Why Stephen Harper thinks he’s smarter than the experts - Macleans.ca

Why Stephen Harper thinks he’s smarter than the experts

On everything from the census to climate change, taxation and crime


An outsider to Stephen Harper’s Ottawa might easily be forgiven for assuming that this summer’s uproar over the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap the long-form census was an isolated event. How could a debate, no matter how heated, over the way government gathers statistics signify much beyond the argument’s own peculiar details? But ask prominent scientists and researchers who’ve struggled to influence federal policy over the past few years, and they’ll quickly link the census flap to wider misgivings about how the Harper government uses data and evidence—or refuses to—in shaping policy.

On sensitive files from crime to health, taxation to climate, the Harper government has often clashed with experts who argue the fruits of their research are undervalued by the Conservatives in the development of new laws and regulations. “I think,” says Gordon McBean, a University of Western Ontario geography professor and internationally respected climate-change scientist, “there is a significant problem—unwillingness to entertain, or invite, or listen to, people who are experts in their fields and want to provide advice and guidance to the government.”

Since he’s a prominent advocate for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, McBean might be suspected of merely having an axe to grind, considering the Harper government’s track record of hesitant steps, at most, on the global warming file. But it’s not just that frustrated academics turn resentful when Conservatives look skeptically, even dismissively, at the recommendations that flow from their work. In fact, the Prime Minister and some of his closest advisers have occasionally expressed reservations about letting expert views directly inform their policies.

During the 2008 election campaign, Harper boasted that his party’s platform was grounded in real-world experience. “Grand blueprints that have been done on the blackboard,” he said, “endorsed by experts with no practical experience in the economy or society, are disastrous.” Harper added that he had steered away from that kind of expert-approved policy-making, at precisely the point when Stéphane Dion, then Liberal leader, was moving his party toward it with his elaborate “green shift” plan to tax carbon.

Painful experience lay behind Harper’s conscious move away from the influence of academic research. His former chief of staff, Ian Brodie, talked candidly about the transition at Montreal’s McGill University last year, in a panel discussion on the role of evidence in policy-making. Brodie recounted how Harper had run in the 2004 election on a tax-cuts platform carefully constructed along lines favoured by tenured economists. “We promised a comprehensive system of moving brackets around, cutting bracket rates, multi-year this, multi-year that, a corporate income tax cut as well,” he said. “A program so well thought out that even the people who wrote it can’t remember the details now.”

The Conservatives lost that election. The setback, Brodie explained, led Harper and his advisers to radically rethink their approach. By the 2006 campaign, Harper was pitching a simple idea, cutting the Goods and Services Tax, which was almost unanimously opposed by mainstream economists. But if experts would have overwhelmingly preferred reducing the tax burden on income and investment, voters liked the sound of Harper’s uncomplicated pledge to slash the widely resented consumption tax. That GST promise helped them win, and Harper’s team learned to treat conventional wisdom among specialists with a certain disdain.

On another key Tory policy theme—law and order—Brodie touted conflict with academics as good politics. Most university criminologists say there’s no evidence to back up the Tories’ heavy emphasis on imposing longer prison terms. They point to studies showing that more jail time doesn’t reduce crime. At the McGill panel, though, Brodie said voters tend to side with Conservatives when they argue with “sociologists, criminologists, defence lawyers and Liberals” about prison terms. “Politically, it helped us tremendously,” he said, “to be attacked by this coalition of university types.”

So not only do Harper’s advisers suspect that following expert advice leads to unsaleable policies, they also think battling the experts can boost their popular standing. In the census controversy they seem willing, almost eager, to take on virtually the entire Canadian research establishment. Among the many groups arguing for keeping the mandatory long-form census, which Harper is turning into a less reliable voluntary survey, are the Canadian Economics Association’s executive, the C.D. Howe Institute’s president, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Institute of Planners.

The National Statistics Council found itself in perhaps the strangest position. The 40-member expert group is appointed by the government, supposedly to provide advice on statistical matters. But when it came to deep-sixing the long-form census—the most consequential federal policy change on stats in memory—the council was kept entirely in the dark until the decision was announced. One of its best-known members, former Finance Department and TD Bank Financial Group economist Don Drummond, said discovering they had been frozen out was “shocking.”

Experts who had already experienced the Harper government’s cold shoulder might not have been so surprised. McBean chairs a group called the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. It was set up by the previous Liberal government in 2000 to fund research, much of it related to global warming. Given that pedigree, it’s no surprise the foundation wasn’t instantly embraced by the Tories when they won power in 2006. Still, McBean was taken aback by the thoroughness of his shunning by Harper’s first two environment ministers, Rona Ambrose and John Baird. “They absolutely and totally refused to ever meet with me,” he says. “Or have a telephone discussion. Or even acknowledge any piece of information I ever sent them.”

Jim Prentice, the Calgary MP named environment minister in the fall of 2008, cautiously reopened the lines of communication. Prentice has met twice with McBean, who says “at least there has been a dialogue.” But the government provided no new money to his foundation in its 2010 budget, which McBean described as “basically the nightmare scenario for scientists across the country.” Projects, from a study of shrinking British Columbia mountain glaciers to climate monitoring on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic, are in jeopardy unless Ottawa gives the foundation enough funding, likely tens of millions, to survive in next year’s budget.

If there’s a glimmer of hope for a thaw in the government’s icy relationship with climate scientists, criminologists report undiminished antagonism. “They have a very strange antipathy to science and to evidence-based policy-making,” says Neil Boyd, a criminology professor at B.C.’s Simon Fraser University. Boyd is among those who say the government ignored research by making mandatory minimum sentences the core of its tough-on-crime agenda. In fact, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s office admits studies are “inconclusive” on whether more prison time results in less crime. Nicholson stresses less measurable benefits, such as making sure “victims feel that justice has been rendered.”

Another sore point is the Conservatives’ staunch opposition to Vancouver’s pioneering safe-injection site for intravenous drug users. They want to shut down the facility, called Insite, but a B.C. court ruled it falls under the province’s jurisdiction over health. Ottawa has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, which recently agreed to hear the case. B.C. Health Minister Kevin Falcon slammed Ottawa for refusing to drop the case in the face of “very widespread independent medical journal support” for Insite.

Assessing how researchers and policy analysts on the federal payroll feel about such outside criticisms is difficult. The government has tightened rules requiring them to get permission to talk to reporters. Outsiders who work with them report frustration, though. “I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people who work in Justice and Health are pretty horrified by the lack of respect for evidence-based policy,” Boyd says. In an extreme case, a bureaucrat can always quit, as Munir Sheikh, Statistics Canada’s chief statistician, did over the cancelling of the long-form census. Career-ending personal protests, though, are unlikely to drive change.

What’s needed, McBean says, is patient, authoritative advocacy. Unfortunately, he adds, Canada lacks a body like the U.S. National Academy of Sciences that reliably commands high-level attention.

Nor does science have a designated voice at the Canadian government’s pinnacle. Former prime minister Paul Martin established the position of national science adviser, but Harper eliminated the job in 2007. “It was,” McBean says, “a very strong indication of the lack of interest in having scientific input at the centre.” And it meant the Prime Minister’s Office went back to having no senior official comparable to a U.S. president’s science adviser, a prestigious White House post created in 1976.

Not surprisingly, the Conservatives deny they sell science short. Back in 2008, for example, after the prestigious British journal Nature slammed what it called Harper’s “manifest disregard for science,” Tories stressed how the PM’s axed science adviser had been replaced by a whole council of advisers to the industry minister, drawn from the top ranks of companies and universities. As well, on highly charged issues like climate and crime, experts can’t credibly claim to be dispassionately neutral on the political implications of their research. “It is easy,” observes Rainer Knopff, a political science professor at the University of Calgary with ties to Harper’s circle, “and intuitively attractive, to see ‘interest’ behind political actions and ‘disinterested reason’ behind ‘expert’ actions.” But even on the census, Knopff points out, “vested interests and bureaucrat inertia” are plausible reasons for at least some of this summer’s resistance to change.

The ambivalent signals Harper’s government sends about science and research, data and independent analysis haven’t noticeably cost him politically. At least, not until the census move blew up, unexpectedly uniting experts in unrelated fields around their devotion to reliable data. It would be even more unexpected if such a seemingly arcane debate sparked a broader one, around the most fundamental questions about the basis on which the government develops and justifies its policies.


Why Stephen Harper thinks he’s smarter than the experts

  1. "Most university criminologists say there's no evidence to back up the Tories' heavy emphasis on imposing longer prison terms. They point to studies showing that more jail time doesn't reduce crime."

    There are a number of factors when considering justice while criminologists only seem to care whether criminals are turned into suburban dads who spend their weekends puttering in garden. If criminals are not magically transformed into something they are not, criminologists and others whinge about jail not working and who cares about victims, their families or the social contract the criminals have broken with society.

    And criminals commit crimes – if they are in jail, they are not committing even more crimes – how does that not reduce crime?

    I can't believe Maclean's printed this article. Academics and others complaining that Harper hasn't called them, like they are the only 'experts' in Canada.

    This column also made me think of how the Left has no fringe, unlike conservatives. The Left claiming ownership of 'reality', the rest of us live in dreamland apparently, and Geddes adds to the caviling. This is about what I expect from Geddes but Maclean's should do better.

    • But when the criminals get out of jail, what do they then do? "Go straight"? Or commit more crimes?

      Nearly half of the offenders in the federal system were in their 20s when sent away. They are overwhelmingly poorly-educated, drug users, have no work history, and quite often have mental health issues.

      You've got two choices, put broadly: you can keep them in prison, or you can let them out eventually. If you let 'em out eventually, wouldn't you prefer to put someone out on the street with some work skills, some ability to stay off drugs and on their meds, and will show up at work on time and not punch out their coworker if they get irritated? Or would you rather put out on the street offenders with no work skills, a continuing drug habit, untreated mental illness, and who are tougher, angrier, and hot for revenge against the system that treated them like crap for the last x years?

      I know which I'd prefer.

      • You act as if those two options are diametrically opposed.

        Could longer sentences ensure more treatment? Considering the wobbly estimate we have received on the increase cost of housing criminals, what is there say this cost does not also include treatment?

        There is this false idea that mandatory sentence means no treatment, while their is no evidence of such claims.

        I think 2 and half years is not sufficient for a child molester of 4 years? It is the more vicious crimes the government seeks to add mandatory timed too. Not petty a thief.

        • Mandatory sentences, by definition, do not involve treatment, because if treatment is successful, then keeping the person in our violence schools for longer than necessary is detrimental.

          As for your specific example, check average sentencing, not minimums.

          • Congratulations on one of the most insipid comments in human history.

          • Dude there's a guy making an abortion comparison like six inches below this…

          • "In human history"?!?!

            Would that be in the top twenty? the top ten?
            Are we talking modern history of the west, or all of history for all of human civilisation?
            You must have one hell of a database

          • Harper's CMIS; the Conservatives don't want StatsCan to have any information because they want to keep it all to themselves.

            "…But the Conservatives use a single clearing house for all data collection, storage, datamining, mailing lists, voter tracking and any other partisan use such information may serve…"

          • Sorry, that's CIMS:

            "…Since its so secure, you can imagine why I might be startled to find out that journalists have access to some of my membership data – data which can only come from CIMS…"

        • Sorry, but I said "you've got two choices, put broadly." The choices aren't diametrically opposed. But I would suspect there's little to be gained teaching someone cognitive skills for 20 years. If they didn't get it in year 1, 2, 5, 8…

          It's not that mandatory sentences mean no treatment. It's that currently, the federal government is working towards mandatory and longer sentences and reducing the number of treatment options available. Just today, the final prison farm closed, for example, in Kingston. The farms were widely acknowledged to do good for the offenders, and they provided opportunities to supply food and beverages to not only the prisons, but to food banks, homeless shelters, etc. And yet they were closed. Likely viewed by some as not punishing enough.

    • Not dreamland, no-evidence-land. It's the government that tries to play the "safety"card without evidence. If they stuck to the real reasons behind their 'law and order' policies – such as satisfying our visceral urges for mob justice – it'd be much more honest. But they don't have the courage of their convictions. Maybe you should go complain to them a bit too.

      • "Maybe you should go complain to them a bit too."

        I do. A few times a year I email my MP/P, and Prime Minister, to let them know they are wankers who are not fit for purpose.

        "Not dreamland, no-evidence-land."

        I just think it is absurd for Liberals/liberals to decide that they are reality based while the rest of us are fantastical because it is nonsense on stilts. The left is no more enamored of science and knowledge than the right is – both sides just pick and choose facts that bolster their world view while ignoring the rest.

        “Where you stand depends on where you sit” ~ Nelson Mandela

        • " The left is no more enamored of science and knowledge than the right"

          Um, it's explicit strategy of our right wing federal party to be pitted against scholars and experts where possible. You have no hesitation in dismissing entire fields of research as bunk and nonsense. Tell me again how everyone's the same?

          • Wait for it…. Adscam! Adscam! The Liberals did it first! Waaaaah!

          • "Tell me again how everyone's the same?"

            I am glad to, Sean. Everyone is the same!

            I don't know about you specifically Sean but most liberals are pro-choice and anti-death penalty.

            I wonder what 'evidence' led all these liberals to believe that convicted murderers are more worthy of protection from The State than innocent babies are.

            Or how many liberals want to ban certain kinds of food because of obesity epidemic when it has been abundantly illustrated that genes have far more to do with weight than diet.

            This list can go on and on, Sean. From my perspective, liberals are the fantasists because they are trying to create a world that can't possibly exist because liberals have poor grasp of what people are like.

