Ottawa, February 6, 2014 - Canadians hoping to gauge the hazards of the Harper government’s ongoing budget cuts need look no further than the impact of the cuts on government science, concludes a new report by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) titled “Vanishing Science,” based on recent, separate surveys of federal government scientists and the public.
According to newly released data from a survey conducted by Environics Research, over 9 out of 10 federal government scientists (91%) believe cuts to federal science budgets – most of which take effect over the next few years – will have a detrimental impact on the federal government’s ability to serve the public. (Over half – 51% – already believe the impact to be very detrimental.) Moreover, the cuts are strangely at odds with the science priorities of the overwhelming majority of Canadians. A recent poll of Canadians, also conducted by Environics, reveals that nearly three-quarters (73%) believe public health, safety and protection of the environment should be the government’s top science priorities – some of the very areas that have come in for the severest cuts.
The report also reveals:
a significant majority of Environment Canada scientists (69%) believe Canada is doing a worse job of environmental protection than 5 years ago,
nearly 9 out of 10 scientists (86%) at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans believe recent changes to the Fisheries Act will hamper Canada’s ability to protect fish and fish habitat, and
8 out of 10 scientists (80%) at the National Research Council believe Canada has done a worse job over the past 5 years of advancing our international standing in technology and innovation, an area the Harper government has particularly touted as important to the economy and that includes so-called “basic research” – which the government has all but defunded.
Between FY 2012/13 and FY 2015/16, a total of $2.6 billion is slated to be cut department-wide from 10 federal science-based departments and agencies alone, of which $758.1 million has been cut so far. The cuts have already led to the loss of thousands of federal science jobs, and the elimination or reduction of scores of programs and vital resources. They have also led to the loss of some of the best and brightest scientific minds from government, including:
Dr. Michael Arts, an international authority on the health of aquatic ecosystems,
Dr. Kenneth Lee, once the country’s foremost oil spill expert who spent four months providing scientific expertise to efforts at cleaning up the 2010 Gulf oil spill, and
Jean-Pierre Gagnon, a former engineer with Transport Canada and one of North America’s leading experts on train cars carrying dangerous goods. Gagnon received an “affected” notice in April 2012 and left the federal government the following March 2013, shortly after convening a meeting with industry about the safety of the DOT-111 rail tank car – the same rail tank cars at the centre of investigations into the Lac-Mégantic tragedy of July 6, 2013.
“The Harper government’s efforts to balance the federal budget in time for the 2015 election are being built on deep, unpopular cuts to public science that put at risk Canadians’ health, safety and the environment,” said PIPSC President Debi Daviau. “These are not cuts to ‘back office operations,’ as the Finance Minister described them in 2012 – not unless by ‘back office’ he means Canada’s natural environment, air and water quality, the survival of other species, and the health and safety of all Canadians.”
Invitations to participate in the online survey of federal scientists, hosted by Environics Research, were sent to 15,398 PIPSC members – scientists, researchers and engineers – engaged in scientific work in over 40 federal departments and agencies. Of these, 4,069 (26%) responded between June 5 and 19, 2013. The survey is considered accurate + or – 1.6%, 19 times out of 20. A shorter public opinion survey was conducted by Environics of 1,003 Canadians between November 14 and 20, 2013. The results are considered accurate + or – 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada represents some 55,000 professionals and scientists across Canada’s public sector.
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For further information:
Johanne Fillion, (613) 228-6310 ext 2303 or (613) 883-4900 (cell)
Download the full report
News Release. January 28, 2014
(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver – January 28, 2014) On January 17, 2014, Justice Patrick Smith of the Specific Claims Tribunal issued his decision in Aundeck Omni Kaning v. Canada, finding that Canada's unilateral, take-it-or-leave-it approach to the resolution of specific claims represents a blatant refusal to negotiate and undermines the Honour of the Crown in its dealings with First Nations.
"The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has carefully reviewed the decision and it is clear it is a damning picture of the Government of Canada's fundamental lack of respect and commitment to resolving specific claims and bringing about true reconciliation between First Nations and the Crown. Specific claims can only be resolved through meaningful engagement not through abusing the very process of specific claims resolution Canada imposed on First Nations," stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. "We stand with the Aundeck Omni Kaning in their efforts hold Canada to account.”
In his decision, Justice Smith observed Canada's position is:
"frankly, paternalistic, self-serving, arbitrary and disrespectful of First Nations. It falls short of upholding the honour of the Crown, and its implied principle of "good faith" required in all negotiations Canada undertakes with First Nations. Such a position affords no room for the principles of reconciliation, accommodation and consultation that the Supreme Court, in many decisions, has described as being the foundation of Canada's relationship with First Nations. "
Chief Maureen Chapman, Chair of the BC Specific Claims Working Group commented "We, as First Nations, engaged in Canada's process to resolve our specific claims because we hoped that Canada would keep its promise to negotiate. To truly resolve these past wrongs, the claims must be heard. There is no place for unilateralism in a process intended to bring about reconciliation. There is no place for bullying and strong-arming when the honour of the Crown is at stake."
The decision is a scathing critique of Canada's process for resolving many specific claims – those it unilaterally deems to be of small value. The specific claims process was created to resolve Canada's past lawful obligations through negotiations and to bring about meaningful reconciliation between First Nations and the Crown.
Since 2008, 86% of claims are now rejected outright or their files are arbitrarily closed (up from 44%). At least 20% of the claims currently under review at the Tribunal are the subjects of file closures as are 30% of claims listed as "concluded" by the specific claims branch.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip (604) 684-0231
UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Read more: Judge Exposes Harper Government's "paternalistic, self serving, arbitrary" approach to First Nations
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