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Yesterday, I posted a video of recently retired Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist Steve Campana speaking about the sad state of morale within bureaucratic ranks. The Harper regime's obsession with control and secrecy means that government scientists are forbidden to speak about their research without going through a labyrinthine series of communications protocols that often still result in denial of permission to speak to 'outsiders,' i.e., the public.
Here is how one government scientist responded to the post, anonymously: I speak as a government scientist who knows of what Dr. Campana speaks. The squeeze comes from a couple of directions - benign budgetary neglect and active silencing. The budgetary issues are shared by most other government departments:
- attrition of critical personnel as scientific staff are lost to the private sector or retirement and are rarely if ever replaced,
- the similar loss of administrative staff and the downloading of their jobs onto scientific and technical personnel (it is shameful how much time some of us spend doing travel requests and administration)
- loss of program funding which results in decreased opportunity for data collection or equipment purchases
- loss of critical infrastructure - technical library closures, loss of oceanographic vessels, etc...
- loss of travel budgets that have essentially cut many scientists out of the conference loop. This might seem to the outsider like a perk, and in some ways it is, however conferences provide more opportunities to begin important collaborations than any other way I know.
As for the communications issues, I think Dr. Campana summed it up perfectly. As employees, we are generally allowed to publish scientific journals (with some restrictions to more sensitive projects, I presume), but we are basically not allowed to ever speak with the media, even on the most benign of subjects. This has been brought about by the establishment of the Orwellian-named "Communication" branches within each department whose jobs seem to be the restriction of communication at all costs, and through the establishment of a hush-hush environment that is established from the top down. Also, local regional directors are more and more frequently hired outside of their areas of expertise, as if management is a thing in and of itself and knowledge of the department being managed is of secondary importance.
I could go on, but you probably get the point.Meanwhile, yesterday on Power and Politics, Biologist Katie Gibbs, founder of Evidence for Democracy, addressed the issue with Power and Politics' Evan Solomon:
Finally, today's Star weighs in with a hard-hitting editorial on the issue, observing how this government repression has not gone unnoticed both domestically and internationally: In the past couple of years the New York Times, Nature magazine, the Guardian and The Economist have all written critical articles pleading for our scientists to be set free.
Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is investigating complaints that federal scientists have been muzzled by the government.
A survey from Environics Research last year found that 91 per cent of government scientists feel they cannot share their expertise with the media without facing censure from their bosses.Our democracy continues to wither; it will take collective concern and strong electoral action from the wider public to reverse this sad state of affairs.Recommend this Post
In my last post I looked at Stephen Harper's Great War on Canada. And because it's such a vast subject and such a long nightmare, it raised a lot of disturbing questions. Like is he the Axis or the Essence of Evil? Or is he just CRAZY? So I'm really grateful that when it comes to his Great War on Science, it's a lot simpler. It is totally insane. Read more »
It's not a question most people who know me would dare ask me. Lest they be forced to listen to a five-minute diatribe, or watch my face turn red, and smoke pour out of my ears. But now somebody has asked the question: Is Stephen Harper the worst prime minister EVER?
And since I'm really too tired to erupt right now, all I can say is thank goodness Bruce Livesey answers his own question. Read more »
#NDP #ABNDP Any single party that can get 40% of the electorate behind them wins. Federally or provincially. And the test isn't just that they can, its that no other party can.
This is why, sad and horrifying as the prospect is, that the Conservatives have an excellent chance of winning the next federal election. It's also why the Alberta NDP have an excellent chance of being reelected in four years and starting a new Alberta dynasty.
A three way tie means the Conservatives probably win federally. Of the two parties the NDP have a better chance of solidifying the progressive vote than the Liberals but very probably neither has the time to do it before October, The progressive split will probably continue and if it does, Harper wins. I will be delighted to be proven wrong but I'm afraid I'm probably right.
In Alberta, frustrated right wingers like to harp on the fact that 60% off Albertans didn't vote for the NDP. But of course the point is that no other single party could come close to that 40% the NDP won.
