Trashing science

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To save the equivalent of one forty-fifth of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s security costs, the federal government is closing seven of 11 fisheries libraries and discarding hundreds of reports and scientific material in the process.

Saving the libraries would mean an extra $443,000 a year in costs. Security for Harper will cost $20 million this year, double what it cost to protect a prime minister in 2006.

That sort of tells you what the federal government thinks is important, and what it couldn’t care less about.

The libraries that are being closed include the fisheries library in this province, which offered to give away volumes of research documents before sending some to Halifax and ditching the rest — or, as a spokesman described it  when The Telegram reported on the closure in September, having them “disposed of in an environmentally appropriate manner.”

Oh well — at least dumping volumes of knowledge about the marine environment won’t hurt some other environment. Heaven forbid we worry about the world-class ocean science library closed in the White Hills, the unique and specialized freshwater fisheries library shuttered in Manitoba or the specialized and recently refurbished St. Andrews Biological Station Library.

But it’s not only federal fisheries libraries that are being gutted. Other science libraries in different departments are also being radically, and rapidly, shut down.

Former fisheries minister Tom Siddon probably said it best during a CBC interview, when he called the move “Orwellian, because some might suspect that it’s driven by a notion to exterminate all unpopular scientific findings that interfere with the government’s economic objectives.”

This government has shown it is happy enough to cut research funding, muzzle and lay off scientists — now, it’s getting rid of research, as well. Scientists have classed the closures as rushed and chaotic, and the choice to destroy records , inexplicable.

One 30-year veteran scientist said this to online magazine The Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk: “I was sickened … All that intellectual capital is now gone. It’s like a book burning. It’s the destruction of our cultural heritage. It just makes us poorer as a nation.”

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea took umbrage — not at the destruction of books, but at the terminology.

She issued a shirty news release on Tuesday, saying, “Duplicate materials, including books, from the libraries being consolidated were offered to other libraries and third parties if they wanted them. They were also offered to the DFO staff on site at the library, then offered to the general public, and finally were recycled in a ‘green’ fashion if there were no takers. It is absolutely false to insinuate that any books were burnt.”

Perhaps Shea’s ability to add insult to injury was shown best by the last line of her news release: “Our government is proud to stand up for taxpayers while retaining our important scientific knowledge.”

Whatever. If you say it over and over enough times, maybe you can pretend what you’re saying is true.

Organizations: The Telegram, Andrews Biological Station Library.But, CBC DFO

Geographic location: Halifax, White Hills, Manitoba

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Recent comments

  • Ed Power
    January 13, 2014 - 06:42

    The systemic assault on science, and the implementation of public policy decisions based on ideology and short-term political gain rather than empirical evidence, will haunt us for decades. What can one expect, really, from a government which is comprised of kooks, cranks and Creationists? No need to worry about climate change or development-driven environmental degradation - the Lord will be returning soon to sort it ball out....

  • Skeptical Cynic
    January 11, 2014 - 22:42

    Those Canadians who believe in a free-thinking and enlightened democracy can only hope that 2015 will see the Harperite scourge finally expunged.

  • sad_but_true
    January 11, 2014 - 09:29

    "We don't burn books, we dispose of them of them in an environmentally appropriate manner". - made up quote Yet another example of the Harper government's attempt to control all information, even (especially?) scientific, for their own agenda. Thanks for exposing this.