            Everyone, and I include myself, has their own personal sense of reality so it is fruitless to try and claim 'reality' for a group that includes more than one person.

          • When in doubt, turn to abortion, eh jolyon?

          • Better than turning to Engels.

          • Never did take my advice to read "Conditions of the Working Class in England" I gather?

            That's a pity, it really is a wonderful historical document.

            (In case you ever change your mind, here's a link – you don't even have to pay for it! http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/c

          • " it is fruitless to try and claim 'reality' for a group that includes more than one person"

            Nihilism? Really? That's great for a first-year philosophy paper, but not so useful for debating the nature of society we might want to strive for.

            It certainly explains your allergy to evidence and scholarly research.

          • Liberals and progressives are the nihilists in comparison with conservatives, at least in Canada. It is not conservatives who have been on quest to create new Canadian society over the past forty to fifty years.

            But I was not really thinking of it that way, Sean. All I was thinking of was confirmation bias and how we are all prone to it. It is only liberals, progressives and so-cons who are unaware of it, however, because they all seem to believe they have got the answers to world's problems.

            "Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true. As a result, people gather evidence and recall information from memory selectively, and interpret it in a biased way. The biases appear in particular for emotionally significant issues and for established beliefs." Wiki

          • The whole point of evidence and peer-reviewed scholarly research to overcome such problems in creating and assessing public policy. You're quite right that no particular group or party is immune to it, but tea party neocon types have embraced it, wearing their dismissal of evidence and expertise as a badge of honour (or more perniciously, as a cynical partisan tool).

          • You are a technocrat, Sean. You and your numbers. I am talking about what evidence or peer reviewed scholarly research you choose to follow. There are all kinds of studies, it just depends on which ones you choose to believe/follow. Confirmation bias.

            Liberals believe we should have national food program – that will cost tens of milllions $$$ – with one objective to fight obesity, even though obesity is strongly tied to genes.

            If Liberals are all about evidence based policy why waste money on food policy to fight obesity when it is mainly controlled by genes?

            "Is obesity all in your head? New research suggests that genes that predispose people to obesity act in the brain and that perhaps some people are simply hardwired to overeat.

            A genetic study of more than 90,000 people has identified six new genetic variants that are associated with increased Body Mass Index (BMI), the most commonly used measure of obesity. Five of the genes are known to be active in the brain, suggesting that many genetic variants implicated in obesity might affect behaviour, rather than the chemical processes of energy or fat metabolism." Science Daily (Dec. 15, 2008)

            And here is one article on peer review. There are plenty more like it.

            "Unfortunately, even with the best will in the world, peer reviewing is rarely an entirely disinterested process. All too often the system of peer review is infused with vested interests. As many of my colleagues in academia know, peer reviewing is frequently carried out through a kind of mates' club, between friends and acquaintances, and all too often the question of who gets published and who gets rejected is determined by who you know and where you stand in a particular academic debate.

            Peer reviewing cannot remain immune to the preoccupations, agenda and interests of the individuals who carry it out."

          • "If Liberals are all about evidence based policy why waste money on food policy to fight obesity when it is mainly controlled by genes? "

            So, obesity rates haven't risen, or if they have, it's because the proportion of the population carrying those genes is increasing?

          • Or the genes were always there but food was expensive. Now that it is cheap, in the Western World at least, and people are eating more they can fulfill their genetic destiny to be obese.

          • So then, it is possible to address the problem.

          • BTW, can you provide the peer-reviewed science that concludes that people with "fat" genes didn't previously get fat because they couldn't afford to?

          • And how come some people's fat genes reside mostly in their heads?

          • There is great book review of Thomas Sowell's Intellectuals and Society that might explain better where tea party types are coming from with their disdain for academics, particularly the final paragraph about foolishness.

            "Thanks to the expansion of tertiary education, there are more intellectuals, or perhaps people with intellectual pretensions, credentials and careers, than ever before. However, the sum of human wisdom has not been much increased by this proliferation of intellectuals, rather the reverse ……

            Intellectuals, like everyone else, live and work in a marketplace. In order to get noticed they must say things which have not been said before, or at least say them in a different manner.

            No one is likely to obtain many plaudits for the rather obvious, indeed self-evident, thought that a street robber cannot commit street robberies while he is in prison; but an intellectual who first demonstrates that the cause of an increase in street robbery is the increase in the amount of property that law-abiding pedestrians have on them as they walk in the streets is likely to be hailed, at least until the next idea comes along.

            Thus, while there are no penalties for being foolish, there are severe penalties (at least in career terms) for being obvious. This automatically increases the propensity of intellectuals to espouse extreme or preposterous ideas that would never occur to anyone obliged by circumstances to keep their feet on the ground."

          • berkamp says, “It is only liberals, progressives and so-cons who are unaware of it, however, because they all seem to believe they have got the answers to world's problems.”.

            The sad thing is that it is the likes of Prime Monster Harper and his Canadian Republican / Reform Alliance Party neocons who are the ones that create the problems.

          • I probably shouldn't bother taking this seriously, but.

            The evidence, for me, behind eliminating the death penalty comes from the reams and reams of studies indicating that justice systems make mistakes. People are fallible, systems are fallible. Having the state, in each case, potentially kill the wrong person isn't worth it, especially because there's no evidence on the other side. Experts don't think deterrence works, and it doesn't fit with "gut feelings" if you rally think about it, either; people who commit murder aren't thinking about the consequences the same way we do when we buy a car. Thus, you're left with the inevitability that the state will incorrectly kill, up against, as the article said, some vague feeling that people should feel justice, and that "just feeling" cannot come from life imprisonment.

            Abortion, on the other hand, is simply beyond expertise. No one can "prove" whether a foetus is a person with full rights, any more than they can "prove" that it's not. In this scenario, fundamentalists' guts tell them one thing, whereas liberals' tell them we have to leave the incredibly challenging moral decision to the women who we would otherwise force into continuing a pregnancy, which is clearly a huge interference with the liberty the right spouts off about half the time.

            Finally, your logic is faulty. Even if liberals have positions that lack clear expert consensus behind them it doesn't mean they're as troglodytic as this government. It means there are cases without scientific conclusions, or cases where a moral imperative leads liberals to ignore a consensus. No one, in this article or elsewhere, is saying that because the Cons don't always do what experts want they're wrong; what people with their heads on straight are saying is that the Cons are on a longterm trend of ignoring and belittling expert advice so they can just always do what they think is political saleable to their base. It's unprincipled, uncaring, and inhuman.

      • This is purely insipid.

        If an individual has already been convicted twice of a violent offense under the current corrections regime, and is then convicted a third time, it becomes crystal clear that this individual has not rehabilitated, and WILL NOT rehabilitate.

        Yet when the Tories moved to have three-time violent offenders designated as dangerous offenders and incarcerated indefinitely, a parade of experts denounced it.

        Criminologists insisted that it wouldn't rehabilitate them. Liberal MPs suggested it violates criminal rights.

        It seems, these days, that being an "expert" doesn't seem to require any actual expertise — or even a grasp on common logic.

        • Why three? Why not just two strikes? (Also, you've maxed out the daily quota for the word 'insipid' – find another word – heck, make it one that actually means what you're trying to say.)

          • Trust me, "insipid" describes that comment — as well as yours — to a tee.

            The objective fact is that we AREN'T discussing "just two strikes". The proposal is three.

            If you'd prefer two, that's up to you. But somehow, it seems you're really just trying to be relentlessly contrarian.

        • Because the "three strikes" proposal barely makes sense, especially when it comes to violent crime.

          No one can commit murder or manslaughter three times without being labelled a dangerous offender.

          If you attempted to kill three times you would be a dangerous offender.

          Habitual sex offenders can already be labelled dangerous offenders.

          The list goes on: breaking and entering, robbery, assault, bodily harm, trafficking, child pornography, using firearms to commit an offense, assaulting a peace officer, torture, forcible confinement, kidnapping etc. etc.

          Any crime of violence against others can already list a repeat offender as a dangerous offender.

          "Three strike" laws do nothing but to remove the discretion of a judge to differentiate between someone who stole bread and someone who stole big screen tvs.

          • But that's actually the difference between the US three-strikes laws and the ones proposed by the Tories – their's only apply to violent crime. So neither a bread thief or a big screen tv thief needs to worry…

          • Except if you read the rest of my comment. You would know that there is already a "you've done this too many times so your going away permanently" factor for all violent crimes plus some, one of which is robbery. So the conservative "three strike" law is, at best, redundant, but really, just pointless.

          • The difference being that prior to the new law, this was considered discretionary, and that many jugges were continuing to decline to label offenders as violent after numerous offences.

            The Tory law establishes firm criteria: if you've committed three violent offences, you're done. It's the way it should be.

            You introduced the TV thief and the bread thief — to whom this law doesn't apply — to deliberately cloud the issue.

            You failed. So sad.

          • Now if only the objective fact wasn't that the "three strikes" proposal doesn't deal with the theft of big screen TVs, or with the theft of bread.

            It deals with violent crime.

            Do try to keep up.

          • "Do try to keep up."

            Interesting comment from someone who did a complete reading comprehension FAIL.

            As I stated for dear Bob up above: There is already a "you've done this too many times so your going away permanently" factor for all violent crimes plus some, one of which is robbery. It's called being labelled a dangerous offender.

            So the conservative "three strike" law is, at best, redundant, but really, just pointless. It was to score points with people like you; those who like to think they're tough on crime but lack the mental faculties to actually look up the existing laws.

          • The difference being that prior to the new law, this was considered discretionary, and that many jugges were continuing to decline to label offenders as violent after numerous offences.

            The Tory law establishes firm criteria: if you've committed three violent offences, you're done. It's the way it should be.

            There was no "reading comprehension failure". Your comment was treated with the contempt it deserves. You introduced the TV thief and the bread thief — to whom this law doesn't apply — to deliberately cloud the issue.

            You failed. So sad.

          • I would love to know how using a direct example of the importance of discretion when it comes to dangerous offenders is clouding the issue.

            Robbery is an offense can result in a dangerous offender label.

            Of course I wouldn't expect you to know the law or anything but robbery is "stealing" while using force, threatening violence, or using violence. So that person that steals the bread and happens to injure a shopkeeper while shoving them out of the way and the individual who shoots a night guard in order to steal a truck full of televisions would both be charged with robbery. Which, again, is a violent offense.

            Can you back up your assertion that judges are not using the dangerous offender label when it is warranted?

          • *snicker*

            So what you're telling me is that you can't justify involving the TV thief or the bread thief in your analysis without first making them a violent offender?

            Here's a little hint for you: once you transform the perpetrator into a violent offender, they're no longer a petty crook. Thus your argument that Tory legislation which, by design, applies only to violent offenders could also apply to petty criminals utterly crumbles.

            What is pertinent in your analysis as it regards this law is not the theft — it is the force. The use of force makes them a violent offender.

            Moreover, the criminal who steals a truckload of TVs is no longer a petty thief either. Considering the value of a TV set, the theft of so much as one will, under the vast majority of circumstances, qualify as theft over $1000. The value of a truckload of TVs could quite easily exceed $100,000. This is a clear case of Grand Larceny. Furthermore, in Canada this offense is a felony (as opposed to theft under $5000, which is a hybrid offense).

            As such, the maximum penalty for the theft of a truckload of TVs is 10 years. That is BEFORE one even factors in the violence used in the commission of the crime.

            This is before one even addresses the feat of goalpost-moving you've attempted here: start out by suggesting that this law could unjustifiably be used against petty criminals, only to later itnroduce an element that would render their offense more serious — essentially trying to sneak a petty criminal through the back door of your analysis, so to speak.

            Again, your argument deserves nothing more than contempt. If it didn't serve the purpose of demonstrating that you quite clearly know nearly nothing at all about criminal law, I wouldn't even justify it with a response.

            At this point, I have nothing to justify to you. I won't justify myself to someone who won't debate this topic in an honest manner.

            Run along. You're excused from any further humiliation.

            The next time you try to step to me you'd better be ready to come correct, or don't even bother.

          • Did that last sentence make sense to anybody?

          • I'm not shocked. The magnitude of the ass-whupping just administered, and you want to focus on a bit of slang in the closing sentence.

            It's called style, Holly. You might want to find some.

            While you're at it, get some ice for that ego of yours that I just bruised so badly.

          • You sound like a thirteen year old boy.

          • Does that really make you feel any better? The idea that your ideological cohort was vastly bested by a 13-year-old?

          • I think it's an interesting display of character, or lack thereof, when one's argument consists primarily of infantile gloating over perceived victories.

          • *snicker*

            If you say so.

            It's just clear at this point that you and your ideological cohorts are tired of getting your asses handed to you on a silver platter, and apparently your best response is to try to admonish me for not being ashamed at being so vastly superior.

            Cry me a river, Andrew. I feel like taking the canoe out.

          • My ego feels no harm at all from the stylings of a snotty little brat who regularly humiliated himself at Canadian Cynic. It's not like you have anything to say worth reading.

          • *snicker*

            You know, that says a lot more about you than it does about me.

            For example, it tells us that you're the kind of intellectual weakling who slavishly applauds any lie that a guy like Robert Peter John Day cares to tell.

            The last time I checked in with ol' Robbie, he was ordering his minions not to let me comment because he was tired of losing. It was a suitably pathetic last resort for such a pathetic individual.

    • You are sooo right! Since when do these "experts" have a lock on what's really going on? This goes back to Harper not allowing the press quick access to the gov't all the time. Most of these "experts" have left-leaning opinions-ctv, cbc, university profs. etc. If the gov't allowed them to influence policy, there might as well be a Liberal gov't.

