Canada 2012 – 2013 Science & Technology
A new book by Chris Turner lays bare Stephen Harper’s stifling war on science
Turner tells the Straight he was shocked by the scope of the narrative that was revealed as his work progressed.
“More than anything, it was when you put all the pieces together, how vivid a picture emerges of a very clear and very malicious agenda,” Turner says in a telephone interview from Calgary. “It is to facilitate rapid resource extraction by dismantling an entire century’s worth of environmental regulations, environmental monitoring, and basic science. I was amazed by the extent of it and how deliberate it is.”
In his new book, The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada, Turner, an award-winning environmental writer, lays bare how science has been politicized, controlled, and methodically stifled. He also explores the underlying motivations for the Conservatives’ turn away from verifiable research.
(The Walrus) The Experimental Lakes project has influenced environmental policy around the world. So why would the Harper government abandon it? (July/August 2013 magazine)
Allan Gregg: 1984 in 2012 – The Assault on Reason
Notes for Remarks to Carleton University – September 5, 2012
It was only when we began to imagine that man and society was, if not perfectible, certainly improvable, that optimism and scientific endeavour sought to propel mankind forward.
And more than anything else, societal progress has been advanced by enlightened public policy that marshals our collective resources towards a larger public good. Once again it has been reason and scientific evidence that has delineated effective from ineffective policy. We have discovered that effective solutions can only be generated when they correspond to an accurate understanding of the problems they are designed to solve. Evidence, facts and reason therefore form the sine qua non of not only good policy, but good government.
I have spent my entire professional life as a researcher, dedicated to understanding the relationship between cause and effect. And I have to tell you, I’ve begun to see some troubling trends. It seems as though our government’s use of evidence and facts as the bases of policy is declining, and in their place, dogma, whim and political expediency are on the rise. And even more troubling …. Canadians seem to be buying it.
Jeffrey Simpson: Climate deniers in their own universe
When 259 authors from 39 countries examine hundreds of scientific papers and arrive at a consensus, perhaps it’s worth listening.
But in Canada, at any rate, about 30 per cent of the population remains convinced that climate change isn’t happening – or, if it is, that it’s caused by natural events, sunspots or just about anything other than human activity, notably burning fossil fuels.
Inside the fall of BlackBerry: How the smartphone inventor failed to adapt
By SEAN SILCOFF, JACQUIE McNISH AND STEVE LADURANTAYE
(Globe & Mail) This investigative report reveals that:
– Shortly after the release of the first iPhone, Verizon asked BlackBerry to create a touchscreen “iPhone killer.” But the result was a flop, so Verizon turned to Motorola and Google instead.
– In 2012, one-time co-CEO Jim Balsillie quit the board and cut all ties to BlackBerry in protest after his plan to shift focus to instant-messaging software, which had been opposed by founder Mike Lazaridis, was killed by current CEO Thorsten Heins.
– Mr. Lazaridis opposed the launch plan for the BlackBerry 10 phones and argued strongly in favour of emphasizing keyboard devices. But Mr. Heins and his executives did not take the advice and launched the touchscreen Z10, with disastrous results
Canada must lead climate change fight: think tank
(RCI) Canada has one of the world’s largest carbon footprints and should be driving the research on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, says the Pembina Institute, a think tank working to protect Canada’s environment. Policy analyst P.J. Partington says the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it “clearer than ever that climate change is real, we’re causing it and it’s going to get a whole lot worse if we don’t act.”
Bombardier Inc.’s CSeries lifted off on its maiden flight at 9:54 on Monday morning. About 3,000 people, mostly employees, cheered loudly at the white and blue airliner roared down the runway in brilliant sunshine – the conditions the company had waited for. First flight for the airliner, five years in the making, is eight and a half months late. The aircraft has 177 firm orders and 211 other commitments. Bombardier chairman Laurent Beaudoin called the much-awaited event “a very special day” and “an important development in Bombardier’s history.” The flight was a milestone in aviation history. It marks the arrival of the first all-new single-aisle aircraft in nearly 27 years.
Stand Up for Science rallies target federal government
Motion supporting scientists’ freedom to speak tabled by NDP
The nationwide event, which follows a gathering on Parliament Hill last year to “mourn the death of evidence” called for the federal government to:
Fund all scientific research, from basic to applied.
Use the best available science and evidence to make decisions.
Support the open communication of publicly funded science to the public, “unless there are demonstrably good reasons for not doing so.”
