Two officials with Canadian Association of University Teachers sat on one side of a boardroom table and on the other sat Gary Goodyear, Minister of Science and Technology, his policy adviser Wesley Moore and a civil servant ready to take notes.
"The minister was very angry," said David Robinson, associate executive director of CAUT. "He was raising his voice and pointing his finger ... He said everyone loves their [federal budget] and we said, 'A lot of our members don't love it'... and he said, 'That's because you're lying to them, misleading them.' "
James Turk, CAUT executive director, said the meeting with the minister typifies the chill many scientists feel coming from the government, calling the reception "nasty pit-bull" behaviour.
"If they treated us like that - and they have no control over us - you can imagine how they're treating the presidents [of the federal granting councils]," said Mr. Turk. "Their intention is to intimidate their critics."
Of course, the Conservatives, when confronted with their own disinterest in funding research programs, point the following:
The Harper Conservatives are fiercely proud of their record on science and technology. The 2009 federal budget promised $3.5-billion in new money to finance research-related building projects, competitions and scholarships.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
Until somebody lifts the barrel up and shows you that the bottom's rotten:
Since 2002, James Drummond, with both the Universities of Toronto and Dalhousie, has been the chief scientist at PEARL, the Polar Environmental Atmospheric Research Lab in Eureka, one of the most northerly points on the planet.
When he read the federal budget, he was pleased to see $85-million set aside to upgrade Canadian research facilities in the Arctic, not realizing at the time, some of that money was being shifted from the granting councils.
"This is good," he said, "conditions in the north are extremely harsh and things degrade rapidly."
PEARL, where researchers monitor the ozone and study air quality and climate change, is an expensive shop to run at about $2-million a year. But none of the new infrastructure funds can be used for actually running the facility. And so the paradox, Dr. Drummond says, is that he will be able to improve a lab that he cannot afford to operate.
Ummm...yeah...good funding plan there, Stephen old boy. So, essentially the Con$ are funding repairing a leaking roof, but they are taking away the funding for the very activity that the roof sheltered. Brilliant. But then, coming from the GWB school of anti-intellectualism, it should be no surprise that Harper and his gang of bandits think this is just peachy.
One last closing thought - is a minister who loses his cool in a meeting really the kind of person that you want in cabinet? Or is the talent pool in the Conservative caucus that shallow these days?