      • So evidence-based social policy is "liberal"? What does that say about the rationale behind Cons policy?

      • Pamelin Wallin and Mike Duffy are left leaning? Try again!

    • This is ingrained in Canadian 'thinking'…let the experts take care of us. It stems from our beginnings as a colony and a company town. The betters know better than you stupid commoners, and of course none of the 'experts' have their own agendas.

      • In their specific fields, the betters often do know better.

        But you go ahead believing in the flat earth all you like. Those of us who get the real work done know to look toward the people who've spent time specializing to gain the actual facts.

      • This is ingrained in Canadian 'thinking'…let the experts take care of us.

        When I have a health problem, I go to my doctor, not to the local barber or the guy who lives down the street who watches "House" a lot. Clearly, this means that I am a captive of the nanny state.

        • And there are no doctors who are wrong. You should go to that woman doc who had cataracts and performed all those unnecessary surgeries.

          • So when you're sick, who do you ask for help?

          • I try to look for somebody with a master's in economics from the University of Calgary. Everybody else is just stuck up.

          • If you were going to be sick, you'd have been sick by now.

          • It's not just an illness, it's a healing opportunity!

          • Try some of the political scientists there. Some of them think they know more than they really do.

          • So following your 'logic', we should have a physician PM for health care, an accountant PM for finance etc? Maybe we can get your wish and rid ourselves of all that messy 'democracy' altogether, afterall it's full of those lay people….people without university degrees who are actually allowed to vote…Even better, maybe we can get middle-aged columnists writing for marginal magazines to run the country. They seem to know EVERYTHING…

          • God, I love it when they don't get the joke.

          • I didn't realize this was a joke, perhaps you could get one of your Macleans approved experts to explain it to me.

          • I didn,t know that Prime Monster Harper has a Master's in Economics at the University of Calgary.

          • It is something of an achievement to earn a Master's; but he's never earned a living as an economist.

          • "So when you're sick, who do you ask for help? "

            Oh dear. That is SUCH a straight line…

          • An American doctor, that way I don't have to wait on a 2 year waiting list to see someone…or contract C Diff

          • Then move to the US and join your Republican friends.

          • I think Harper must have told his team to get onto every comment board around to spread the talking points. I can't believe how this article is overwhelmed by so many ignorant, uninformed commenters who won't quit.

    • This is an excellent, long, long overdue article. Kudos to Macleans for having the guts to print the truth. Finally. Harper cannot accept that he is not a popular person, not a likeable person, and that his political instincts tend towards the fascist. If he can't win with winner's style, then he'll take the place using lies. He does not have what it takes to be a GOOD Prime Minister. He has an ego the size of Manhattan, he is a spoiled, bullying, bad tempered brat that never grew up. He's so egotistical and his view on life is so warped, that he actually believes he doesn't have to use experts. It really makes me wonder what his parents are like.

      Any idiot knows that increasing jail terms is not going to reduce crime. We've known this for decades, more like a century.
      It's going to produce more criminals, more bitterness, more expertise in committing crimes – jail is known as Criminal U for godsake.

      To reduce crime you have to get at the root of crime, and that is the problems in society. It starts in childhood – children have to have stable homes, and most importantly, good education. Society should be constantly evolving in response to our knowledge, and to what is going on in the world. We're not living in 1930 any more, the world has changed from Stephen Harper's father's day – so we have to do things differently, relying on the advice of experts who are Canadian citizens, trying to improve the country.

      I can't believe how stupid Conservatives are. It's as if part of their brains are missing.

      • Well wave your magic wand then Margaret and eliminate all the problems of the world. Because if anyone can do it a Liberal can.
        Wait a minute…Haven't the Liberals been in power for about 90% of the time? How come they haven't made Canada into the utopia they think only they can?

        • How come the Conservatives haven't?

        • umm, well perhaps not utopia but "best country in the world" absolutely.


          Sorry that post was obsolete, i.e. from 2005. I wonder what happened in 2006 to change things?

        • Canada was Utopia until Prime Monster Harper and his Canadian Republican / Reform Alliance Party assumed power!

      • Margaret says, “I can't believe how stupid Conservatives are. It's as if part of their brains are missing.”

        I take issue with this comment. The words ' It's as if part of ‘ are unnecessary.

        As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.”

    • "Academics and others complaining that Harper hasn't called them, like they are the only 'experts' in Canada."

      Canada has experts in every field. People in the reality-based community think that they should be consulted on their field of expertise.

      The people the Conservatives appeal to think we need only one expert. His expertise is making you feel good. He tells you that he is being tough on crime, he tells you that we don't need to worry about the environment, he tells you that he's keeping taxes low and is careful about how he spends your money. No matter what the issue, his expertise is appropriate and sufficient to make sure you feel secure and comfortable. You can just drift off to sleep, and everything that's dear to you is safe in his hands.

      • Zesty Mordant says, “Canada has experts in every field. People in the reality-based community think that they should be consulted on their field of expertise.”

        Prime Monster Harper doesn't need experts in every field as he is the expert in all fields, for example, a) Human Rights – he rejected the United Nations Declaration of Human rights for Indigenous Peoples, and b) the Statistics Canada Long Form Census program – he knows betters than anyone what Canadians require. These are but two examples of where Harper's expertise is supreme.

    • I thumbed you down just to help you get to the milestone of -100

      That one got the thumbers humming, didn't it?

      • Thank you. I have never made it to -100 before, new milestone for me.

        It always amazes me what people get their knickers in a twist about.

        • Completely off topic bergkamp but I'm curious…why do you keep changing your name but keep telling us who you used to be? Isn't that kind of like wearing a "Witness Protection Program" T-shirt around?

          • I am not trying to hide. I reach 100 p in intense debate ranking, it feels like I am joining a club I don't want to belong to, so I delete my account and start again.

          • Ah, OK.

            I see you've tried a new strategy to avoid that from happening this time. :)

    • You're dealing with a tough crowd there Bergkamp though you make a good point. Those who disagree with you believe the “experts” when they say longer sentences don't work and that man made global warming is a proven beyond any doubt. That is because these “experts” are wise and honest and would never skew the data to fit their own bias. Meanwhile those same people think the Experts who believe we need to toughen our stance on crime and we should study the causes of global warming further before we commit to any drastic measures and dishonest quacks who shill for big oil and the Conservatives.

      • Spot on. Liberals are suffering from confirmation bias overload and have convinced themselves they are the only ones who deal in reality.

    • "And criminals commit crimes – if they are in jail, they are not committing even more crimes – how does that not reduce crime?"

      You're right! Why didn't we think of this sooner? Life sentences for EVERY CRIMINAL! Your keen insight and reasoning would undoubtedly act as the sorely needed lubricant to a broken policy-making engine.

      "There are a number of factors when considering justice while criminologists only seem to care whether criminals are turned into suburban dads who spend their weekends puttering in garden."

      Seriously – did a light fixture fall on your head just before you responded? First of all, you make about as much sense as Rush Limbaugh on a three week Oxycodone bender, and second, you use a weasel word (seem) in an effort to pass off your baseless (and clearly undereducated) opinion as having merit. Really? All criminologists feel the exact same way? I assume you base this confidence-lacking perspective (you did use the word "seem", after all) is the result of a formal poll of every known criminologist? Have you read even *one* criminologists perspective on the matter not conveniently provided to you by the very author against whic you are rallying?

      "I can't believe Maclean's printed this article. Academics and others complaining that Harper hasn't called them, like they are the only 'experts' in Canada."

      Again, not unlike a broken pencil, you're missing the point. Harper lately has shown he is bent on ignoring opinions from *all sources*, not merely academics – save for those who share his existing world view. To wit, Harper isn't calling anybody whose opinion wasn't first provided by Harper himself.

      Left or right, the mere act of agreeing with or defending a policy of ignorance of academic research betrays your total lack of commitment to thought. Perhaps this whole "reading" thing just really isn't your bag, sir.

    • PRISONS ARE CRIME SCHOOLS. I bet many of the criminals in our system started out in the youth facilities. If you think for one moment that some crimes do not originate from inside the walls of a prison think again. If we need proof and have a government that has abandoned expert opinion, just observe what is going on south of the border.
      Interesting that there is complete silence of the young girl who killed herself why in prison for years for throwing an apple at a postal worker….thank you CBC for trying to shed light on the dysfunction of our federal prison system. How many inquiries will we have to have to finally get justice and awareness of the madness of our prison system?

      • I bet many of the criminals in our system started out in the youth facilities.
        It is cute that you attempt to place 100% of the blame on the youth facilities, rather than offering some portion to the propensity towards criminal conduct on the part of the youth that manifests itself yet again in adulthood.

        If you think for one moment that some crimes do not originate from inside the walls of a prison think again.
        No sane person thinks that. Crimes cooked up in prison are hardly surprising. That's where the criminals are. But thanks for the straw man.

        YES, prisons are crime schools, and incubators for future crime, and thanks to visitation and smuggled cellphones, they are also warehouses of ongoing direction of criminal activity. NONE of that is a sane or valid argument in favour of reducing the punishment of criminal conduct through incarceration. There are indeed valid arguments in that direction. I'm just saying yours fail miserably.

  2. This was the same with Bush. It's a combination of trying to appeal to the non-elitists, i.e. people who never went to college or dropped out (ministers like Stockwell Day, Jason Kenney, Chuck Strahl, for example); a deep suspicion that most experts are left-leaning; a deep insecurity about his (i.e. Harper's) own intellectual abilities: and crass political expediency.

    It's easy to make policy based on short-term political calculations and focus groups. It's a lot harder to make policy on sound concepts and then try to spend time and political capital to build support.

    Like Bush Jr., Harper has demonstrated that he is, at his core, a lazy person, at least intellectually.

    • Exactly – I've felt that right from day 1 – that Harper is fundamentally a lazy person. He does not want to do the work – and because he's so lazy, he relies on little thugs to keep him informed in the way he wants to be informed.

      Therein lies his big problem. He's surrounded himself by yes-men, (and I'm sure they're all reading these comments now), and he only listens to what he wants to hear. Happens to all leaders to whom power matters more than anything. And pride goeth before a fall. I just hope it's one big Tsunami.

      There's going to be a country-wide party when this parasite is out of office.

      • Margaret — Harper is running the country, for heaven's sake. To suggest that he is "fundamentally a lazy person" is one of the more bizarre comments I have encountered. He may not do things to your liking, but I think he is a strong and well-informed leader who works very hard indeed. Trudeau is a much better example of a lazy PM — not bothering to pay much attention to portfolios that he was not interested in.

        PS — I do hope that you are not one of those who "only listens to what you want to hear."

        • I partly agree. It's hard to tell whether the PM is intellectually lazy, or whether he KNOWS the facts and just doesn't care, because it'll help him retain leadership of his party and gain votes from the right.

          • I hate to say it, but I think Harper is strategic, not lazy, and, as you say Jesse, knows the facts, but has probably calculated that there are more lower-educated existing or potential voters that he can appeal to. Like the Republicans, he has learned how to motive them to vote for him.

        • MaryLS21 says, “Harper is running the country, for heaven's sake.”

          Yes, Prime Monster Harper is running the country on the sound financial position that Paul Martin and Jean Chretien put in place after Brian Mulroney left Canada with a one year $43 billion deficit.

    • Like Bush Jr., Harper has demonstrated that he is, at his core, a lazy person, at least intellectually.

      I wouldn't say he was lazy. I would hypothesize that his goal isn't to govern the country effectively – his goals are to maximize power for himself and his party, and to impose his vision of Canada on the rest of us. He's working very hard to achieve these goals, not the ones that Canadians elected him to achieve.

      • I believe his goal is to "smallify" the role of government, which he can do by strangling its revenue streams (all taxes are bad) and starving it of the kind of information it needs to make sound policy ("experts" are out of touch with "reality")

    • I think Harper is anything but lazy– he's working overtime to yank Canadians by the scruff of the neck and pull them to his end of the spectrum. Luckily most Canadians are fairly wriggly and slip out of this attempt!

    • I do know about Harper, he is anything but lazy, Bush the second certainly was, especially in the way he choses his advisers and his administration place holders. At the end it was Bush inability to chose people who were competent over people he was comfortable with that ruined his administration. Can we say that about Harper? He does seems to take short cuts and does seem rely on the collective "gut feeling" of his advisor and caucus over making decisions based on a careful analysis. It would be from a conservative point of view but if an analysis was carefully done the decision would be a wiser and more defensible.

  3. How in the world did such an obvious liberal partisan as Don Drummond get into yet another spot where he can wave his liberal flag? Makes me think that all these so-called advisors are stacked by liberal sympathizers. It would be nice if our supposedly free and unbiased press would point out those connections as you present all these various experts. It is hardly surprising when one or another takes a point of view that will promote his or her pet project and source of income.

    • You sound like someone who is "bushed".
      That's the term for the mental state of those who are lost in the bush, yet afraid to let searchers know where they are.

      I'm sure all the Harpercons are in the same "bushed" state as you are.

    • Excuse me, but Drummond is a Conservative, like it or not.

      • Don Drummond is not/not a Conservative if by that you mean he is a member or supporter of the Party. He is non-partisan.

  4. bergkamp: just let me ask you one question. How old is the planet?

    • Yabba Dabba Doo!

    • Experts disagree.

      What is the relevance of the question? And how the hell do 45 people agree with the question & only one person (now 2) respond to it?

      • I think the question is to see if the answer is "5000 years", or "a realistic number", not a skill-testing question.

        And I think we're among the few commenters because It wasn't directed at either of us.