… The federal government has repeatedly said through its ministers that it has provided unprecedented support for science, investing $8 billion in research and development since taking office in 2006. It also insists that the government’s priority is getting independent science into the public domain, that its scientists are available for interviews (although journalists complain that the approval of interviews often comes days or weeks too late for media deadlines), and even scientists who aren’t available for interviews can communicate their research to the public through channels such as scientific publications.
Wynne announces interim deal to keep Experimental Lakes Area from closing
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has unveiled an interim deal to keep open an internationally renowned freshwater research station in northwestern Ontario, while negotiations continue this fall to transfer the facility from the federal government to a non-profit environmental agency.
Ottawa has said that the research at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) no longer fit its mandate. It set Sept. 1 as the final day it would operate the facility if no other organization was willing to take it over.
But talks with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Winnipeg-based organization that is interested in assuming responsibility for the ELA, and also with the Ontario government that owns the land, have been progressing. It was agreed that scientists should not be barred from the station this fall.
Gary Goodyear is out and Greg Rickford is in as Minister of State, Science and Technology, and Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario. So Science and Technology goes from a chiropractor to a nurse/lawyer. Alex Himelfarb should be careful what he wishes for.
Young Canadians showcase their trade and technology skills at international competition
(RCI) Albertan Michael Scheideman, 21, of Wembley, took home the Gold medal in the Heating and Refrigeration category, while15 other participants were awarded Medallions of Excellence in a variety of areas, from Web Design and Fashion Technology to Aircraft Maintenance and Welding.
Every two years, WorldSkills brings together young people from around the world to test their abilities in different trades. This year, more than 1,000 participants from 53 countries and regions competed in 43 categories.
Federal cabinet shuffle: Gary Goodyear has to go: Himelfarb
If Stephen Harper wants to distance his government from its cartoonishly opaque, anti-reason image, he will have to find a new science minister.
(Toronto Star) Goodyear, the minister of state for science and technology, has presided over the most retrograde federal S&T policy in memory.
During his tenure, the government shuttered the office of the National Science Adviser, blocked asbestos from a UN hazardous chemicals list on which it clearly belongs, gutted the Fisheries Act, gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act, set out to weaken the Species at Risk Act, killed the long-form census, eroded Environment Canada’s ability to monitor climate change, earned an international reputation for muzzling scientists and, at a great potential cost, defunded the world’s leading freshwater research centre. (I stop there arbitrarily. The list really does go on and on.)
At the same time, changes to our science-funding regime and a makeover of the National Research Council, Canada’s science agency, into a tool box for industry have dented our basic-research infrastructure and damaged our prospects for innovation.
Clearly these decisions were not Goodyear’s alone to make – he is a junior minister with limited influence in cabinet. The federal government, like Ontario’s, should have a full-fledged ministry dedicated to cultivating science and innovation. But as long as the position is largely symbolic, keeping Gary Goodyear in it is a symbol of something wrong.
Too Green to Be True? Researchers Develop Highly Effective Method for Converting CO2 Into Methanol
Université Laval researchers have developed a highly effective method for converting CO2 into methanol, which can be used as a low-emissions fuel for vehicles. The team led by Professor Frédéric-Georges Fontaine presents the details of this discovery in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Researchers have been looking for a way to convert carbon dioxide into methanol in a single step using energy-efficient processes for years. “In the presence of oxygen, methanol combustion produces CO2 and water,” explained Professor Fontaine. “Chemists are looking for catalysts that would yield the opposite reaction. That would allow us to slash greenhouse gas emissions by synthesizing a fuel that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”
Finding middle ground in science funding no easy feat
When the federal government announced it would be making changes to the mandate of the National Research Council (NRC) last week, it re-opened the age-old debate as to whether science should be done for the purpose of discovery or for that of solving economic and social challenges.
The NRC, says federal Minister of State for science and technology Gary Goodyear, “became more diversified and less focused on the direct demands of industry,” and therefore implemented a return to the Council’s historic roots of conducting industry-based research.
Not surprisingly, the move has been greeted with a healthy dose of disdain by researchers and academics who see the policy as diametrically opposed to the fundamental nature of what they do — unfettered scientific discovery.
Critics of the Harper administration have long pointed to the government’s unwavering focus on economics and free-market policies. But what’s wrong with doing scientific research that’s going to generate economic activity and, in turn, jobs?
What we’ve learned from more than 100 years of scientific inquiry is that it’s impossible to know what’s going to pay off
The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment
(Science blogs) 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.
Four scientists tally the cost of science funding cuts
Moratorium on the Major Resources Support (MRS) program will have a negative impact.
