Coverup pattern is disturbing

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It’s not surprising to hear the federal government is being challenged on practices that keep scientists quiet on controversial issues. It’s a pattern Canadians are growing used to, making charges of operating in secrecy that much more troubling.

The office of Suzanne Legault, federal information commissioner, will be investigating policies some claim are muzzling federal scientists. The complaint was lodged by the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and the ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch.

Charges about the Harper government being tough on civil service whistle blowers are not new. They’ve come up in regard to food inspection practices.

Also, at cross-purposes with the spirit of open government – in this case relating to finances – the first-ever parliamentary budget officer recently finished his appointed term on a sour note. Kevin Page went to Federal Court to force government release of departmental details of spending cuts announced in last year’s budget.

Canadians continue to ask: why create such an office only to thwart efforts to make government spending transparent? Was a government lap dog the intent? If so, Page surprised them – and pleased average citizens.

On the subject of allegedly muzzling scientists on environmental topics – what an interesting time for that to happen. The federal government was roundly criticized last year for changes to environmental regulation brought forward in its infamous Omnibus Bill.

The government claimed the changes were in the interests of streamlining the process for resource development, but not everyone agrees.

And that is precisely the reason why the country depends on experts, such as scientists employed by the government, to deliver honest opinions on projects that could affect them, their neighbourhoods, their forests, the air they breathe and the water they drink.

The feds might hope Canadians aren’t paying attention, but pull the same stunt enough times and they will.

Organizations: University of Victoria, Federal Court

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