        • Actually, I'd suggest that it wasn't a question at all. It was just an unimaginative insult phrased as a question.

          I like my insults with a little originality and I'm disturbed that so many of the thumbsuckers are impressed with that dull stereotype. Let's see a little wit and verve as we call each other idiots. And, for goodness sake, let's stop re-inforcing dullness with our precious thumbie votes. Please people, vote responsibly.

          • I'm not so sure. This bergkamp character is all over the comments here claiming that he's "not a technocrat", and whining about how liberals use evidence when it suits them. So, I think the answer might actually be telling; if it's a real number, then the question for bergkamp is "why?". Why does s/he choose to believe THOSE experts, and not others? It's not like s/he has personal knowledge, or some kind of "gut feeling" about the situation, is it?

            So even if the original commenter was just being a twit, I think I'm still interested in the question.

          • Fair enough. I took it as just an insinuation but your curiousity has some legitimacy as well.

            For the record, I don't think Harper has some kind of all-consuming contempt for "expertise" in itself. It's just that he makes all his decisions on political considerations and he sees himself (with some justification) as the pre-eminent political expert in the country. If that means he sometimes has to stiff-arm policy experts then he's quite prepared to do it.

          • Why trust THOSE experts and not others?

            Simple. The age of the earth is determined by hard sciences – namely the decay of radioactive isotopes. Such real sciences like physics and chemistry are based on falsifiable hypotheses which are then tested against empirical data and reproduced by others. It is very hard to push a false hypothesis in hard sciences.

            In contrast, the "social sciences" are not really science at all. They are a mixed bag of ideology, incompetence, stupidity, sprinkled with a bit of terminology stolen from the real sciences in order to give them a veneer of credibility. Liberals generally cant discriminate between actual sciences and pseudo-sciences and so they get outraged when "sociology" experts are ignored.

            If anybody wants evidence for the above, I recommend Zog. et al., "Social sciences are stupid", Journal of Super-Awesome Expertise, 2009, vol XXIV

          • Glad to run into a conservative who accepts the science on global warming, but…

            First, social scientists needn't be viewed as gospel. As I wrote elsewhere here, this isn't a game of "gotcha", wherein thinking people beat the PM every time he doesn't do what a social scientist concludes. This is about refusing to listen to the advice of experts. The PM dabbled in economics and styles himself an economist, but even granting that, what does he know about crime prevention? It's either based on the research of experts who have spent their lives trying to figure this stuff out, or, in the case of that issue, it's based on "just a feelin'". You don't have to accept every conclusion of criminologists to recognize that the PM's policies have failed miserably in the United States; you just have to be able to read.

            Second, this goes beyond the social sciences you disdain. The article we're commenting on was about a systemic refusal to listen to expert advice on any topic. Whay don't you think you about what kind of government you want, long term; governments that just do a mixture of whatever they think will get them elected and what they happen to believe, or govenrments that struggle to figure out what the best thing really is for Canada.

            There IS a difference between physical sciences and social sciences, but it's not as hard an edge as you pretend.

          • Jesse, thanks for your reply. I must clarify though that I do NOT accept the science on global warming. Perhaps you could entertain me by providing me with convincing evidence, or at the very least the evidence which convinced you (if all you have is argument by authority, that's fine, but it's a bit rich then to pour scorn on those who have examined the evidence and found it lacking).

            I do however accept that the earth is ~ 4.5 billion years old. That's based on hard sciences.

            Climatology is not really a hard science either, although it's a great deal more rigorous then criminology, sociology, and all the other pablum served up to gullible undergrads as actual scholarship.

            RE: your point about going beyond the social sciences, well other than climatology (which is in its infancy and which is a soft science), I dont see why scientists would be advising the government on anything. Policies are not based on whether or not the Higgs boson exists or stuff like that.

            I wont discuss how hard the edge is between physical and social sciences. To me the latter are pure bs and the former really has proven its worth. The achievements of the former are countless, the achievements of the latter are illusory.

            Also, on experts, no less a distinguished figure than Richard Feynman, the father of quantum electrodynamics said "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts". So Harper is the greatest scientist in the world! :)

            Jokes aside, this is a quote worth pondering for those who so blindly put their trust in experts.

          • Someone who is so ignorant about climate change is probably just as ignorant about social sciences; and not as smart about science as he thinks.

            You've examined the evidence for climate change? No, you haven't, you've just read a few denialist blogs screeching about some stolen irrelevent emails.

          • Wow, Im impressed – you can actually know what I've read, and which sites I've visited?

            GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!!!!!!!!!

            No seriously, if anybody deserves the label "denier", it's the guy who pretends to know what complete strangers have read, or what they know.

            And if you're so well-read in matters of climate change, perhaps you could entertain me and provide me with what piece of empirical evidence convinced you of the impending crisis? I ask this to self-righteous leftwing douchebags like you all the time but I never get an answer. Let's see if you can break the pattern.

            And sorry if I offended you about social sciences. I presume they were the subject of your undergrad (no one else would take offense at such an obvious and self-evident truth that social sciences are complete crap).

          • It's all here; start with the links for complete beginners. Read each one until you understand it. Then you can move up to "Those With Some Knowledge."

            If you ever claim again that people never show you the empirical evidence of AGW, everyone will know you are lying.

          • Dont give me a link to a propaganda site. Tell me in your OWN WORDS what EVIDENCE convinced YOU?

            You think you're knowledgeable in science because you can repeat (or link to) the words of people who support your position. That's a f*cking joke. I could explain to you the EVIDENCE which supports any number of theories, from evolution, to the atomic theory of matter, to quantum theory, …, all in my words. That's because I know and understand them. You dont know or understand sh1t. You trust people with mainstream opinions. That's a very different thing.

            Besides, I checked out the link, it's just a bunch of other links Global Warming FAQ, How to answer to a denier, Global Warming Myths,… I've seen those hundreds of times, they dont show evidence for AGW.

            Perhaps its time I educated you.

            AGW is predicated on the water vapor feedback, otherwise CO2 warming is not really that big a deal (generally skeptics believe that CO2 causes warming, and the amount of warming caused by a doubling of CO2 is not really in dispute, it's 1.2 C – the question is the feedbacks). This water vapor feedback predicts a hotspot in the troposphere. A hotspot which our best instruments cant find. Using data from 1980-1999 Santer et al. said "ok we cant find the hotspot, but the uncertainties are large enough that it may still be there". Now Steve McIntyre (a canadian hero if there ever was one) has just published a paper:

            Which shows that using data from 1980-2009, that we can say with 99% confidence that there is no hotspot. OUCH!

    • Maybe he was looking it up on Conservapedia and ran into a stupefyingly dumb argument like this one:

      "…Uniformitarianism is the view that the forces affecting the universe are the same now as at any time in the past. It was proposed by geologist Charles Lyell, and was a major influence on Charles Darwin. [1]

      Although uniformitarianism has been geological dogma since the time of Lyell, over the last half century, there has been a noticeable shift away from uniformitarianism. It is now, for example, widely accepted that the extinction of the dinosaurs was the result of the collision of an asteroid with the Earth…"

    • How old is your mom?

  5. I agree completely with bergkamp, this was a great article that should help Conservative supporters to understand the issues most Canadians have with Harper's style of government.

    In fact, I would be disappointed but not appalled if the government having considered the evidence relevant to a policy decided to go in a different direction. However, as was clearly pointed out in the article, this government does not even want to know about the existence of evidence much less want the evidence says. It seems they go to a happy place called "la la" land (achieved by saying it loudly with your fingers in your ears) and fling something off.

    As the conservatives supporters start to assemble I do have two questions:

    1) A majority of Canadians did not vote Conservative in the last election. What fraction of them constitute the hated lefty group?

    2) Is Ian Brodie lying when he recollects the Conservatives putting partisan politics over good policy?

    • And Chretien cancelling the helicpoter project in the 90's WASN'T putting partisan politics over good policy? Or Trudeau patriating the constitution without the consent of the second most populous province in the country…that wasn't politics over good policy? The lieberals have done nothing but attempt to destroy the country over partisan politics for decades, but suddenly PM Harper is the only one who's ever done anything provocative. I find it astonishing that you lefties are surprised that a conservative government is acting…well, umm, conservative.

      • I was hoping for something stronger & more original than "they did it too" defence.

        Chretien: heliocopters agreed, bad policy, partisan based
        Trudeau: constitution disagree (it was bad partisan policy)

        I am truly astonished that you find this Conservative government to be … well, umm, conservative. They have transformed surplus to deficit. Increased the size, role and scope of government in substantive ways while throwing some noncensus scraps to their base. (which also increased the size & cost of government). They have become the least transparent government in Canadian history with
        1) all of the power in the PMO
        2) a PM who does not talk to reporters
        3) as describing in this article, not even listening to the knowledgeable Canadians. Please note that every member of National Statistics Council is a Harper appointee.

      • In 1991 Muroney sold off Canada's Chinook Helicopters to the Dutch.

        This forced Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan to itch rides with NATO allies (like the, um, Dutch) or take to the road, exposing them to, gasp, IEDs.

        Why does Mulroney hate the troops?

        (Wait, this is ridiculous, isn't it? Decision based on options available 20 or 30 years ago really can't be used to critique today's leaders on how they succeed or fail to meet today's policy challenges.)

    • If you really want my (personal) opinion…

      1) In terms of so called "experts", the ones that say I'm an irrational, uneducated troglodyte if I don't hold their political views. I tend to hate them quite a bit, especially since their political views that they claim are so scientific aren't actually based on the scientific method.

      2) I don't think Ian Brodie is lying when he says that people think sociologists are pseudo-intellectuals. I can't speak to the rest of it, because I disagree that what we need is more prison terms. I think we need more prison time for specific crimes, but other crimes would be better punished without any prison time at all. Of course, this requires a degree of overhaul of the justice system that there isn't the political will to do in this country.

      • I think we need more prison time for specific crimes, but other crimes would be better punished without any prison time at all. Of course, this requires a degree of overhaul of the justice system that there isn't the political will to do in this country.

        I won't speak for the other 34,999,998 Canadians, but I support your suggestion.

      • Did Munir Sheikh, or any member of the National Statistics Council ever call you irrational?
        Did Arthur Carty (former Science Advisor to the PM)?

        I think you are merging the "real" experts, who are typically nonpolitical, with commentators that use the facts and/or expert opinions provided by the real experts in political arguments.

        • No, you were asking two questions of Conservative supporters. Who constitutes the hated left? Is Ian Brodie right about it being good partisan politics to ignore certain experts?

          I told you who I hated (which include academics and people who cite them) and I told you why and where Ian Brodie would be correct in how he can garner my sympathy going against "experts".

          • Sorry I am still trying to imagine an "expert" (from a field other than poly sci or economics) attacking someone as an irrational, uneducated troglodyte for not holding their political views.

          • Are you familiar with David Suzuki?

            Dr. Suzuki lost my attention & my respect when he started jabbing at his own head with an index finger and saying "Duh!" as a part his climate change advocacy.

          • Hard to blame him if he really does that, given the massive stupidity of the deniosaurs.

          • Don't forget to mention the incisive wit and intellectual heft of his supporters.

          • Why yes, examples abound.

          • Is it ok if we distinguish between experts and advocates. Suzuki's personal expertise of fruit fly genetics might provide him with expertise to adaptations of species to changing climate, but he is certainly not an expert in climate measurement or whether measured changes are anthropogenic. He is at best a celebrity advocate with a loosely related expertise.

            BTW, that means that I also reject the vast majority of experts on the other side. Trolling the internet looking for clues does not an expert make.

        • "I think you are merging the "real" experts, who are typically nonpolitical" — since when? NO ONE is non political, though some are more vocal in expressing their views than others, and some are better at hiding their views — often under the cloak of "scientific objectivity". While theoreticially, a scientific approach is not biased, there is a lot of bad science, and much that is claimed by the experts to be scientific simply is not.

    • Many less voted Liberal! Conservatives have 144 seats and the Liberals have 77. Conclusion: Conservatives have no right to govern? To use popular vote totals isn't how we elect parliament in this country FYI.

      The Conservatives don't need to listen to Mr Brodie to know about climate change research. I am sure they are already convinced that humans are contributing to global climate change but that's not the same as adopting economy destroying policies! No point in that if you already know that without a coordinated plan with the USA, anything you do will only hurt the economy and be ineffective anyway.

    • Is Ian Brodie lying when he recollects the Conservatives putting partisan politics over good policy?

      Nope. He is declaring the political capital to be reaped in practising "retail politics" more effectively than any other party. And it seems to be working. Which is my take-home message of the John Geddes essay above. And, which is a wholly damning indictment of the Canadian electorate.

    • I guess i qualify as a borderline conservative supporter in that i felt at the time of the last election they were the least of evils. And probably still are.

      1) I suspect a majority of canadians (split between both the conservative support and the "other" support) are not heavily partisan and persuadable not on the basis of left or right but more likely on soundbites. if you gave canadians two choices, conservative or liberal, i imagine some of your "not-conservative" support would bleed over to conservative support leading to a race that's close to 50/50, with lower voter turnout on account of the increase in people who want to mark "none of the above".

      • 2) certainly not. the current conservatives are without a doubt playing politics as a game, and his occasional interviews have provided interesting insight. this has added to reason to be slightly displeased with the current conservative party which seems utterly uninterested in fiscal conservatism, but it has done nothing to make the other parties look like a viable alternative. Jack Layton plays the same populist politics as Harper only at the other extreme (which to me seems far more dangerous). Ignatieff… well i'm not quite sure what he wants to do, the only concrete mumbling i heard was National Daycare… which to me sounds on the surface like a new expensive social program that i don't understand the need for. Accordingly, my options in the next election are still looking like vote conservative or don't vote at all. Maybe a credible independant will run in my riding ;)

  6. Rock star's motto – If it feels good, do it!

  7. Probably has something to do with the fact that the 'experts' have screwed everything up completely.

    • Such as?