'Ah ha!' They say, but its only because the right wing is divided between the Wild Rose and the PCs.' Of course this is based on the highly questionable conclusion that Wild Rose and PC voters are generic right wingers who could end up following one party and this is of course nonsense. The real vitriol and bile in the recent Alberta election was that between PCs and Wild Rose. They are NOT interchangeable voters. The many reluctant progressives who supported the PCs to keep out the Wild Rose will throw their support to the NDP or the Liberals or the Alberta Party. That's assuming the PCs don't keep staggering on, and if they do they certainly won't win back the Wild Rose voters.
The electoral math favours the NDP, and so does the cyclical nature of petroleum prices. The NDP will probably be going into the next election on the heels of a boom, and voters reward governments lucky enough to match the boom bust cycle to the electoral cycle.
40% at least, and that's all any government needs barring bringing in proportional representation.sdnxry5z7g
Image Source:Twitter/Steve AshtonNote:Sorry about missing last Tuesday. I find a post out each Tuesday is a lot easier said than done. I'll try to keep the self-imposed deadline for future weeks as best as practicable.
At the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre on May 12, 2015 a Public Forum on Democracy was held in Winnipeg's working class North End. The forumspeakers highlighted the excesses of the Harper MisGovernment and how to fight it. Central to their message was the importance of voting.
The overarching message was that voting matters and that groups of people need to be mobilized to vote, particularly low voting groups such as the youth, the indigenous and those with low incomes. This is a belief I have long held, noting the low voting of indigenous peoples in Canadian elections and how social inequality affected the municipal election here. In short, when social inequality maps onto voter turnout inequality you get the underprivileged underrepresented.
This presents an enormous challenge for advancing an agenda of economic justice as those with the most stake in it and who are most familiar with a structural lack of opportunity are the least likely to vote. Economic privilege can blinker even the most compassionate middle and upper income voters.
Low turnout particularly serves the Right in this country. Harper's Conservatives consistently has a lock on around a third of (the presently existing) electorate. South of the 49th parallel American wingnuts have long realized the importance of low voter turnout to their fortunes, with Christian conservative Paul Weyrich noting how the religious Right's leverage goes down as turnout increases. So does thee Harper CONs'. A wave of voter suppression laws passed in the United States. In Canada the Harper MisGovernment has pushed through the utterly unfair "Fair Elections Act", a bill that will go a long way to furthering the cause of voter suppression in Canada.
With that said, get out the vote campaigns by activist groups are utterly important. A successful voter mobilization drive could not only halt the Harper MisGovernment's agenda but also radically alter the shape of party competition. With a greater share of the working poor voting, for instance, future governments may think twice before instituting slash and burn fiscal policies or raiding the EI fund.
It is with intense interest informed by these realities that I listened to many of the panelists speak on the state of Canadian democracy and the upcoming election. Voter ID clinics, of course, were one of the positive developments noted.
On the disenfranchisement of First Nations and efforts to get out the indigenous vote.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) National President Paul Moist
On the state of workers' right and strategic voting.
Here, I see some flaws in Moist's rhetoric. So Liberals have historically used pleas for strategic voting among centre-left progressives as a reason to vote for them and ... what? It's surprising that a party would hypocritically advocate for something only when it helps them?
The real question is what shouldprogressive Canadians do, not whether or not politicians and their spin-masters are hypocrites (they are). Paul uses flowery rhetoric to urge Canadians to vote for "what they believe in" and not "what they fear". But fear of bad policies is a more than legitimate reason for voting in democracy and all voting, to some extent, is strategic to the point that no politician perfectly matches your vision for society. Strategic voting is a question of the degree of deviation from your political ideals you'd be willing to live with, not if you could tolerate it at all.
Given the Trudeau Jr Liberal stances on pipelines and Bill C-51 their party is waaayyyyy too far from my beliefs for me to vote for them. That doesn't mean I wouldn't consider voting for a different from the NDP and more progressive than the Liberals party or an independent candidate if they had a better shot at unseating the Tory in my riding.
