Early concerns about the Conservative party's policies under Stephen Harper emerged in the areas of reproductive technology and stem cell research. More recently, cuts to basic research in the Tories' stimulus budget as well as Conservative Science Minister Gary Goodyear's unscientific comments on "creationism" versus evolution prompted an open letter to Harper by more than 2,000 top Canadian scientists decrying "huge steps backward for Canadian science" under the Conservatives.
Among the most egregious examples of the Tories' manipulation on this file are their apparent efforts to suppress and cloud research, and their unwillingness to accept scientific findings. When initially faced with the decision whether or not to allow Insite to continue to operate legally, then health minister Tony Clement stated that "more research is necessary."
Ironically, as part of this announcement he declared a moratorium on injection site research trials and intervened to halt funding to an Insite research grant, which had already been externally peer-reviewed and recommended for funding by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Rather than promoting "more research," his interference with the recommendations coming from this transparent peer-review process was in clear violation of international scientific standards.
There's no manipulation for political purposes going on there, is there? Couldn't possibly be that Harper will twist facts and distort reality just so that he can continue to reside at 24 Sussex... or could it?
Ironically, the Conservatives have responded to this volume of research by clouding the issue and stating that the research has actually "raised questions" and that there is a "growing academic debate." These statements are highly disingenuous. The published research has answered many questions, not raised them. Furthermore, rather than academic debate, a near unanimous academic consensus has emerged in the mainstream scientific community. For instance, more than 130 prominent Canadian scientists recently published an open letter to Harper charging that his conduct surrounding Insite was putting ideology before the protection of public health.
In short ... the HarperCon$ have been lying to Canadians on this subject as well.
The story gets worse, and should remind us of the close ties between Harper and the Bush II NeoCons:
In 2006, the Harper government took a page from the Republican handbook when it selected an "expert advisory committee," giving the members no more than six months to solicit and conclude definitive research on the impact of Insite. The government also stipulated that researchers conduct this work in secrecy and agree not to present their research at scientific meetings or in medical journals until six months after the committee's final report.
Despite the constraints placed upon it, the Conservatives' committee concluded that Insite had a range of benefits and there was no evidence of harm. Having failed to discredit the scientific evidence, the Tories then embraced purchased "critiques" of Insite that later disclosures revealed actually were funded by the RCMP and posted on a website hosted by the conservative law enforcement lobby group known as the Drug Free America Foundation.
In other words, solely for the purpose of putting still more people in prison under the conservative mantra of "getting tough on crime", the HarperCon$ are prepared to do everything in their power to shut down one of the most promising approaches to drug abuse that we have seen in Canada. All so that they can follow the oh-so-successful American model of conducting a "War on Drugs" - which has seen more and more Americans spending time in prison for simple possession, and afterwards living life with a criminal record following them around.
Could Canada's Conservative party sink any lower if they tried?