      • Well, the educational experts have produced a generation of people who can't read or write. The financial experts mananged their way into a teetering economic collapse. The sociological and psychological experts have produced millions of unhappy people consuming unholy amounts of anti-depressants. The political experts have created a world more dangerous than anything seen since the second world war….to name but a few examples. But other than that, things is great!

        • You're looking at outliers, not averages. Literacy rates have never been higher. Despite our recent economic troubles, more people are living more comfortably than ever before. Our world is demonstratably less dangerous than it has been in quite a long time, or have you forgotten how close we came to a nuclear war at several points during the cold-war years?

          And your assertion about sociological and psychological experts simply has no correlative or causative link. It's the kind of non-think that one would expect from.. well.. the ignorant masses. I suggest your own area of expertise lies in some other field.. at least.. given the level shown here, I certainly hope so.

          • Well, to be fair, basic literacy rates have never been higher. More people can read sentences than ever before! But, if you've ever taught/marked university papers in Canada (I'm one of those pinko "experts"), you'd be shocked at the poor writing skills of the supposedly most-education portion of the current young generation.

          • Perhaps the compromise here is to recognize that the "experts" have given us as many flops as they have successes (Another miss for them is regarding nutrition advice, which is why there are so many fat people around). The moral being that whether or not to listen to the experts is pretty much a coin toss. Truly — expert advice can be useful as far as it goes, but I think many other things come into play to make for good decision making.

    • Really? "Experts have screwed everything up completely"? Hm. Here I thought we lived in an incredibly affluent country where the vast majority of people are housed, fed, clothed, and have work. I thought life expectancy was higher than it had ever been, and that infant mortality is at the lowest point we've ever seen it. Our streets are safe, we have access to incredible repositories of information online and in libraries, we can get into cars and drive places, we get into PLANES and FLY!

      Y'know what? Louis CK says it better than I can: [youtube 8r1CZTLk-Gk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk youtube]

      • CK does have a point.

        But it really annoys me when pseudo-intellectuals in the social sciences claim that they had anything to do with participating in the scientific revolution that improved our technology.

      • Yeah, but flights are sometimes late, so your entire argument is disproven. :)

      • Thank the lord for Air Canada. They are worth every penny bailing them out of bankruptcy.

    • If by "experts" you mean those numbnuts who run the country on the assumption that popular will is intelligent, you got that o9ne right. They did screw everything up completely.

      • Don't wanna let those nasty 'people' or 'citizens' define what is right…mao would be proud.

        • I'd wager that in the early 1960s the "people" would never have voted for civil rights laws. For example, in 1958 a gallup poll found that 94% of americans disapproved of interracial marriage. In fact, nearly 4 in 10 still disapproved by 1994. It was only in 1997 that a majority of Americans approved.

          There are times when leaders must take principled stands and bring the public around to their point of view. There are also times when 'experts' simply know and understand more than 'people'. I'm sure a government by referendum would have denied women the vote, have denied interracial marriage, etc. etc. "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." – Schopenhauer.

          • "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." – Schopenhauer.

            The Conservatives have regressed to stage one in recent years.

        • Wasn't it Mme Mao who decreed there were no experts, set gardeners to run nuclear power plants and nuclear engineers to do the work of administrators? Your example is flawed by the simple fact that it is the opposite of what happened in China where lack of reliance on their experts set the country back a number of decades economically as well as developmentally. Mao, it seems, warned Jiang Qing, his last wife, against such a course of action.

          Here our problem is politicians who think they know it all.

          In your example (revised to reflect the truth) Harper is likened to Mme Mao and the others in the Gang of Four (also known as the anti-party clique) who ran China for their own purposes and not those of common weal.

          They were eventually arrested, tried and two were sentenced to death, although their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.

          The day Harper is turfed out, there will dancing in the streets, I guarantee.

      • "on the assumption that popular will is intelligent." — It is. This has been scientifically proven.

        • A rabbi, a priest and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks at them and asks exactly what I ask now: "What is this? Some kind of a joke?"

  8. Maybe, just maybe…..Harper has found over the years that the judgement of the ordinary citizen is far superior than all of the academics, researchers etc.
    His job is to govern the country taking into consideration what the people are telling him what they want and need.
    So the government knows Canadians have not been happy with the criminal justice system in Canada for years. So what does he do? He develops "tougher on crime" policies. This is what the country is asking for. Ask a victim of crime.
    On climate change Harper knows the costs of doing what people like Al Gore and David Suzuki are advocating. It will hurt the middle class and increase the tax burden. He knows Canadians aren't interested in that so he ignores the climate scientists and all of the envirofascists who are advocating policies that will not work in the long term.
    Politicians work in the real world. Academics, Researchers etc. live in a fantasy world which sometimes has nothing to do with what the ordinary citizen perceives or cares about.
    So the census flap is some of the same thing. The information is dated when it is available and there are many sources to obtain the same information already.

    • The judgement of the ordinary citizen that believed (and many still do) that heavier things fall faster than lighter things? That the number sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 is less likely to win the 6/49 than a quick pick? Of the "ordinary citizen" like the sizable portion of the American public that believed (and believes still) that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. Or that a particularly cold day disproves global warming? Or believes that the Rapture will start within their lifetime (not just that it'll happen, but that it's going to happen sometime within their lifetime)?

      The phrase is "ignorant masses" for a reason. Any individual may be well versed in their field, but the ignorance we all have for areas outside our expertise is enormous. Put us all together and the total ignorance about everything outweighs the knowledge.

      Or as a shorter response: If all your friends believed it was the right thing to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?

      • "Or that a particularly cold day disproves global warming?"

        Or that a particularly warm day proves global warming?

        • no… but the warmest decade, the warmest 12 months, the warmest six months, and the warmest April, May, and June on record are all somewhat convincing. I mean, don't rush to judgment though…

          • There are still problems.

            1. "On record". I believe this discludes the medieval period which was mysteriously removed… err…, I mean, deliberately removed from that hockey stick graph.

            2. Man's actual affect is still in question.

            So not only are we not measuring against a warmer period in time, we don't even know if we're the cause. And even if we are, it's still not as warm as it's ever been, just not "recorded." That would be too inconvenient for the global warming pushers.

          • Thwim… give me a BREAK.

            Your argument against that Greenland actually was green is that other parts of the earth were colder???? Yes, and Antartica is colder than Greenland today… so is the top of most mountains. So what? That's not proof, that's a diversion.

            Your argument that the hockey stick was proven to be falsified was that temps in the past 1000 years are climbing??? The model was proven to show a hockey stick despite any data you put in. You can't refute that.

            Your argument that man's affect is still in question is that warming is apparently unprecedented in the last 1000 years. Well that's like saying it was a lot colder 10K years ago in the last ice age too. Yes, the world is warming since the last iceage… nobody disputes that. What us REAL skeptics dispute is whether or not it is due to man, and if so, whether the proposed cures will fix it. NOBODY believes they will.

            Sorry, but none of your arguments are scientific (and yes, I've read SkepticalScience from back to front… it's filled with circular reasoning, dubious stats/studies and basis conclusion upon conclusion).

          • You are out of date. Even deniosaurs are admitting that humans do produce the C02 which causes AGW (though some are being dragged into reality with extreme reluctance):

          • Not *my* arguments, per se, but a handy site for debunking. Unfortunately, they do expect that if you're actually serious, you might choose to.. oh.. I don't know.. click the handy link to see the full proof. I mean, if you get your science strictly from headlines, (as that's apparantly all you read from the list) that rather explains why you're speaking like an idiot now.

            Now, to your specifics: The debunking for greenland was not simply that other parts were colder, but that greenland's warming was offset by cooling in other areas, or, as I expect you need it simplified even further, it's called "Global warming" not "Greenland warming"

            Whether any one particular graph proved to be incorrect is irrelevant, considering the number of other studies which have been done that show the same conclusions.

            Warming from other ice ages had causes that we have been reasonably successful in identifying. This warming is unprecedented because any thing we know of that might have caused it, except for human released CO2, is not exhibiting the type of behavior which would lead to such warning.

            Read it back to front? Hell, it's bloody obvious you didn't even click into the link for the hockey stick, Myth #18. What else are you lying about?

          • There is also still some question as to whether or not smoking causes cancer – most of the evidence we have is just a huge mass of correlative data… and there are no doubt some incomplete sets of data, and inconsistent records from the early days of smoking… and not *every* scientist believes it.

            Everything, everywhere, is questioned by someone. When they are at odds with nearly everyone who studies or experience a particular issue, we tend think they're crazy, or lazy. Sometimes it turns out that they're a genius… clearly some people are still holding out for "genius" when it comes to climate change.

        • If some day, Harper needs brain surgery I think all decent folk hope that Holinm is not in a position to pick the surgeon.

          • holinm is a well known whiner for tory causes. He writes to every newspaper across the country trying to get tpeople subscribing to his views or lack of vision. According to him Harper is perfect and the rest of us are just idiots because we don't genuflect at that altar. He is a typical tory because there isn't a fact or piece of evidence he won't challenge………unless it comes from Tory central

      • You're right, Thwim, we should just do away with voting or asking the people who are to be ruled how they wish to be ruled. Democracy is such a load when we have science to lead the way. We should simply ban all political parties and form a dictatorship of scientists. I guess the only problem I see is that at most Universities criminology, sociology, and psychology aren't in the faculty of science for some reason…

        • Kindly don't place your words in my mouth.. they taste like the orifice they came from.

          If every issue had a nice, clean, scientific solution, then I'd be agreeing with your point. They don't, however, which is where democracy and politics come in — so that when there isn't a clearly correct choice, we at least go with the option that is more palatable to the majority.

          The problem happens when there is a preponderance of evidence toward one choice, and our representatives choose to disregard it.

          • Sorry Thwim, I must have reading comprehension issues. Are you arguing that criminal justice issues are complicated and have many possible answers hence Harper and friends, elected representatives who must garner a majority of support in the house to enact laws, are correct in trying this particular method? Or are you arguing that criminal justice issues are cut and dried scientifically and Harper should follow the experts? You're not being clear enough for me, sorry for my stupidity, but it seems you are taking Harper to task for not following the scientific advice but also saying it's perfectly acceptable in complicated situations to do as the majority of the public (expresses in the house, I assume) want. I feel like I am chasing a monkey around a certain bush, a monkey who keeps changing the rules when he find himself in a tough place.

          • I'm arguing that there's a bloody wealth of statistical evidence and reasoning both on criminal justice, and in basic statistics, among other things, that the conservatives are simply ignoring.

            That's why I had that last sentence in there..

            ..or are three sentences too much for your attention span?

        • the rat says, "We should simply ban all political parties and form a dictatorship of scientists."

          We already have a dictator – he is Prime Monster Harper of the Canadian Republican / Reform Alliance Party!

    • "Maybe, just maybe…..Harper has found over the years that the judgement of the ordinary citizen is far superior than all of the academics, researchers etc. "

      In regards to the census, this would imply that Harper has found that non-mathematicians are better at math than mathematicians. Yes?

      • Maybe that the idea of government gathering private information from citizens with the threat of imprisonment is distasteful.

        I love all these strange, weird and frankly maladjusted people telling me how I should appreciate the tender ministrations of government. The funniest was some comment by an Indian Affairs flak saying they needed better data to continue providing excellent service to First Nations.

        Should we all be so lucky.

    • I don’t know about that. I think what the conservatives are dong is trying to govern through fear. Stockwell Day’s recent comment is proof of that. This notion that without their tough sentencing laws we are all going to be attacked in our own homes is simply silly. It simply suits their purpose to convince Canadians we are over-run with crime.

    • Tell that to the Russians who are currently burning up, and have a 20% reduced grain crop – so that they're not exporting any grain at all. Russia is the 4th largest grain exporter in the world. Russia doesn't export grain, because of the effects of extreme heat, and people around the world are going to die, in certain places.

      Food shortages. Welcome to global warming – while you're still yapping about there being no such thing; like a dog yapping at shadows.

      The ignorance displayed is beyond belief.

    • Politicians work in the real world.

      Now that's something you don't read every day!

    • You're assuming that the Conservatives are interested in representing what the majority of Canadians agree with, and not just what their Libertarian/ big business base believes. From what I've seen, that's not the case at all.

      • I would suggest, based on their actions, they're not nearly as concerned about their Libertarian base as they are about their evangelical base.

      • least intelligent thing i have ever heard. people often use terms like `libertarian`and liken them to the interests of big business. that attachment is based on a false premise. libertarian trace their modern philosophy to its classical liberal origins (J.S. Mill, Adam Smith, david ricardo and the ricardians, jean baptiste say, jeremy bentham). Oh wait, I am an uneducated classical liberal right? (And yes, though I vote Conservative, I consider myself a liberal, in the true classical sense of the term, not the modern misconstrued application). These views are founded, and in a very large respect, justified by the past two centuries of progress and liberation of mankind from the arbitrary of monarchs, oligarchs and the like. DO NOT consider the interests of libertarians to be interests of capitalists. They have two separate ontologies, of which, if you do ever pick up a book, you`ll realize vary greatly.

        • Here is some food for thought: Big business is, has always been, and will always be an enemy of the free market. Why? Because they seek to exploit it through the use of the state`s coercive powers, which is DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED to the views of a true libertarian.

