Scientists Storm Ottawa After Harper Government Cuts Environmental Protections and Research Again

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Canadian scientists are taking to the streets in protest of the Harper government’s latest cuts to scientific research and its increasingly backward environmental policies.

Over the last several weeks, the government has shut down major research institutions such as the iconic Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), eliminated funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science, and passed a budget bill which cuts government jobs for scientists and scraps pollution control programs.

The Harper government has made no bones about the energy future it envisions for Canada.  Alberta’s oil sands lay at the center of not only the government’s energy plan, but also its economic plan.  Now, it is becoming abundantly clear that if environmental protections get in the way of this plan, they wil be removed.  Hence Canada’s withdrawl from the Kyoto Accord and its awful record at international negotiations on a new, legally-binding climate pact.

Scientists have reached their boiling point.  In their second act of protest in less than a month, scientists have donned white laboratory coats today and are walking the streets of the nation’s capital.

The UK‘s Guardian newspaper has captured some of the sentiment from Canada’s environmental scientific community.

Andrew Weaver a climate scientist at the Uinversity of Victoria told the Guardian: 

It’s not about saving money. It’s about imposing ideology. What’s happening here is that the government has an ideological agenda to develop the Canadian economy based on the extraction of oil out of the ALberta tar sands as quickly as possible and sell it as fast as it can, come hell and high water, and eliminate any barriers that stand in their way.

Maude Barlow, the chair of the Council of Canadians, and a former United Nations advisor on water said:

The Harper government is the most environmetnally hostile one we have ever had in Canada. Harper pulled Canada out of the Kyoto protocol, gutted the Fisheries Act (our strongetst freshwater protection law), and hallowed out our environmental assessment legistlaion, making it easier for extractive industries to get licences to exploit. It is heartlessly shutting down a program that costs very little to run given the incredible benefits it brings, in order to silence the voices who speak for water.

Finally, John Smol, a freshwater lake biologist at Queens University shared his thoughts on the closure of the ELA:

In my view there are a lot of attempts in this country, and other countries too, to push through resource-based economies. People working at ELA are constantly finding reasons why you can’t just put a pipeline here, or an industry there, because there are going to be environmental costs.

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