In Moist's account of the 2015 election in Alberta it sound as if, driven by a singular general will, Albertans voted "with their conscience" to wholeheartedly endorse Rachel Notley and the NDP. A reality-based study of the actual election, however, would likely conclude that many red Liberals and even red Tories jumped ship and voted "strategically" (strangely opposed to "with conscience") when they realized the NDP was rising and the PCs were swinging right as Wildrose rose in countryside.
Those "millions who voted for change", in short, included more than a few who voted "strategically".
Full video of the forum speeches
Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair (University of Manitoba professor) and Diwa Marcelino (coordinator with Migrante Manitoba) also spoke. Sinclair discussed the meaning of treaty and Marcelino discussed the abuses precariously employed temporary foreign workers can face from employers. In response to a question on proportional representation, Paul Moist issued another statement I utterly disagree with. Because Europe has experienced a surge in hard right and xenophobic parties that somehow means that proportional representation sucks. More likely, the radical economic restructuring and just beneath the surface, hardline racist attitudes in Europe deserve more blame.
The manufactured majorities First Past the Post gives haven't been that great for progressives. Just look at the Chretien-Martin Liberal assault on social welfare or the Harper MisGovernment's all out war on public workers, scientists and civil society.
With those disagreements with Paul Moist aired, the forum was still very interesting and engaging. Hopefully get out the vote drives succeed at changing the shape of this election and future elections in a progressive direction.
I know a few people did. Hell, even Jeff Goodall sent his warm regards.
Long story short, extended hospital stays suck. The food is flavorless. The beds are too narrow. The boredom is mind-numbing.
On the other hand, the drug cocktail in the IV drip had it's moments. There were moments where I felt at one with the universe, like the time I thought I was in a deep, meaningful, conversation with a ground squirrel spirit guide, though it turns out I was just yelling at a vase filled with daisies and daffodils. The nurses reduced the amount of morphine soon after.
It does look like one of the other Collective members tried to hold down the fort while this writer was on her unexpected sabbatical, at least for a time. However more important things like life often get in the way and no one can be faulted for that.
We will however try to get back to more regular updating. It's not as if things haven't been happening. The folks on Stormfront are becoming increasingly frisky. Your Ward News, an misanthropic little rag at best of times, has gone full fascist right down the the armbands (Kinsella and BCL have been covering that file here, here, and here). Some Southern Ontario Skinhead members and former members have been acting stupid.... again.
Harper sure knows how to appoint Senators, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, and the notorious Mike Duffy. Harper campaigned against an appointed Senate, against privilege and corruption, in 2006, only to embrace it full on when he became Prime Minister. He appointed Mike Duffy, a so-called journalist who abused his position to gain the Prime Minister’s favour and get a Senate appointment. Duffy would promote stories favourable to the Prime Minister, even saying no one could question his integrity.
Duffy relished in a 2008 tape of then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion stumbling, which was shown repeatedly even though the network had assured Dion it would not be shown.
In the Senate, Harper and the Conservatives used Duffy as a fundraiser at events across the country, and Duffy lived the high life off the taxpayer dime. He even claimed his cottage in PEI as a residence to get more payouts. However, the corruption caught up to Duffy, Harper’s chief of staff tried to pay Duffy off but got thrown under the bus instead.
Now, on television, Conservative pundits are distancing themselves from Duffy, including Paul Calandra who is constantly on CBC’s Power and Politics doing damage control for Harper and gang. Harper and the Conservatives may pretend now they had little to do with Duffy, but he was their bagman, he was Harper’s appointee. He is central to Conservative corruption.
- Elizabeth Warren reminds us (PDF) that previous trade agreements were packaged with the same promises of labour and environmental standards being used to sell the latest versions - and that there's been no enforcement whatsoever of the elements of the deals which were supposed to protect the public.
- Kriston Capps discusses the unfairness of New York's property tax system which makes it easy for the obscenely rich to avoid paying their fair share. And Jon Stone notes that even following an election in which the Conservatives won a majority, UK voters are more concerned with fighting inequality than pushing growth for the few.