(Toronto Star) The federal government’s recent industry-friendly makeover of the National Research Council is just the latest in a series of decisions by the federal government that have chipped away at Canada’s research infrastructure. The 2012 budget set out a 5-per-cent cut to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Canada’s science-funding body, including a moratorium on the Major Resources Support (MRS) program. The MRS allowed researchers to develop large-scale equipment and facilities beyond the means of Canada’s cash-strapped universities. Here are four MRS-grant recipients on the significance of their work and the cost of the cuts.
How Ottawa’s plan to foster wireless competition sank
RITA TRICHUR, SEAN SILCOFF AND BOYD ERMAN
(Globe & Mail) In 2008, the government came up with a plan to set aside a portion of publicly owned radio waves – the means by which cellphone and other signals fly through the air – for new entrants to the wireless market. Three new companies – Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile – were among those newcomers who took part in the auction.
There appeared to be pent-up demand for the new challengers.
… Three years later, the future is looking less friendly for Joe Canuck. Wireless prices have come down, but the government’s goal of creating viable alternatives to the Big Three in a $19-billion industry is teetering toward collapse. …
The political costs of a failed policy could be significant. The Conservative government has invested political capital in making life better for wireless consumers, tapping into public sentiment over long-term contracts and hidden fees. The deep financial problems of the new players are putting pressure on Industry Minister Christian Paradis to either help the new entrants with more regulation or admit defeat and allow the upstarts to fail or get swallowed up by Telus, Rogers or BCE Inc. – leaving the market in much of Canada exactly where it was in 2008.
Matthew Fisher: Chris Hadfield, global sensation, got there with lots of Canadian help that may not be there in the future
(Postmedia) Hadfield’s talents did not grow in a vacuum. Lots of Canadian money was required to create the conditions that permitted him to flourish as a CF-18 Hornet pilot in Alberta, Texas and Maryland and to later become a revered astronaut, unofficial spokesman for NASA and global advocate for space exploration.
It would be a pity if Canada’s newest American icon and international YouTube sensation was permanently grounded at the height of his fame and influence because the Harper government decided that the country was no longer wealthy enough to afford to properly support him and other Canadian astronauts and scientists and engineers through the Canadian Space Agency. It is a subject that Hadfield will surely not be shy about bringing up when Prime Minister Stephen Harper inevitably tries to bask in this Canadian superstar’s reflected glory by inviting him for a grip and grin on Parliament Hill or at 24 Sussex Drive.
Tories ‘doing away with research’ in more cuts at Agriculture and Agri-Food, say unions
Nearly 1,000 public servants at six departments told last week their jobs could soon be gone.
(Hill Times) “Basically, they’re doing away with research. If you’re not going to facilitate industry, creating a gimmick for sale in two years, they don’t want to hear from you. Basically every research program that sort of put Canada ahead worldwide in agriculture, these guys just don’t see a value for any more,” said Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union, which represents 235 of the affected Agriculture workers.
The cuts affect 144 commerce officers, 79 scientists, 76 IT specialists, 29 engineers, 14 biologists, five research managers and three procurement officers represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Paul Wells – Science in Canada: Failure doesn’t come cheap
(Maclean’s) Congratulations, National Research Council: Just about the only international coverage for your recent change in approach is this article in Slate …
I’ve been in Ottawa so long I’m well trained: My first instinct was to check whether the article’s author is a Canadian with a long history of donations to the Liberal party. But no: Phil Plait is one of the more prominent science bloggers in the U.S.
Phil Plait: Canada Sells Out Science
(Slate) Over the past few years, the Canadian government has been lurching into antiscience territory. For example, they’ve been muzzling scientists, essentially censoring them from talking about their research. Scientists have fought back against this, though from what I hear with limited success.
But a new development makes the situation appear to be far worse. In a stunning announcement, the National Research Council—the Canadian scientific research and development agency—has now said that they will only perform research that has “social or economic gain”.
This is not a joke. I wish it were.
John MacDougal, President of the NRC, literally said, “Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value”. Gary Goodyear, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology, also stated “There is [sic] only two reasons why we do science and technology. First is to create knowledge … second is to use that knowledge for social and economic benefit. Unfortunately, all too often the knowledge gained is opportunity lost.”
National Research Council’s business-friendly overhaul gets mixed reviews
Major changes that will shift the focus of the National Research Council from basic science towards more business-friendly research betray a serious misunderstanding of scientific progress, critics of the move say. …
The structural changes announced Tuesday to the NRC will come from the streamlining of approximately two-dozen different departments – “institute fiefdoms,” as Goodyear called them – into groups focused on specific sectors of the economy, such as the automotive sector.
