Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Next Phase Of Harper's Attack On Informed Policy

Canadians have spent the time since 2006 watching their government move from informed policy making into the realm of sloppy, ideologically driven policy making.

Whether that is the cancelling of the long form census, or the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area facility, Harper has led Canada from being one of the most respected countries in terms of making fact-based policy to being the country leading the race to the intellectual bottom by cutting research funding consistently.

Statistics Canada says the federal government is expected to spend less on science and technology in the coming year.
The federal agency says spending for the 2013-14 fiscal year is expected to decrease 3.3 per cent from the previous period, to $10.5 billion. ...
Statistics Canada says spending on science and technology has been steadily decreasing since 2009-10. 

Statistics Canada says spending on science and technology has been steadily decreasing since 2009-10, and the Harperites are insisting that science research must be focused on commercial results.  A short-sighted view of research that ignores the value of fundamental research which often produces longer term gains, and one that means that research that is apt to be critical of industry (e.g. Tar sands environmental impact research comes to mind) is unlikely to happen at all because it is not "readily commercializable".

There are good reasons why research institutions like universities should be at arms length from both the governments and businesses that fund them.  In the last twenty years, we have watched businesses in particular cozy up to universities - sponsoring buildings and making large "donations with strings attached" contributions and so on.  The result has been an unprecedented amount of control over day to day activities in the universities achieved at the cost of academic freedom.  

While this is touted as "a great way forward", it undermines the principle that research should be objective and detached from the interests which may be funding it.  Instead, the results of that research end up as part of the corporate patent portfolio, and there is good reason to suspect that results that are "inconvenient" are suppressed.

Given the Harperite propensity for propaganda games (such as the "Economic Action Plan" advertisements), one can imagine that scientific results that are inconvenient to this government's ideology are being suppressed, and the funding for that research is mysteriously drying up.

Not terribly surprising from this government, but disastrous from the point of view of anyone who understands the value of objective research in the formulation of public policy.  Like their Tea Party brethren south of the 49th, the Harperites have their heads firmly embedded in the sand when it comes to facts.

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