- David Roberts rightly warns that we're much further down the road toward catastrophic climate change than most people are prepared to admit. And Terry Macalister reports that Shell in particular is planning based on the assumption that we won't make any progress in reining in global warming.
- But the good news is that clean alternative energy sources are becoming far more readily available, meaning that we only need the political will to change our current balance of power. And Richard Littlemore writes that we're not lacking for businesses willing to offer renewable energy alternatives.
- Finally, the National Post slams the Cons for once again rewriting the law - in this case governing access to information - to suit their own political purposes. And the Star calls out the Cons' baseless terror fearmongering.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I worked as a mainstream news reporter between 2003 and 2012. News media goes where many cannot or will not. It infiltrates the halls of power, the courtrooms, protest sites, war zones and scenes of tragedy. It is, unquestionably, the source of much of the information used to inform and shape society. Its […]
This is sad beyond words. A recently retired Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologist says the muzzling of federal government scientists is worse than anyone can imagine.
Steve Campana, known for his expertise on everything from Great white sharks to porbeagles and Arctic trout, says the atmosphere working for the federal government is toxic.
"I am concerned about the bigger policy issues that are essentially leading to a death spiral for government science," he said in an exclusive interview.
"I see that is going to be a huge problem in the coming years. We are at the point where the vast majority of our senior scientists are in the process of leaving now disgusted as I am with the way things have gone, and I don't think there is any way for it to be recovered."Recommend this Post
I don't know if you've noticed, but Stephen Harper has suddenly stopped talking about the Great War on Terror, and the Great Terrorist Menace. These days he wants to project a kinder gentler image as a Great Friend of Children Leader. So now almost every photo-op features a group of bored kids in the background...
But of course, there's a good reason for that. He is desperate. And The Great War on Terror is going badly disastrously. Read more »
Bill C-51 has been passed by the House and is on track for speedy passage in the Senate. As it has from the very beginning, the Harper government is focused on aping the American experience. But, before we rush down that road yet again, we would be wise to consider what Chris Hedges recently wrote about the New American Security State:
A totalitarian state is only as strong as its informants. And the United States has a lot of them. They read our emails. They listen to, download and store our phone calls. They photograph us on street corners, on subway platforms, in stores, on highways and in public and private buildings. They track us through our electronic devices. They infiltrate our organizations. They entice and facilitate “acts of terrorism” by Muslims, radical environmentalists, activists and Black Bloc anarchists, framing these hapless dissidents and sending them off to prison for years. They have amassed detailed profiles of our habits, our tastes, our peculiar proclivities, our medical and financial records, our sexual orientations, our employment histories, our shopping habits and our criminal records. They store this information in government computers. It sits there, waiting like a time bomb, for the moment when the state decides to criminalize us.
The new security state transforms all its citizens into snitches:
A state security and surveillance apparatus, at the same time, conditions all citizens to become informants. In airports and train, subway and bus stations the recruitment campaign is relentless. We are fed lurid government videos and other messages warning us to be vigilant and report anything suspicious. The videos, on endless loops broadcast through mounted television screens, have the prerequisite ominous music, the shady-looking criminal types, the alert citizen calling the authorities and in some cases the apprehended evildoer being led away in handcuffs. The message to be hypervigilant and help the state ferret out dangerous internal enemies is at the same time disseminated throughout government agencies, the mass media, the press and the entertainment industry. “If you see something say something,” goes the chorus. Alexander Solzhenitsyn provided witness to what happens in such as state:
His masterpiece “The Gulag Archipelago” . . . chronicles his time in Josef Stalin’s gulags and is a brilliant reflection of the nature of oppression and tyranny, describes a moment when an influx of western Ukrainians who had been soldiers during World War II arrived at his camp, at Ekibastuz. The Ukrainians, he wrote, “were horrified by the apathy and slavery they saw, and reached for their knives.” They began to murder the informants.