Goodyear said the NRC will support businesses across the country through research centres in each province. McDougall said this organizational change means that any department of the NRC can be accessed from across the country.
McDougall said the changes make the research agency a more attractive partner for industry, as it will focus on technological innovation to provide products for Canadian industry.
Andrew Coyne: New research council mandate shows Conservative’s hostility to free market
The redirection of public funds from basic to applied research may be bad science, but it is even worse economics. Whatever the distortion of the NRC’s raison d’etre is implied, it is nothing compared to the distortion of the economy. Far from a pragmatic matching of public research dollars to the real-word needs of industry, it reveals a basic confusion about the appropriate public and private roles in funding research.
Pure research is the practical approach
(Ottawa Citizen op-ed) … the NRC should aim to serve the long-term well being of Canadians, rather than funding business solutions for companies who could pay for those solutions themselves. Corporate welfare is one potential danger of these changes, though it’s not the most hazardous potential outcome. There are essential partnership opportunities between government and industry. After all, the obscure territory between private and public goods is a minefield; quite often advances in industry serve the country and the world, and public-private endeavours often produce benefits that neither sector could achieve on its own.
The disconcerting bit of these changes isn’t that industry now seems to be in charge of the NRC; such a claim is probably overstated. The problem with this approach is that it will be, contrary to government expectations, less effective at serving Canadians.
National Research Council: Harper Tories Tell Agency To Focus On Industry, Not Raw Science
(Canadian Press via HuffPost) The government says the council traditionally was a supporter of business, but has wandered from that mandate in recent years — and will now get back to working on practical applications for industries.
The council has become a loose web of individual fiefdoms, each pursuing its own goals, Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, told a news conference Tuesday.
The result, he said, was an inflexible agency that had lost its ability to respond to the demands and needs of industry. (CBC) National Research Council now aims for ‘commercial value’ ‘Job-neutral’ restructuring to make agency streamlined, efficient and functional, president says
Michael Den Tandt: Behold, the revamped National Research Council — now at your service
The NRC has always been primarily an applied science body – but one whose work was led by scientists. Its notable historical successes, noted in the minister’s media kit, include the invention of the pacemaker (1940s), canola (1950s), computer animation (1970s) and the space shuttle’s Canadarm (1980s). That begs this question: Can the system that produced these innovations be so fundamentally flawed, that it needs to be reinvented?
One benefit of paying smart people to invent and develop technologies they think will be useful, as opposed to business managers requesting help with their research, and NRC staff having to choose among these requests, is simplicity. Another benefit of pure research, obviously, is that scientists bent on furthering knowledge have often reached breakthroughs that only later proved to have commercial applications. I’m thinking of Crick and Watson and their discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953. There are other examples too numerous to mention.
Research council’s makeover leaves Canadian industry setting the agenda
As part of the overhaul, the NRC is consolidating its disparate operations into a dozen business units and will focus on just five core areas of research: health costs, manufacturing, community infrastructure, security, and natural resources and the environment. Companies, or industries, will be able to tap the NRC’s expertise and labs, while sharing the cost of projects – as well as the intellectual property that results.
Canada drops out of race to tap methane hydrates
Funding ended for research into how to exploit world’s largest fossil energy resource
Canada is abandoning a 15-year program that was researching ways to tap a potentially revolutionary energy source, just as Japan is starting to use the results to exploit the new fossil-fuel frontier: methane hydrates.
See also: Methane hydrates: Energy’s most dangerous game – Oct. 2008
$1 million for smart energy solutions
Funding from Natural Resources Canada bolsters innovation in building technology
Montreal, May 3, 2013 – In a climate as prone to extremes as Canada’s, buildings are often inefficient to heat, light and cool. Fortunately, innovative solutions are being explored through the NSERC Smart Net-zero Energy Buildings Strategic Network (SNEBRN), a nationwide university initiative headquartered at Concordia, which has just received $1 million in new funding from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).
The funding will help the network conduct further research and testing of progressive technologies, and to explore how to more efficiently integrate these technologies into buildings. The research has two principle aims: “proof of concept” studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of new technologies, and validation studies that show how these technologies can be integrated in the built environment. More
Harper commits $82M to clean-energy projects
New money for carbon-capture research in Alberta’s oilsands
(CBC) Fifteen projects will test the feasibility of various technologies, and 40 will be research and development projects aimed at bringing ideas to the testing stage. Energy efficiency, bioenergy, transportation, clean energy, unconventional oil and gas are some of the research areas.
The companies getting the funding are spread across seven provinces and two territories. The cash comes from the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative program from the 2011 budget.
