Following the Liberal’s federal election win, Canada’s government scientists are once again allowed to speak freely to media. Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal government appears to have delivered on the promise it made during the election campaign.
When they were in power Stephen Harper’s Conservative’s put forth guidelines that prevented tax payer funded scientists from communicating their findings. This view was corroborated by August research. The Conservatives silenced scientists on a number of issues including public statements about retreating Arctic sea ice.
As reported in the National Observer, media relations spokesperson with Environment Canada told National Observer that any restrictions on scientists that had been in effect under the Conservatives had been lifted.
“The government has made it clear that it values science and will treat scientists with respect,” said Environment Canada spokesperson Natalie Huneault in an emailed response.
“Environment and Climate Change Canada scientists and experts (such as researchers, meteorologists or climatologists) are available to share their research and speak freely about their work with the media and the public.”
Huneault added that departmental policies and procedures are currently under review and will be revised to formalize the new directive.
The Assistant Deputy Minister for Science, Trevor Swerdfager, said the announcement applies to some 1550 people in the department’s science sector, including in 14 major institutes across Canada.
In a conference call Swerdfager told his six regional directors of science when they, “get a call from a media outlet wanting to talk to Dr. Fred, Peter or Mary-Lou, the default answer is yes.”
The Conservative position is laid out in this 2013 interview with MPs Kellie Leitch, Megan Leslie and John McCallum. The three debated whether preventing government scientists from speaking to the media breaks the law. Climate scientist Andrew Weaver added that the suppression of scientific commentary undermines democracy.
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