          What people like you, and many of the leftists fail to see, is that despite the numerous enemies of the free market, who revere in the exploitation of individuals against their wills, it has been to efficient and effective to do away with. I know I am digressing, and I apologize, as this could turn into another long rant, and I`ve had enough of those today, in the Parliamentary cafeteria with some party-Liberals (not true liberals, :P )

          Last point – do not assume the classical liberals, and libertarians of this country are happy with every move of our Conservative government, because you are direly incorrect.

          Feel free to use the critical thinking part of your mind once in a while, and stop eating up all of the propaganda of the political parties, its funny to see the sheep debate on false premises.

          if only you knew who i was.

          • "if only you knew who i was." seriously?

          • You do realize that economic powers can be just as coercive.. or more.. than those of the state?

    • "Harper has found over the years that the judgement of the ordinary citizen is far superior than that of academics"

      How many "ordinary" citizens hollinm? Can Harper tell us HOW MANY said they don't want things like the mandatory long census form?

      You see, the experts you disquaify can state HOW MANY in any of their findings; they can back it up. Can you or Harper?

    • This is the silliest comment yet: "Harper has found over the years that the judgement of the ordinary citizen is far superior than all of the academics, researchers etc".

      Just because you have no idea how good government works is no reason to spout this nonesense. Harper has never ever bothered to ask ordinary citizens anythingt! Not that it matters, as he would not listen to them either. He listens to no one! Try reading this again, and stop drinking the Koolaid! It was not made by an expert, it was made by a Harper insider and harper provided the recipe!

  9. "It is far more caring to actually measure the effectiveness of highly expensive social programs such as prisons and incarceration to see if they have the effect that people assume they will have."

    I am not a technocrat so I don't agree with this statement.

    I don't know about elsewhere, but in Anglo world, government started to rehabilitate criminals starting in the mid to late 1700s and not a single program has been devised yet that transforms criminals into something else.

    How many centuries have to pass before we conclude criminals are not very malleable and completely changing their behaviour is close to impossible?

    • "not a single program"

      Evidence please? If it's an important subject to discuss, then facts (not just opinions, on all sides) would be useful, right?

      • He is not a "technocrat", so he's not bound by any requirement to produce "evidence".

        Honestly, I think it no longer makes sense to describe the political spectrum in terms of Left <–> Right, rather it's becoming Reality-Based <–> Fantasy-Based. Or maybe Reality-Based <–> Id-Based.

        • Agreed, but I actually think the spectrum now looks like this:

          Fantasy-based <–> Reality-based <–> Id-based

          …that is to say, both ends of the spectrum have nutbars.

          • Good point, agreed.

      • "Evidence please? If it's an important subject to discuss …. "

        Proof is in pudding, no? Name one large scale rehabilitation program that successfully changes hardened criminals into something else entirely. It is trick question because it does not exist. Prisons and criminologists have been trying to change criminals and their behaviour for centuries but have had no luck yet so I wonder how many more centuries are we going to continue trying.

        • Ah, but you were the one advancing a claim. I don't necessarily have any evidence, but neither was I claiming anything. I don't think there's a program to turn "hardened criminals into something else entirely", but that's also a bit of a misleading phrase: what about non-hardened, first-time, small-scale, criminals? Are they automatically hardened and irredeemable immediately upon conviction?

          I don't know enough to have a fixed opinion on this topic. That's why I asked you for evidence, not just belief. I'm certain there is evidence out there to contradict your final sentence, but rather than search I thought I'd just ask you first.

          • He wants you to disprove what he can't prove. Jeez, keep up, will ya?

          • Please read the link about violent crime in Canada.

            If liberal policy is so great and evidence based, why is violent crime increasing like it is over the decades?

            And, if a rehabilitation programs exists to fix criminals, why aren't we using it to on all our violent criminals?

          • Your link states "there has been a lengthy and continuous increase in the rate of violent crime in Canada until the early 1990s." The link covers the period of 1960-2000. That does not agree with your statement that crime is (present tense) increasing.
            http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/07/18/crime-s… states "Canada's crime rate reached a 25-year low in 2006, with every province and territory recording a drop."
            http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/lorr… states "crime rates in Canada are today falling slightly on a year-over-year basis and are down from their historic highs of the early 1990s." (this also references that things are much higher than during the 1960s, which I have no link to confirm or deny).
            http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/100720/d… states that "The crime rate, a measure of the volume of crime reported to police, fell 3% in 2009 and was 17% lower than a decade ago."

            I don't understand your question "why aren't we using it to on all our violent criminals?" — can you provide more information on this? I am not familiar with which criminals or subgroups or the prison population are involved in which treatments or programs. Are you?

          • Weren't the PCs in government from 1984-1993, while the violent crime rate continued to increase? And then weren't the liberals in power from 1993-2006? '

            As to rehab programs fixing criminals, no human interaction can be likened to "fixing." Just as you can have siblings from a family who have dramatically different life paths, you can have two cons who have dramataically different rehabs. One may think it's a scheme to fool the Parole Board; another may take it seriously. One may be a habitual and hardened criminal; another may be a basically decent person who f*ed up royally. It's not an oil-change, where you change the filter, add new oil and it's good as new. And none of this takes into account that some cons don't WANT rehab. They wanna get out and do more bad stuff. You can't make someone go straight. You can help them to do so if they decide that's what THEY want.

          • Your link states “there has been a lengthy and continuous increase inthe rate of violent crime in Canada until the early 1990s.” The linkcovers the period of 1960-2000. That does not agree with yourstatement that crime is (present tense) increasing.http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/07/18/crime-stats.html states”Canada's crime rate reached a 25-year low in 2006, with everyprovince and territory recording a drop.”http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/lorrie_goldstein/2010/07/30/14883086.htmlstates “crime rates in Canada are today falling slightly on ayear-over-year basis and are down from their historic highs of theearly 1990s.” (this also references that things are much higher thanduring the 1960s, which I have no link to confirm or deny).http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/100720/dq100720a-eng.htmstates that “The crime rate, a measure of the volume of crime reportedto police, fell 3% in 2009 and was 17% lower than a decade ago.”I don't understand your question “why aren't we using it to on all ourviolent criminals?” — can you provide more information on this? I amnot familiar with which criminals or subgroups or the prisonpopulation are involved in which treatments or programs. Are you?

    • I am not a technocrat so I don't agree with this statement.

      That is a truly unfortunate state of affairs. But as it happens I have a degree in technocratic-to-English translation, so I can hopefully clear up the statement to the point where you can evaluate it on its merits as opposed to its style. What Bruce Robertson means when he says this:

      "It is far more caring to actually measure the effectiveness of highly expensive social programs such as prisons and incarceration to see if they have the effect that people assume they will have."

      is this:

      "If we're going to spend public money to do something, let's make sure it actually does what we're trying to do."

      I hope this was helpful.

    • Are you suggesting our recidivism rates are 100%?

    • "Not a single program has been devisedyet to transform criminal" – Sorry bergkamp, but you need to get an educaion beyond middle school. No wonder you're a conservative.

  10. Tories dont believe in reality, they have their religious believes which are falsified info, and they live everyday in their fictitious world..NO REALITY..

    • Actually Mike I'm an atheist and a Tory. So I guess it's your belief all Tories are religious that doesn't fit with reality now isn't it?

      • You can have a mindless faith in something while claiming to be an atheist.

        • Real atheists should put their faith in the Liberals then?

          I don't suggest that all who support the Liberals are doing so mindlessly; or based on their religion (or lack of it). The reasons I don't should be obvious to anyone with a little tact, and class.

    • No lefties are religious then? Seems you have this politics/religion thing figured out perfectly.

  11. Harper's policies are based on faith rather than science.
    Our society is supposed to allow us to follow our own faiths and beliefs except where such actions are proven harmful to others.
    Yet Harper just spent over $1 billion training his police to attack and control citizens who do not blindly obey.
    All this from a man who squeeked into office with little more support than one out of five voters in elections highlighted by lack of viable choices.

  12. It seems to me most of Harpers so called mistakes are created by great gobs of left wing journalists who have found he does not take their expert advise..I think the shock may set in when the next election is called and Harper wins a majority.The pundits are really all left leaners in this country that have been courted by the Liberals for years.The civil service was all Liberal appointments so when the Stats Canada head resigns at 62 with 35 years in he is only doing the Liberal bidding.The country is running better than all the G8 countries and even Canadians who dislike Harper are smart enough to not change horses in mid stream.The Liberal skullduggery has not been forgotten

    • Smoke some more crack you wackjob – you are totally out to lunch.

      • How is he wackjob? Or are you just angry he's a conservative backing up his points in a liberal-infested site with a liberal article (and yes this site is infested by liberal; the thumb skewing is always heavily liberal).

      • If any body is smoking crack it is you left wing whiners.the kind that have nothing to do but break windows.your likely living in Victoria with your hand out on the street during the tourist season.You are scared stiff that the goos hardowrking people in this country are no longer interested in Liberal type of governing but want to get this country off the socialists agenda where a few support many

    • "Stats Canada head resigns at 62 with 35 years in he is only doing the Liberal bidding"

      Who appointed him again? I believe it was famous Liberal tyrant S. Harper.

      • Please, do not confuse Gar with actual facts.

      • Actually, "Liberal Tyrant" is probably accurate for Big Spender Steve.

    • "It seems to me most of Harpers so called mistakes are created by great gobs of left wing journalists who have found he does not take their expert advise."

      No, his mistakes are caused by the fact that he only listens to himself. So called "left" wing journalists (who all work for right-wing publishers) are not experts but they listen to experts and therefore may have a more complete view of the issues than the PM does.

  13. Many of the issues raised in this article are political and not just scientific debates. How many climate researchers care about the amount of money their proposals will cost and how that will affect all the other priorities of a government? Governments are elected to look after all the different priorities of our societies whereas the scientists only need care about their own speciality.

    Although I think government should listen to what academics say, I hold only the government to account for the decisions they make. Does the author know how many "experts" opinions were listened to (but not necessarily agreed with) before the government made up it's set of policies?

    Whether you believe fossil fuels are causing catastrophic damage to our environment or not, if Canada didn't put any carbon in the atmosphere at all, there would be no noticeable decline on the total CO2 in the atmosphere. It is an indisputable fact that if Canada destroys it's economy to please David Suzuki, the climate of the Earth will not change either now or in the future.

    How much new money do we have to put into CO2 reduction when we currently have a $50 billion deficit? The Harper government has rightly said that we have to coordinate our climate change strategy with the US. Doing a "made in Canada" policy will not only bring economic ruin to huge parts of our economy, no noticeable effect will be seen in global warming no matter how many stories about melting perm-frost or ice loss for polar bear stories are printed.

    I believe this author thinks that Liberals have the right to govern when they are in power but the Conservatives should just ape certain "experts" because they obviously can't be trusted to make good policy on their own. Total rubbish!

    • Does the author know how many "experts" opinions were listened to (but not necessarily agreed with) before the government made up it's set of policies?

      That is the point of the article. The evidence is that they are not only ignoring the advice of the experts but flatly refusing to hear it. You clearly have established your position on CO2 and McBean's group was a Liberal creation. However, every single member of the current National Statistics Council is a Harper appointee, they have strong representation from business and they have a tradition of completely nonpolitical advice. So this was a perfect, Harper-friendly group to provide confidential, nonpartisan advice prior to the government making a policy change.

  14. You poor little thing how did you survive such cruelty!!!A boss screaming at you.Please never join the military.You should send this resume to Joe Who. Now there was a great progressive conservative.Or the likes of old John who destroyed our aircraft industry .Now thats progress

  15. “And criminals commit crimes – if they are in jail, they are not committing even more crimes – how does that not reduce crime?”

    Does it bother you at all that the facts demonstrate that crime does not go down when you get “tough” on sentencing?

    I suggest the problem with this line of thinking is that it creates the false impression that sentencing will reduce crime, thereby taking our attention away from the measures that will actually reduce crime.

    Most people who commit crimes grew up disadvantaged, with abuse. addiction and abandonment being common childhood themes. You only have to spend a few weeks interviewing criminals to figure out what we could have done to have helped them not commit crimes in the first place.

    Unfortunately, when our governments act irresponsibly and endorse stiffer sentences as a solution for crime, nothing of any value gets done. Crime rates are not reduced and people are still victimized. We respond to crime instead of attempting to prevent it in the first place.

    As for consideration of victims, many have been well served by the restorative justice practices instituted by the previous government. The current government spends too much time wtih victims who want vengeance, and not enough with victims who have healed.

    • I wanna see them in black and white jumpers turning big rocks into little rocks. Bread and water, and no shoes.

      • Your bridge is lonely.

    • People who believe that jail reduces crime would also believe that shooting rabbits results in fewer rabbits.

    • I grew up with abuse. Yet strangely, I haven't inflicted that abuse on other people. The repeat offender who inflicted his own abuse on me and several other young boys would not have been able to commit most of his offences if he had been reported, convicted and jailed for life after the first one. Nothing makes me more likely to want to commit a crime than reading the pathetic tirades of people who cannot understand that simple formula.

      Net result: maybe a dozen kids who'd never have needed rehabilitation for things they didn't do, versus one guy who chose to abuse his position of authority repeatedly so he could be eligible for the government's forgiveness and 'rehabilitation.'

      I don't want 'restorative' justice – not that any was ever available to me, or any other victim I've seen. The families of murdered victims can never have anything 'restored' and it's a moral insult to even use the adjective in their situation. I don't want revenge either, except against people like you who seem eager to test the word of repeat offenders with life and limb at risk. Criminals, I understand. You, I don't.