Harper made the $82 million announcement after touring CO2 Solutions Inc. in Quebec City with Industry Minister Christian Paradis and Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney.
Science Cuts And Muzzling In Canada: How Conservatives Reshaped A Discipline
(HuffPost) The often antagonistic relationship between the governing Conservatives and Canada’s scientific community turned acrimonious soon after the Tories won a minority government in 2006 .
The government also went to work on a new national science and technology strategy with little input from the national science adviser’s office, Dufour said.
Announced by Harper in 2007, the strategy, called “Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage,” marked a major shift away from scientific goals to economic and labour-market priorities. The strategy established three priorities for science in Canada: to make the country a magnet for skilled people; to translate knowledge into commercial applications to generate wealth; and to lead developments that generate health, environmental, societal, and economic benefits.
Then, in early in 2008, Harper announced the elimination of the Office of the National Science Advisor.
Hope for Canada’s living laboratory
Water researchers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief as they learned that the Ontario government will support Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area through 2013.
When the federal government announced in May 2012 that it was no longer going to fund the $2 million program, researchers from across Canada and around the world stood up in protest, concerned that they were losing an important tool for understanding how to address threats to the quality of our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater.
… The ELA is a unique facility located in Northwestern Ontario that allows scientists to study how the conditions of landscapes surrounding lakes and streams influence the health and behaviour of the water itself. It is the only place on Earth where watersheds can be studied in such a comprehensive manner.
1 April [We hope this is not an April Fool]
Information watchdog to investigate ‘muzzling’ of government scientists
Federal policies that restrict what government scientists can say publicly about their work are about to be put under the microscope.
(Globe & Mail) Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault has agreed to investigate how government communications rules on taxpayer-funded science impact public access to information.
The complaint alleges that by keeping government scientists from speaking out about their work, the public is denied the chance to request records – because no one is ever made aware they exist in the first place.
The complaint “alleges that the right of access to information under the act is impeded by government policies, practices or guidelines that restrict or prohibit government scientists from speaking with the media and the Canadian public,” Legault’s office responded, saying it “falls with the scope” of the legislative mandate.
In addition to four government departments and two agencies cited in the complaint, Legault said she will also examine the Treasury Board Secretariat “because of its role in relation to the development and implementation of government policies.”
Censorship is alive and well in Canada – just ask government scientists
(Globe & Mail) … Oh wait, you can’t ask them, because they’ve got duct tape over their mouths (metaphorical duct tape, but hey – it’s still painful). This week the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic and Democracy Watch asked federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault to investigate claims that scientists are being prohibited from speaking freely with journalists – and through them, the public.
In a report called Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy, the UVic researchers present some chilling findings: Scientists are either told not to speak to journalists or to spout a chewed-over party line, rubber-stamped by their PR masters; the restrictions are particularly tight when a journalist is seeking information about research relating to climate change or the tar sands; Environment Canada scientists require approval from the Privy Council Office before speaking publicly on sensitive topics “such as climate change or protection of polar bear and caribou.”
Governing in the dark: Ottawa’s dangerous unscientific revolution
Evidence-free decisions are merely uneducated guesswork. Scientific evidence is a form of insurance, a comparatively inexpensive yet effective way to ensure that much larger investments in government programs are not wasted, that opportunities are not squandered, and that others will not have to shoulder the burden of (whoops!) undesired and unanticipated consequences. In other words, scientific evidence forms the basis for true public accountability. And isn’t accountability the horse on which Harper rode into Parliament?
(Toronto Star) Most Canadians understand that our well-being depends on science. But Canadian science is under assault. And scientists, like Peter Finch in the film Network, are mad as hell. In July, more than 2,000 of them staged a mock funeral for scientific evidence on Parliament Hill to protest the Harper government’s dismantling of Canadian institutions that collect scientific evidence, the muzzling of government scientists, and the erosion of the role of scientific evidence in public debate and regulatory decisions.
… Predictably, the next day Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear issued a hasty press release pointing out that the last budget included a $1.1 billion investment in science. Even the lay public saw through this embarrassingly transparent attempt to dodge the issue, which was about the gathering, unfiltered dissemination and use of scientific evidence, not about the funding of science writ large.
Even so, close examination of the $1.1 billion investment shows that much has been allocated to industry and commercial science partnerships. Meanwhile, the proportion of funding allocated to basic research, such as the budget of the Discovery Grants program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, has been dropping steadily since 2006.