“Kill the stoolie!” That was it, the vital link! A knife in the heart of the stoolie! Make knives and cut the stoolie’s throats—that was it! That rationale for C-51 is that it protects us from the outsiders who seek to destroy us. But the reality is that the bill is aimed at those who the government deems the enemy within.
And, therefore, we are now the potential targets of our fellow citizens.
The Script&Film Company's EDayFilm "Election Day In Canada: The Rise Of Voter Suppression" is travelling across Canada visiting communities where live and robocalls were made to record the stories of the electors Elections Canada has abandoned. It kicks off at 6:30pm tomorrow Wednesday May 20 at the main branch of Public Library in Guelph with a presentation and a fundraiser. Free admission. More deets here for an event on the 21st in Waterloo and then back again to Guelph on the 23rd - Guelph where an estimated 7,760 robocall attempts were made. Because isn't it time we had some answers about what happened with the robo and live calls in 237 ridings right across Canada in the 41st federal election before we deal with more of the same again in the upcoming 42nd election this fall? In November of 2012, nine months after the robocall story really broke open nation-wide, Elections Canada commissioned and published a survey which reported that 85% of electors polled said the 41st election "was fairly run". Subsequent missives from EC show they never wavered far from this comforting conclusion, despite the commissioner's own final report on the termination of any further investigation stating that 27% of the complainants they investigated received fraudulent calls. So it's up to us now. Support the film any way you can - with a donation, promoting it online, or organizing presentations in your community like the ones in Guelph. It really is up to us now. .
It's frustrating to see that even some of my readers think that Stephen Harper's crass attempt to fix the party leader's debates might be good for progressives. And are sending me comments like this one, with lots of periods in it: Anonymous 2:29 AM Let.the.other.Parties.Debate.without.him.and.it.will.be.HarperCons.Downfall...Good.for.Canadians!!!!! So that I might read it slowly, and understand that hopeful belief better. Even though I thought I had made it clear that Harper's plan, as might be expected, is just another grubby Con scam. So. I. guess. I'm. going. to. have. to. be. even. clearer. Read more »
Among the other possibilities raised by the Alberta NDP's election victory, plentyofvoices have chimed in on a shift to proportional representation. And while there may be limited scope to make a move immediately, electoral reform could well become both good policy and good politics for Rachel Notley.
Let's start, though, by pointing out where the Alberta NDP has positioned itself on proportional representation.
PR was not a part of the NDP's platform in the recent election. So there's ample room for opponents to argue that there's no immediate mandate for a unilateral change to Alberta's electoral system, and for supporters to see it as less than a top priority. (This is of course in contrast to the federal scene, where Tom Mulcair has made clear that a majority NDP government means a change to proportional representation.)
But in addition to being worth pursuing on the merits, PR has also long been part of the Alberta NDP's party policy. So we should expect Notley to look for ways to advance it. And fortunately, the circumstances of the NDP's win should lend themselves to one of two paths which might lead to PR by the next election at the latest.
For the short term, Notley would be well served to have a PR bill drafted and ready for presentation in the Legislature at any moment.
After all, the opposition parties are sure to complain ad nauseum - based on the same arguments made for PR - that 40% of the popular vote isn't enough of a mandate to support any of Notley's policy plans. But what better answer than to lament that the PCs refused to implement a better electoral system while they were in power, to agree that future elections should be decided by a majority of voters, and to offer to pass legislation ensuring that happens with all-party support?
Of course, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the opposition parties to sign on. But if the best-case scenario is to secure PR before the next election, and the worst-case outcome is to expose opposition criticism as utterly unprincipled and self-serving, that's not a bad set of possibilities.
Moreover, any opposition complaints about legitimacy would also raise the question of how to put the issue to voters.
On that front, a PR referendum alongside the next election ballot would serve as an ideal opportunity to give Albertans a choice in electoral systems. And both the PR cause and the NDP's re-election prospects could benefit from being seen as part of the same project of permanently changing Alberta politics away from the PCs' one-party state toward a model where cooperation and diversity are the norm.
In sum, even if PR wasn't part of the Alberta NDP's platform, it's well worth advancing as part of the NDP's long-term vision for change.