      Tonight, I will pray that one of your relatives is brutally attacked and permanently scarred by someone who's doing it "for kicks," since that's probably the only way you'll understand the simple mathematics involved.

    • If crime doesn't go down when criminals spend more time in jail then you must think that non-criminals must step up to the plate and commit crimes when the criminals are away! Does that make sense to you?

      If criminals are just a product of their upbringing, are all their brothers and sisters also in jail? Does a culture of disrespect for the law go hand in hand with poverty and a lack of love and respect when kids are growing up? There is probably a correlation between these things but it isn't a "given" that certain environmental factors produces certain outcomes. Although I don't agree with some of the Conservativs solution to the crime in Canada, criminals must be held accountable for their actions. All poor people don't commit crime. All abused children don't commit crimes. Etc.

      I think that vengeance has no place in our justice system but most people in Canada and the current Conserative position are at odds with that postion. The Liberal policies that now make us pay $80,000 a year to warehouse men in jail and $160,000 a year for women, obviously don't work so we definitely need change. Just pandering to criminals like this person seems to advocate has already been proven not to work.

      • Nature abhors a vacuum.

        True, all do not. However a statistically significant amount more do.

        The problem with longer jail sentences is that every jail sentence requires at least one crime to have happened. I'd like it if we concentrated on methods that got rid of the first offence as well as all the repeat offences.

      • You almost nailed it with your very first sentence. The observed behaviour is that when incrimination rates go up, law enforcement abuse also goes up, and thus non-criminals become criminalized. What, did you think cops would just sit around doing nothing while all the bad guys are safely behind bars ? No, they need to earn their pay, which means they need to broaden the definition of "crime" to create more work.

        I don't actually believe it is planned in such sinister fashion, rather it is the result of social and political pressures. On one hand, departments have express or implied quotas to be met, to justify their budgets. They need certain levels of income (fines). On the other hand, you have many organizations that work closely with law enforcement (unions, support industries, law firms), who collectively wield quite a lot of bargaining and lobbying power. If they are starving, guess which Calgary-born assclown is going to hear their sob story and sign their criminalization bill ?

        I subscribe to the notion that there are 3 types of criminals: people who have a brief lapse in judgement (i.e. shoplifting or vandalism, manslaughter), people who commit a crime of passion (unpremeditated murder), and incorrigible psychos (repeat offenders, serial rapists/murderers/armed robbers). The first, you lock up for a brief period to knock some sense into them, the second need serious therapy and rehabilitation, the third I think should meet the business end of a wood chipper.

        At no point have I ever felt that a longer jail term would help any of these people. I already think current jail terms are far too long for most crimes. We don't want dangerous people on the streets, but there is no point in taking someone who had one screw-up and rendering them useless for 5, 10 or 25 years. The great majority of these people could be helped back into society and be made productive once again, rather than letting them rot at club fed. And if they're the kind of person you never want to see released, do everyone a favor and kill them off. Don't have the balls ? Then find someone who does. Society has to take responsibility for its own problems.

    • Getting tough on sentencing? You mean like not getting out on parole automatically after 1/3 of your sentence?
      Actually the so called experts fail to mention NY City, where getting tough on minor crimes reduced other crimes

  16. 1. Most experts are consistently wrong. they have no real life experience ans base their ideas on theories which exist only in academia.

    1. the Canadian Government is supposed to be a democratic institution expressing the will of the majority of the people, not the whims of a few self-proclaimed "experts".

    • 1. [citation required]

      1. Most experts agree that 2 follows 1, however your numbering scheme may be right. After all, they are just experts.

      Your view on democracy is quite interesting, and very applicable to deciding which movie to select or where to go for a beer. In the "real world", virtually every issue is at least multi-faceted, and often with complex entanglements that require review and advice from experts to make the right decision. If you aren't interested in the right decision, but merely a specific outcome, then by all means ignore the experts.

      The article misses some experts that are often called upon : advertisers in the form of public relations, pundits, analysts, pollsters, etc…

      Why spend so much pushing your message, when merely being able to back it up would be enough?

    • I hate it when those people who *literally* counted everybody in a city block tell me their "whims" on whether there are enough buses in that neighbourhood, or whether it would be a good place to build the new community centre, or whether the population has changed and therefore there should be an extra MP in this area. Terrifying, these whims.

    • 1. the Canadian Government is supposed to be a democratic institution expressing the will of the majority of the people, not the whims of a few self-proclaimed "experts".

      If you really believe this then why aren't you protesting Harper's up-sizing of the PMO – a completely unelected group of advisors whose budget he just boosted by almost $2 million. Sounds like "self-proclaimed experts" to me.

    • "Most experts are consistently wrong. they have no real life experience ans base their ideas on theories which exist only in academia. "

      Who told you this absolutely unconscionable nonsense? Experts are not "consistently wrong" and certainly less often wrong than non-experts, and their ideas (except for economics) are based on observable phenomena, in other words the real world. Get with the program.

    • Doesn't it bother you that you know so little about either expertise or governance? Even just a widdle bit?

      You know that chair in which your arse is currently ensconced? It was designed by…gasp…an expert! Get out! Now! That very expertise may destroy your finely hewed buttocks!

    • Experts, particularly in social sciences (any oxymoron if there ever was one), are historically the worst people to take advice from.

  17. Evaluating the effectiveness of social science policies is difficult. Unlike the physical sciences, there is often no direct way to measure or prove their theories. Jim Manzi recently wrote an article about this subject. It discusses the unmeasurable effects of economic stimulus and criminology theories recommended by experts.

    What Social Science Does—and Doesn't—Know

    Our scientific ignorance of the human condition remains profound.
    "…we have no reliable way to measure counterfactuals—that is, to know what would have happened had we not executed some policy—because so many other factors influence the outcome. This seemingly narrow problem is central to our continuing inability to transform social sciences into actual sciences. Unlike physics or biology, the social sciences have not demonstrated the capacity to produce a substantial body of useful, nonobvious, and reliable predictive rules about what they study—that is, human social behavior, including the impact of proposed government programs…A detailed review of every regression model published between 1968 and 2005 in Criminology, a leading peer-reviewed journal, demonstrated that these models consistently failed to explain 80 to 90 percent of the variation in crime. Even worse, regression models built in the last few years are no better than models built 30 years ago." http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_3_social-scie

    It is a longish article that considers the other side of the "experts should always be listened to without question" argument.

    • It's not considering that at all.. if anything it's suggesting that we need better experts — that rather than just thinking we know the solution, we need to invest in running randomized trials with a control group in order to see if we can find better solutions and actually pay attention to the evidence and results thereof — which is exactly what this Harper government is avoiding. You don't do that based off polling the opinion of the Tim Horton's crowd, after all, unless you're trying to find a better solution to selling donuts and coffee.

      • Journalists and experts arrogantly insist that government must listen to them *now* because they already know the answers. The article explains the fundamental problems with this belief – the studies are not conclusive, the social science experts are not able to produce any proven solutions, their public policy prescriptions are not based on solid science.

        Today's social scientists resemble advocates with strong opinion searching for way to impose their beliefs on governments and citizens by adopting the label of "scientific". Somewhere along the way science switched from being impartial gatherers of the facts to activists with an authoritarian bent. If they wish to retain credibility in an increasingly cynical society then they must be honest. Acknowledge the flaws and inaccuracies in their professions and become the biggest critics of those in their profession that are not being objective and realistic about the science.

        Science Turns Authoritarian
        By Kenneth P. Green and Hiwa Alaghebandian Tuesday, July 27, 2010
        Science is losing its credibility because it has adopted an authoritarian tone, and has let itself be co-opted by politics.
        "…Our theory is that science is not losing its credibility because people no longer like or believe in the idea of scientific discovery, but because science has taken on an authoritarian tone, and has let itself be co-opted by pressure groups who want the government to force people to change their behavior…To see if our suspicions were correct, we decided to do a bit of informal research, checking Lexis Nexis for growth in the use of what we would categorize as “authoritarian” phrasing when it comes to scientific findings…What we found surprised us. One phrase, in particular, has become dramatically more frequent in recent years: “Science tells us we should.” Increased usage of this phrase leads to a chart resembling a steep mountain climb" http://www.american.com/archive/2010/july/science

        Scientists are not infallible gods and should not be treated as such. In no way should white-coat computer modelers be the sole authority for public policy. The Tim Horton's crowd has vast amounts of knowledge that rivals those living their lives cloistered in labs, universities and government bureaucracies.

        • What crap. Science points out the probable results of our current behaviour. Dishonest and cowardly politicians refuse to deal with the approaching crisis.

          Your link is to the American Enterprise Institute a deniosaur propaganda organ. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Americ

  18. In trying to take the heat away from Stockwell Day, by uttering something even more inane:
    "We don't govern on the basis of statistics," Nicholson said. "We govern on the basis of what we hear from the public and what law enforcement agencies tell us. That has not changed in the four and a half years we've been in government."
    Mr Nicholson verifies this article quite nicely. The government is only interested in pandering to its special interest groups; and even then only when it suits them. For example, the gun registry is well supported by law enforcement agencies, but vilified by other interest groups.
    Perhaps he is listening to law enforcement groups from some other country?

  19. I'm all for expert opinions, and the extent to which the current government ignores scientific evidence where that evidence is really a crucial factor in designing policy, it is a disturbing trend indeed.

    However, anyone who has ever been in an academic environment will testify to the fact that professors and 'experts' more broadly are anything but disinterested purveyors of truth and wisdom, often using their expertise as a background for impassioned political advocacy. Many (by no means all) also operate under the assumption that a government that doesn't agree with them, doesn't think that their chosen field holds the key to the successful development of human civilization, doesn't fund their crucial ground-breaking work, or doesn't give them a privileged seat at the table, is run by a bunch of ignorant hillbillies.

    So I'd advise readers to take McBean's and Boyd's anecdotal concerns with a grain of salt.

    • Yes, but:

      1. The solution to passionate, politically active academics is not to ignore them completely – even in partisanship, there can be a grain of truth. (Sidebar: it's why I still like to debate with people with whom I often disagree).

      2. "Go with your gut" rarely leads to viable, solid, long-term solutions; deliberative policymaking – the kind that involves the expression of several opinions, some of which one may not agree with, and some of which may be more substantiated than others – more often does.

      3. When so many experts across so many different fields agree, are we still dealing in the arena of partisan rhetoric?

      • 1 – You don't really know that the Conservatives are ignoring them completely. They actually did bring out a plan to regulate GHG emissions (however timid it may have been). How is that ignoring climate change scientists completely?

        2 – Again, who says they are going with their gut on all decisions? The Conservatives played a consequential role in bringing in the HST in Ontario and BC for example. More to the point, is this government really "going with their gut" any more or less than previous governments. It's not like the Liberals didn't take tough on crime stances when in power, for example. They also did not bring in a real plan to tackle GHG emissions.

        3 – Doesn't this question imply that you are going with your gut. Nowhere in this article is "so many experts" across "so many fields" quantified. The Conservative government has increased the amount of scholarships for post-graduate education, changed the tax-rules to help all post-graduate students, and created the Canada Excellence Research Chairs to attract top researchers to Canada. Other than that I guess they science, eh?

        • That last sentence should read "Other than that I guess they hate science, eh?"

      • This article presented evidence that the Harper government ignored 2 academics "completely". I don't consider that type of anecdotal evidence scientifically definitive of a predeliction to 'go with ones gut'. It also provided evidence that, while accepting the scientific evidence provided (on global warming for example), the government may not follow the academics preferred policy prescriptions (implement their favoured carbon reduction plans, give them loads of money to do more research, etc.). Again, I think that's pretty much par for the course. Governments make trade offs, and specific academics whine when governments don't make those tradeoffs in their favour. Sun goes up, sun goes down.

        • Well on climate change Olaf I must beg to differ. Harper has up until now followed the advice of at least 60 climate experts that signed this letter.

          On climate, at least, we have 2 sets of experts whose expert opinions are in direct contradiction with each other. Who is to say which expert is truly expert?

          • "On climate, at least, we have 2 sets of experts whose expert opinions are in direct contradiction with each other. Who is to say which expert is truly expert?"

            Why, journalists of course!

            And what if the journalists also disagree?

            Then clearly journalism and arts curricula throughout the nation's universities are not doing their job. But anyway, on issues that matter dearly to the Left, this is highly unlikely.

          • Prove all 60 of them are actually experts. You can't becauyse many of them are not. Ross McKitrick an expert? Hahahahahaha!

      • Regarding point #3 — while the people disagreeing with the decision re the long form may specialize in different disciplines, they all pretty much would have the same perspective on the need for statistics. Stats are central to much of their research. So — lots of voices — but all from the same broad group. Kind of like blow-back from the rich when you raise taxes, or from the unions when you disrupt their nests. I think that Harper gets a lot of flack because he is shaking things up. No one has challenged the status quo for a long time. Unfortunately, I don't think Harper's decisions always get fair play, as journo's more often like to feed controversy rather than explore ideas.

  20. I'm not a conservative of any stripe but I sure wish there were more ex-Progressive Conservatives like you out there. You simply must vote for someone who will defeat a conserative candidate if you want to get rid of the Reform party who are now in charge. Then maybe, if we're all lucky, Harper will resisign and new leadership will take hold with a much stronger PC flavour. I never liked the PC's much but these reformers are just insane.

  21. Why Stephen Harper thinks he's smarter than the experts ….

    Here's some expert advice: Don't trust so-called experts

    If liberals weren't so sheep-like and hadn't been so brainwashed by the socialist-union kool-aid perhaps they too would actually start thinking for themselves instead of following some of the self-annointed experts they love so much.