Ottawa set to ban Chinese firm from telecommunications bid
(Globe & Mail) Citing a rarely used national-security protocol, Ottawa has sent a signal to Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies that it would block the firm from bidding to build the Canadian government’s latest telecommunications and e-mail network.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper fielding questions about Huawei on Tuesday said Ottawa recently invoked an infrequently used national-security exception that allows it to override trade agreement obligations and restrict bidders on contracts to supply parts of what’s been called Ottawa’s super network: a secure, centralized pipe for e-mail, phone calls and data.
Ottawa is being coy about which countries or suppliers will be locked out. But Mr. Harper’s director of communications hinted strongly that Huawei would be left in the cold.
John Ivison: China relationship requires fine balance between trade and security
When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters — one represents opportunity and the other danger.
This is particularly apropos in light of Canada’s current China crisis — the potential for increased trade comes at a time when the Asian giant is spying on us and stealing our technology.
David Skillicorn, professor at the School of Computing at Queen’s University, said the company was heavily implicated in the theft of technology from former Canadian tech darling, Nortel Networks. Reports after Nortel went bankrupt in 2009 suggested hackers had wandered unimpeded inside Nortel’s networks, including the chief executive’s terminal, for a decade.
China Calls Huawei Report ‘Groundless’
(WSJ) China issued its strongest statement yet against a U.S. congressional report urging U.S. business to spurn two Chinese telecommunications companies, saying the move could hurt relations between the countries. And we would expect some other statement?
Canada ‘at risk’ from Chinese firm, U.S. warns
Head of U.S. committee says ordinary Canadians should be worried about Huawei
(CBC) In a scathing report released Monday in Washington, the congressional committee branded Huawei a threat to U.S. national security, and urged American telecommunications companies using the Chinese firm to “find other vendors.” The committee concluded that allowing Huawei to help build American networks could potentially be used by Chinese cyber-spies to steal U.S. state and commercial secrets, or even to disrupt everything from electrical power grids to banking systems in a time of conflict.
But in an exclusive interview with CBC News, committee chairman Mike Rogers warns that Canada is equally at risk. More Chinese telecom presence in Canada: security threat?
Chinese telecom giants Huawei, ZTE may be a security threat for Canada, U.S.: reports
(Yahoo!News Canada) Canada’s Communications Security Establishment also included Huawei in a report about potential threats to Ottawa’s communications and computer networks, show the documents obtained by the Globe under access-to-information legislation. A briefing note says that while Canada can’t block foreign technology, it should include computer security requirements in any government procurement contracts.
The warning apparently applies to network equipment the companies sell, such as routers and switches, but not to their mobile phones and other handheld devices. … The controversy is part of the ongoing suspicion that China is using its expanding global business interests as a direct instrument of government policy. It underlies the debate over whether the federal government should approve the $15-billion takeover of Calgary-based energy company Nexen Inc. by state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp.
A not-quite Midas touch: Harper heads to Arctic with mixed record
(Brandon Sun) Each of the last six summers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has journeyed to the North, sprinkling throughout its remote communities promises of federal funding and development.
But it seems that what Harper tries to turn to gold in his visits up North doesn’t always stay that way.
Many projects he has announced for the region in recent years are behind schedule and some places he stops later find themselves falling on hard times.
Last year, Harper visited the Kluane National Park, home of Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain. There, he announced a new visitor’s centre and extolled the region’s “lush valleys, immense ice fields (and) spectacular mountains.”
But a research station located just outside its gates has since had its federal funding cut, and the last federal budget will also see the national park’s services cut as well.
In 2010, Harper pronounced Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, as the home of the new Canadian High Arctic research station. The station had first been announced in the 2007 federal budget. …
Construction on the new station is behind schedule and while there was a commitment in the 2012 budget to continue supporting it, a formal dollar figure has yet to be announced.
Meanwhile, in addition to the closure of the Kluane facility, Canada’s northernmost research lab was also focused to shut its doors.
The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory was used by scientists from around the world but was unable to secure enough money from both the federal government and other sources to keep operating.
How Evidence Died
(The Death of Evidence) Democracy depends on informed opinion. Informed opinion relies on understanding all the evidence, not just that which supports a political objective or ideology. Science provides much of the best evidence, without regard to political agendas or ideology.
The Harper government has embarked on a systematic program to impede and divert the flow of scientific information to Canadians through two major strategies. The first involves the gutting of programs and institutions whose principal mandate is the collection of scientific evidence.
… Mr. Harper’s second strategy is perhaps less overt, but even more insidious: to impede the bringing forward of scientific evidence into the public debate.
How Can We Have Evidence-Based Policy Without Evidence?
(HuffPost) Last week, StatsCan quietly continued this trend when it published a media advisory listing programs identified for elimination or reduction to meet savings targets that were announced in the Economic Action Plan 2012 ($33.9 million by 2014-15).
