this pretty boy we have now.



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  • 13
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Perhaps a kneeling posture with the head buried in ordinary building sand would be an appropriate [tribute]!

    Personally, I would prefer to have the entire body buried in the sand and only the head sticking out. It would minimize pollution: visual, not environmental sadly.

    Of course, I would make sure that his face was reproduced with his trademark insufferable smarmy smile. This and the head being only a few inches off the ground would make it as easy and tempting as possible for casual passerby’s to throw tomatoes or eggs at it or even swap it with an occasional shoe.

    It would also stand a fair chance of being quite welcoming to the odd canine or feline in search of territory to mark.



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  • He’s made a good start, but let’s remember that he hasn’t even been in office for a month yet, nor has the House of Commons sat since the election.

    But he’s already changed the rules in that government scientists no longer have to apply through a political officer to speak to the media, which is a huge step forward for science.

    As a Canadian, I look forward to this new focus on science and reality. Now, if we (the Canadian electorate) could only get behind the taxing of churches…



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  • Well, we can’t really know until the Paris talks get underway.

    But for my money, de-muzzling scientists, putting an actual scientist in charge of science and an actual veteran in charge of national defence says volumes about Trudeau’s commitment.

    I, for one, find that refreshing and am optimistic. You’re free to call him “True d’oh” and “pretty boy” if you wish, though I fail to see how that furthers the discussion.



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  • I’m no fan of Harper, but frankly I don’t see how he could have made much difference regarding climate change.

    The amount of CO2 that Canada pumps into the atmosphere is dwarfed by the combined emissions of the US, China and India.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2764323/China-US-India-push-world-carbon-emissions-up.html

    Even if Canada’s emissions were zero, it would have made precious little global difference.

    Frankly, I think it’s too late. Best we can do now is to try and mitigate the damage: move people inland, develop better drought-resistant crops, create better pesticides to combat the expansion of malaria-spreading mosquitos along with further investments in nuclear power generation.



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  • Morgan
    Nov 27, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Frankly, I think it’s too late.

    It’s not too late to stop it escalating to catastrophic.

    Best we can do now is to try and mitigate the damage: move people inland, develop better drought-resistant crops, create better pesticides to combat the expansion of malaria-spreading mosquitos

    We are going to have to do lots of mitigating and adapting, but it is best not to aggravate the problems further.

    along with further investments in nuclear power generation.

    It unfortunate that war-mongers have persistently invested in the wrong types of nuclear power, when investment in Thorium, would have avoided dangers from terrorists, rogue states, long-half-life nuclear waste, and nuclear plants which blow-up or melt down.

    http://www.itheo.org/thorium-energy-conference-2012



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  • furthers

    Perhaps not, technically speaking, but descripts do enhance.

    “pretty boy”

    By coincidence, Paul Ryan (R), who could be Trudeau’s twin, was elected U.S. Speaker of the House one week after Justin’s win.



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  • It’s also encouraging that the environment position is called “Minister of Environment and Climate Change”

    As opposed to Harper’s “climate change is bs…buy oil”.



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  • Goodyear was my MP. I referred to him as our Minister of Science Denial. So glad this idiot is gone. In his last post he was responsible for defunding/shutting down/destroying science libraries. His last masterpiece was the destruction of the agricultural library in Lethbridge Alberta. That is where all of the farming/climate records regarding top yields, temperatures, rain/snow fall amounts etc. were kept for the prairies going back to 1900. Should be viewed as crimes against humanity.



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  • 25
    InTheGrey says:

    Even if Canada’s emissions were zero, it would have made precious little global difference.

    It’s never too late to set an example for the US, China and India; other countries like Germany are doing it. This puts increasing pressure on other countries to clean up their slops and will wake them up to the irony of ignoring climate change to protect their economies, showing them just how badly climate change will affect their economies.



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  • Even if Canada’s emissions were zero, it would have made precious little global difference.

    This is a regular but stupid argument. A recently departed blood brother of Harper, the global warming denier Prime Minister Tony Abbott would say the same thing. Of course every country on the planet only contributes a small amount, but the small amounts, mount up, and become a big problem. They also don’t realize that when you are trying to get the rest of the world to come on board, when you are the second highest abuser of carbon on the planet, which Australia is, then things like setting an example matter.

    Tragedy of the Commons on display.



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  • InTheGrey
    Nov 28, 2015 at 2:55 am

    It’s never too late to set an example for the US, China and India; other countries like Germany are doing it.

    Some in the US, India and China are making substantial investments in developing green technologies to replace the more polluting ones. The problem is they are not doing it fast enough, but that is no excuse for others to try to go backwards, or give up making the effort!

    http://www.chinabusinessreview.com/opportunities-in-chinas-green-tech-sector/

    Though China will fall far short of its energy intensity targets, renewable energy capacity will meet and perhaps exceed targets (see Figure 1). (China aimed to reduce its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent over the five-year period but has reported annual reductions of about 3 percent.) NDRC announced in May that it would invest ¥3 trillion ($439.2 billion) in renewable energy, electric cars, energy-saving construction materials, and other green technologies between now and 2020.



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  • InTheGrey
    Nov 28, 2015 at 2:55 am

    It’s never too late to set an example for the US, China and India; other countries like Germany are doing it.

    China is still a heavy polluter, but we should be careful not to accept denialist dis-information myths!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_China

    In 2013, China led the world in renewable energy production, with a total capacity of 378 GW, mainly from hydroelectric and wind power. As of 2014, China leads the world in the production and use of wind power, solar photovoltaic power, and smart grid technologies, generating almost as much water, wind, and solar energy as all of France and Germany’s power plants combined. China’s renewable energy sector is growing faster than its fossil fuels and nuclear power capacity. Since 2005, production of solar cells in China has expanded 100-fold. As Chinese renewable manufacturing has grown, the costs of renewable energy technologies have dropped dramatically. Innovation has helped, but the main driver of reduced costs has been market expansion.



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