Elizabeth May criticizes

Green Party leader condemns Harper’s policies on science

Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada, spoke at Robert Sutherland Hall yesterday on the Harper government and the muzzling of government scientists.

The event, attended by around 50 people, was organized by the School of Policy Studies.

The audience members, which included professors, students and members of the Kingston community, overflowed into the building’s hallways.

During her speech, May told the audience that the government research departments have been “contaminated” by political agendas, and that the federal Conservative government has eroded Canada’s democracy.

“We can’t believe what we read anymore,” May said.

“Evidence-based decision-making has changed to decision-making evidence making.”

She said the elimination of the long-form census, and the restriction of free speech afforded to government scientists has made the research data less available to the public.

The “first past the post” electoral system has encouraged partisanship and discouraged cooperation, she added. In particular, she said, Members of Parliament have to vote according to party lines rather than for their constituents.

“It’s a new dictatorship punctuated by elections,” she said.

May also spoke about the state of the media, and criticized the coverage of climate change and the slow erosion of Canadian democracy.

“The most important news stories aren’t being covered at all,” she said.

May told the Journal following her talk that the crossing of the 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere wasn’t covered at all by media outlets, despite its severe consequences.

Parts per million of carbon dioxide refers to the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The atmosphere had approximately 315 ppm of carbon dioxide in 1958, when measurements of carbon dioxide levels began.

“It was covered in the Guardian, Le Monde and all around the world. But not in Canada,” she said.

She said the issue muzzling scientists has gained traction because of scientists who organized the Death of Evidence rallies in Ottawa and other cities.

The rallies protested the closing of the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario, as well as slashes to scientific research.

The media also doesn’t cover the inaccuracy of scientific reports sent out by the Prime Minister’s Office, resulting in valuable information being ignored, she said.

“Part of the problem is that the concentration of vertically concentrated corporate power in the media is not covered by the media,” May said.

She said social media, which isn’t controlled by corporate conglomerates, as well as online media sources are better sources of information than national newspapers.

“A lot of it has to come grassroots up, because it is very difficult to get the media to cover the national crisis,” she said.

According to May, the level of discourse in the media also has to change.

“That’s the way Harper manipulates people, to make them fearful,” she said.

She said Canada needs to look at systemic problems, and solve problems cooperatively.

An example, she said, would be investing in earlier education to deal with crime from the bottom up. “The sound bites of the intolerant keep underlining the idea that we are divided and fearful,” May said.

“In reality, Canadians are quite united, quite helpful and not just tolerant, but accepting of others.”

As for undergraduate students, she said, they should develop habits of “effective citizenship”, which includes voting in elections, writing to editors and conducting their own research.

“Don’t think of yourself as a consumer or even a taxpayer,” May said.

“Think of yourself as a citizen with tremendous power, who can make a difference.”

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