… the cuts promise considerable future costs because they compromise the tools used to understand the state. This, in turn, has a high probability of leading to decisions that are no longer based on evidence, and therefore are likely to be ineffective uses of public money. Reductions to Statistics Canada activity are not new. Preceding the census cuts, the agency moved three of four key longitudinal surveys that were initiated in the 1990s to the “inactive list”: the National Population Health Survey; the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, and the Workplace and Employment Survey. These information-rich surveys involve repeated observations of the same people over long periods of time and began tracking Canadians in the early 1990s. We are no longer measuring outcomes for these individuals.
Last week’s cuts, which affect 34 surveys, brought an end to the fourth of the longitudinal surveys started in the 1990s: The Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID), which provides an understanding of the economic well-being of Canadians. [Emphasis added]
I was so proud of the scientific community yesterday. We had a great turnout, and shared a real sense of community around the need to speak out against these dreadful changes.
The other misinformation that is being spread is that this is about scientists wanting more money for their research, which is not the primary issue either. My friend Arne … made the analogy to a family. He said that in a democracy, we have to behave as grownups. We have to discuss facts, and decide on priorities based on evidence and information. When we cease to use information as the basis for decisions (policies, spending priorities), we are living in fairy land. That is the crux of what scientists are upset about – not the cuts per se but the implications of the cuts, and of other policies for the use of data and sharing of information, for informed policy decisions. Yes, the cuts are hurting our research bottom line, but that is not as important as the fact that the cuts contribute to a set of actions that take aim at all evidence-based approaches to informed policy. (Jeff’s interview on the CBC news [Dalhousie professor pans DFO cuts] makes these points eloquently).
- Jeannette Whitton, Associate Professor, Department of Botany | Director, UBC Herbarium, Beaty Biodiversity Museum | The University of British Columbia
Why Canada’s scientists need our support
Protests by scientists in Canada may seem like a national issue, but their funding cuts could have a global impact
(The Guardian) They weren’t simply sticking up for their pay cheques, they were sticking up for the right to ask difficult questions and provide uncomfortable knowledge, in particular when it comes to the Arctic. They were sticking up for the things they research as well as the right to keep doing their research. They were sticking up for the planet. The Canadian scientists who spoke to the Guardian were keen to stress this is less about research budgets versus the rest of the economy, and more simply evidence versus ideology.There have been mumbles that science in Canada was more than usually difficult for a while. In February, there were reports that scientists had won a historic battle when, in a private meeting on the impact of oil sands extraction in Alberta, they’d stood up for independent pollution monitoring. I read this concerned that they’d been put into a situation like that meeting in the first place.
In May, many were shocked to hear the Canadian government had cancelled its funding for the Experimental Lakes Area, a laboratory complex over 58 remote lakes in north-west Ontario that has been running since the 1960s. As one scientist told Nature magazine, it’s like turning off the world’s best telescope.
Canada’s natural resources minister might complain about foreign campaigners and “jet-setting celebrities” trying to hijack their country with their opposition to local environmental policy, but there are reasons why there was international outcry about the Experimental Lakes Area. Scientists from all over the world studied there for generations: it’s where the first evidence for acid rain came from. There are also reasons Canada won Fossil of the Year at the Durban talks last December, why the Daily Mail mentions Canadian people appealing to the Queen over Alberta oil sands and why, despite having passed an austerity budget in April, the Canadian government still found money to invest in Arctic drones. We can’t pretend Canadian science is simply a Canadian matter any more than we can pretend we can separate the natural world from our political decisions.
Canadian scientists protest against spending cuts
(Reuters) – Several hundred Canadian scientists and their supporters held an unprecedented protest march on Tuesday to demonstrate against the government’s decision to close down major facilities and fire research staff.
“Evidence is the way that adults navigate reality. To deny evidence is to live in a fairy world … when countries engage in fantasy it’s called state propaganda,” Simon Fraser University professor Arne Moores told a crowd of around 800 people gathered on Parliament Hill.
Scientists rally on Parliament Hill to mourn ‘Death of evidence’– Canadian scientists aren’t normally among the placard-waving crowd on Parliament Hill.
But today in Ottawa, scientists invoking an image of the Grim Reaper will take on the Stephen Harper government for what they call the “Death of evidence” brought about by federal cuts to everything from the long-form census to closure of the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut.
Unique glacier research facility in Yukon hit by federal cuts
Scientists at Kluane Lake research station hoping for a reprieve
National News: Statement on the Harper Government’s Support for Science, Technology and Innovation
The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), today issued the following statement:
“The Harper government has made historic investments in science, technology and research to create jobs, grow our economy and improve the quality of life for Canadians.
“Support for science and technology has been a fundamental priority of our government since 2006. This year, through Economic Action Plan 2012, we enhanced federal government support for leading-edge research.
“As a world leader in post-secondary research with a highly skilled workforce, Canada has strong fundamentals for innovation.
Canada’s PM Stephen Harper faces revolt by scientists
(The Guardian) Scientists to march through Ottawa in white lab coats in protest at cuts to research and environmental damage
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.
Mock funeral for Canadian science
(RCI) The Canadian government has made extensive budget cuts, but scientists say their field is disproportionately affected. They cite several examples: PEARL, a world-renowned Arctic lab which observes the composition of the atmosphere lost its funding as did the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario. Also cut was the National Round Table on Environment and Economy. This panel drew from business and science experts to advise the government on policy. University of Ottawa Biology Professor Scott Findlay calls these a few examples of the government’s war on science.
Scientists unite to protest ‘death’ of research
Budget cuts will kill evidence, group argues
(Ottawa Citizen) Budget cuts are only partly to blame for Canada’s loss of federal science, say the scientists who do the research. They also say politics is undermining the research that governments need to make decisions.
With 2,400 biologists coming to town this weekend for a conference, scientists from universities and government labs have organized a protest march to Parliament Hill at noon on Tuesday.
Political science on the Hill
Decision-makers should look to those in white coats for advice
Canadian scientists are notoriously reluctant to get involved in political debates, whether the topic be climate change or cuts to environmental research or amendments to federal laws. They tend to detach themselves from the public debate to concentrate on their academic work or to avoid attacks, for example, by the deniers of climate change. Whether sequestered in an ivory tower or locked in a bunker mentality, scientists are too often absent from debate.
If we are to make proper public policy decisions on issues such as releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere or releasing deleterious substances into rivers, we need to base those decisions on science. As American scientist and philosopher Lawrence Krauss has said, “Every major political issue has a scientific basis.”
That’s not to say scientists should be making the decisions in a democracy. Our elected officials should have the final say, but it is science that should provide the basis for political decisions.
The federal Conservatives seem to have got it the other way around, where they muzzle scientists or cut funding for research that contravenes their political ideology. They are fast-tracking environmental assessments and amending the Fisheries Act, all with an eye to building more pipelines more quickly from Alberta’s oilsands.
(CBC) Scientists rally on Parliament Hill to mourn ‘death of evidence’
NRC staff enraged by gift cards
Final-day treats ‘kick in the teeth’ for laid-off workers
Have a doughnut on your way out the door. That is the message several dozen employees of the National Research Council took away June 29 as the president of the agency issued gift cards for a coffee and a doughnut to all employees, including 65 who are being laid off this month.
“Thank you for the contribution you have made in helping NRC successfully work through our massive transformation,” read the letter from NRC president John McDougall. “To celebrate our success in gaining government support, here is a token of appreciation: have a coffee and a doughnut on me.”
Hon. Gary Goodyear Government does invest in science and technology
(iPolitics) We all remember the concern over Canada’s brain-drain of the last decade. Under Stephen Harper’s leadership, Canada is now experiencing a brain gain. We are attracting world-class researchers and supporting their work at levels never before seen in this country. Canadian higher-education expenditures on R&D have been the highest in the G7, measured as a percentage of GDP.
Canadian budget hits basic science
Innovation wins over basic research and the environment
To enhance partnerships between industry and academia, the budget includes a Can$37-million annual boost to the country’s three main granting agencies — the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. But the money will have to come from savings generated within each council. The NSERC and the CIHR have each planned savings of Can$15 million to their approximately Can$1-billion budgets in 2012–13, increasing to Can$30 million for each of the next two years.
Commercializing R&D to be a key focus in federal budget
Seeing ideas through to the market – a process called commercialization – has been a challenge for Canada’s research and development sector (R&D), with small companies often dying out or being snapped up by multinationals before they can get established in Canada.
As expected, the budget overhauls the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada, which runs most of the federal government’s research laboratories. The reforms follow many of the recommendations put forward last October by an expert panel that reviewed federal investment in the NRC (see ‘Panel would change Canada’s research landscape‘). The NRC has been given Can$67 million specifically for it to refocus on business-driven, industry-relevant research. Earlier this week, Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for science and technology, said the NRC had begun to “lose its focus”, and that it would be transformed into a one-stop shop for businesses and offer concierge services to link businesses with federal programmes aimed at boosting innovation.