    • So who do you trust when you don't know all the facts about the situation? Somebody else who hasn't looked into the facts about the situation? Or do you personally research absolutely everything about every decision you make? If so, how do you have any time left to make decisions?

      • Do you follow every piece of advice you've ever received from an "expert"? I'm guessing the answer would be no.

        • I at least listen to it. That said, how about you? Who do you trust when you don't know all the facts?

          • Magic 8-Ball. Never been wrong.

            I don't know, it's kinda a vague hypothetical. Would depend on the situation I suppose.

  22. If people can realize that Harper is no different from the types of people like that man you had to endure working for, then maybe they'll finally get it. Harper is a common bully, and he wouldn't be successful in private business, because he'd lose people, and wouldn't make money.

    He's also been analyzed by certain media as a "malignant narcissist", which sounds pretty accurate.

    It's going to be a dirty election. Harper and his thugs have already ramped up the lying and distorting; and I'm sure he's having a Nero-style tantrum behind the scenes.

  23. It is the most cynical approach to governing i have witnessed. Like a Bush chameleon, he pretends to represent the working and middle classes by throwing them a bone in dumbed down language, but ultimately the gains go to his masters – the uber wealthy and corporations. While Bush was truly dumb and always hated academics, Harper was probably an intelligent nerd through his life – anyone who has ever witnessed him at one of his son's hockey games would agree he is socially not all there – and now he has joined the school yard bullies by taunting intelligence. He is dangerous because he is intelligent, but will never compromise his beliefs, which would erase decades of women's and human rights, the entire middle class and the positive perception of Canada internationally.

  24. People like that want to bring back capital punishment. It makes them feel safe.

    • Actually, it's more about being bloodthirsty than scared….I just wanna see them fry.

      • Just for a minute NG, imagine you and your siblings grew up with a violent father who abused you, whether it be sexual, physical or mental. You were abe to cope when you became an adult, but the horrible experiences meant your brother became seriously depressed, then addicted to drugs; which led to B&E's and other crimes to feed his habit. You knew if he beat his habit, he could become a productive member of society, but the treatment program in the prison system was cut. He eventually got out, but got hooked again. In his frantic effort to get high, he used a needle he found on the street to inject his drug of choice. He got Aids. There goes your brother, who you knew just needed a chance….The prisons are filled with people like this NG, who are someone's brother or sister, who has feelings, but got dealt with a nasty beginning or drugs took hold for some other reason.

        Well, the "experts" study a bunch of these people, and see how they respond to different programs, versus tough prisons, along with gangsters, etc. Guess what? Many have changed with support programs, and then we, as taxpayers don't have to keep paying for their jail habitat.

        • Hmmmmm, let me think about that for a minute…Ok how about this…I don't care.

          Fry 'em.

  25. It is the height of arrogance that Harper's conservatives think they know better than acknowledged experts. How in the world can Harper and company know more about statistics than those who specialize in it. How can he know more than criminologists who study these things day in and day out. Arrogance is the only word for it. Oh – I guess ignorance is another word.

    • the most sophisticated database in political history, that`s probably how

      • Yes indeed. And unlike StatsCan, the Conservatives do not have a professional and ethical culture of preserving individuals' privacy:

        "…The Tories's CIMS captures both traditional demographic data as well as psychographic data. The latter could refer to beliefs about music, religion, abortion and so on. It's not hard to see why this would be as valuable to politicians as statistics on age and gender, given that they often draw broad assumptions based on demographics that don't always hold up to the light of day…"

  26. Looks like Ryan has fallen into one of those "traps". May be you're not up on the news, but the scientists did not lie – it was the petroleum lobby and GOP that managed to make a lot of noise about nothing, in the end there was no evidence of any wrong doing. Simplistic people are exactly who Harper plays to and research and evidence are annoying distractions that make life a little more difficult for him to overcome.

  27. Macleans is good at explaining how the Harper conservatives prey on public ignorance. What Macleans is not clear about is their own purpose: 1. to manipulate public opinion or 2. to inform it. Why is it that The Economist (of London) informs us that "tough" Americans' incarceration rate is over 700 (Russia 600) while in "bleeding heart" Japan the incarceration rate is about 50? Much of the rest of the world is closer to Japan. Clearly, the rest of the world has populations that are better informed than Canadians.

    • Not sure what incarceration rates signify here. Surely the cultural environment feeds into incarceration rates. In Singapore, for example, with its very draconean rules may have a low incarceration rate (not sure really), but heavy penalties for simple crimes (like spitting gum on the sidewalk) would surely keep their incarceration rates low. Incarceration rates on their own do not explain very much. My understanding is that Canada has a lower incarceration rate than Britain for some crimes. The need to incarcerate people is not just a deterrent, but it is also something that should be a meaningful punishment for whatever crime was committed.

  28. Here is a perhaps one example where I could perhaps have some sympathy for Harper's way of doing things. Almost all mainstream economists are absolutely and totally for the Harmonized Sales Tax in BC however in a fury of populist rage the entire media establishment in BC including the likes of Vaughn Palmer and Michael Smyth are against it. Not only that the media continues to prop some real hope that the tax can be repealed through petition notwithstanding the fact that almost all constitutional "experts" will tell you BC recall and initiative act cannot be applied to federally implemented law. Having said that as a matter of politics do you think it has been better that Gordon Campbell has listened to the economic and legal experts or should have he stayed in line with populists impulses of the province exlempified by the likes of Vaughn Palmer.

    • Well, according to the polls, apparently most people in BC want Campbell to be more like Harper. And to not listen to the experts. Go figure.

  29. I only had to watch Steve Paikin's final interview with Mike Harris on TVO to be reminded of others who endorse this type of " "Common Sense Revolution" ". [sic] Back then, it was nurses UNIONS and teachers UNIONS who were just trying to maintain the " " status quo " " [… and the medical UNION] – not health care and education professionals who were concerned about patients and students. During the interview Mike recalled his own perspectives back when he was a " " teacher " " [sic].

    Once the professions … and institutions which were carefully designed to serve the public are maimed, people come out of the woodwork and say "tainted cold cuts were federally inspected … I have the right to sell clean meat I raised myself".

    The common sense people all read "Atlas Shugged" instead of "The Jungle". They are taking us back to the era of "The Jungle" by destroying our public service institutions and the protections they provide. Where " " common sense " " is bliss, 'tis folly to gather statistics.

    • Firstly, the Harris education reforms were based on the fairly successful reforms of the Massachusetts school system. There was certainly a group of experts that supported measures like teacher accountability and standardized testing (just as Harper's crime reforms draw from the broken window theory of policing).

      Secondly, the main opposition to the reforms DID come from unions, and was motivated by parochial union objectives like teacher wages. Class sizes were emphasized, but it is clear that this had more to do with job security than education. The impact of class size on outcomes is debated within the education literature – it tends to depend a lot on particular circumstances (eg. teaching method, grade, etc.).

      At any rate, we can look at whether Harris destroyed Ontario's education system in an objective manner thanks to the PISA tests conducted by the OECD. http://www.eqao.com/pdf_e/07/07P105e.pdf

      Ontario students maintained high standards in spite of the Harris-era cuts (in fact they improved their scores in mathematics). Moreover, if there is a model Canadian system it would be Alberta, which tops almost everybody else in spite of the Klein era cuts. In fact, in the Albertan case, test scores only started to decline after the government started throwing money at the education system.

      • My doctor complained to me during appointments regarding the new pointless hoops he had to jump through due to the Harris changes. How about the doctor's "union" which bargains for their working conditions and fees? Harris and Clement knew more about medicine than the doctors? I had no sympathy for my doctor because I was a manager at a hospital and the system got worse for both the patients and the staff. My doctor quit and sold his practice to a shoot-the-hippo doctor from New Zealand. Then SARS came and Public Health resources had already been decimated. Guess who was minister?

        Yay for math and Alberta. So what should teachers be paid relative to bank executives – what % of a bank exec salary would be appropriate for the value to society a teacher provides? Or does a teacher provide any value if they're not strictly "teaching to the test" to goose the math "scores"?

        Why aren't doctors, lawyers, bank executives and hospital administrators "parochial" and shamed in public by these petty politicians and their supporters because they bargain successfully for their earnings and resist rollbacks?

        • Government policy should not be based on paying people based on vague notions of what they "deserve". At any rate, Ontario teachers are the best paid in the country, and are among the best paid in the world. A more sensible approach would be to pay teachers an amount sufficient enough to attract talented people to the job.

          As to the relative merits of teachers versus bank executives, I suppose you might have benefited from better teachers. If you want to start a business, you need capital. Bank executives run the organizations that make decisions about who gets capital. In other words they effectively set the priorities of private research, decide what gets built and so on. This is a pretty darn important job.

          The impact of teacher salaries on the quality of education, tends to be overrated anyway. For instance, an NBER study on the matter (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=160673) found weak evidence that higher salaries resulted in either better student outcomes or better teacher quality.

          • "Bank executives run the organizations that make decisions about who gets capital." I passed a few courses from the Canadian Securities Institute and I fail to see how high levels of executive pay and boards chaired by management, serve the best interests of the shareholders ("the owners" … "the allocators of their own surplus capital"). Sadly, our crusading conservative governments never crack down on white collar crime … where was the Harris US-run "boot camp" for the light-fingered execs who "settle" with the OSC?

            There are exellent teachers and there are poor teachers and I don't think you motivate the excellent teachers by making the system hell. I don't think you motivate them by villifying them in cheap little political campaigns. My question (bank exec salary vs teacher's) to you was mainly rhetorical because the ratio is ridiculous.

          • "Government policy" is to fashion "enemies" to keep their supporters happy. Government policy is to state one policy to get elected then forget about it … how are the ice breakers coming (the Paul Martin election promise)? Stealth fighters weren't in the throne speech. … Government policy is to accuse the opposition coalition of betraying the troops … and then the government discards maimed and scarred veterans like the cheap disposable labour they really consider them to be. Government policy?

    • I can’t believe you have brought Mike Harris into this blog. So, you are saying that civil servants can do no wrong and they are to be trusted over everyone else. The civil servants are experts–is that your point? The two idiots that caused the Walkerton tragedy were civil servants. They were trained??? So Mike Harris caused this!! I don’t know about you but every civil servant I have met makes me very afraid.

      • Sorry, the same Harris talent that screwed up Ontario health care is now destroying the census. And Harris clipped the safety net which could have caught "the two idiots" to whom you refer. No due diligence before the changes.

        • "And Harris clipped the safety net which could have caught "the two idiots" to whom you refer. No due diligence before the changes. "

          That's just flat out wrong. The Walkerton water tests performed correctly–by a private company to boot. The problem was the civil servant (one of your wonderful "experts") ignored the test results and proper procedure and people died as a result. But go ahead and continue to try to whitewash history.

          • The Harris approach was to change things quickly.
            When investigating a significant error in a hospital (or aviation), for example, almost always errors were made in more than one step of the process.

            Public Health is a 24 hour, 7 day a week business. If you cut enough, you can't cover all the hours. I remember that as part of the "mix" at Walkerton.

            Quick, reckless cuts and changes lead to errors. In the end Harris said he wished he had changed more things and changed them more quickly … Not much time for brainstorming by professionals or "listening to reason" … c.f. the long form census fait accompli. Truly short-sighted … without regard for the well-being of Canada or its citizens.

  30. There is definitely room to criticize any government that ignores truly expert advice pertinent to the policy decision at hand. The GST may indeed be one such example, although I think it wasn't so much a case of refusing to acknowledge the shortcomings of the policy so much as deciding that getting into power (whether due to ambition or as a means to do greater good in other respects) outweighed those concerns.

    However, it's often the case that highly qualified academics who think of themselves as "experts" on a given policy matter aren't actually experts at all.

    The issue surrounding Insite, for example, is not about whether it's medically beneficial so much as whether the rule of law outweighs the health benefits of helping people break the law. No amount of medical study addresses this question: it's a matter of statesmanship, not medicine.

    The other main example in the article – climate science – has fairly obvious problems associated with it. The credibility of climate scientists who advocate the climate change gospel has been severely compromised, not just by Climategate, but by the fact that the issue is surrounded by hype and that the funding available to scientists who support said gospel is gigantic. One would be foolish to ignore their input, but one would also be foolish to let their input dictate policy. There are reasonable grounds to doubt their objectivity.

    I often see journalists make this mistake of confusing academic qualifications for expertise on a given portfolio. I think, with all due respect, that this is because journalists tend not to have their own field of genuine expertise and therefore can't tell the difference.

      • "On climate, at least, we have 2 sets of experts whose expert opinions are in direct contradiction with each other. Who is to say which expert is truly expert?"

        Why, journalists of course!

        And what if the journalists also disagree?

        Then clearly journalism and arts curricula throughout the nation's universities are not doing their job. But anyway, on issues that matter dearly to the Left, this is highly unlikely.

          • Psssh! They're just experts!

    • That's not actually the insite issue.

    • I think that when judging expertise one has to weigh the number of experts and their personal experience, who support a particular belief. Harper on the other hand is not an expert at anything. Well OK, he's good at destruction of quality and necessary government programs and democracy. Time to prorogue him.

      • And what, in your view, is the metric of someone's expertise?

    • Gaunilon —
      Excellent post. I think that the views of those deemed to be "experts" is problematical on a number of counts:

      — Experts (whom I'll define as academics who do research in a particular field) most often are focused on a single aspect of complex issues. Research frequently requires that they take the narrow view as it is hard to research multiple variables or capture diversity in a sample group.
      — Experts usually have just one area of expertise (e.g. psychology, economics, environment), while most problems require multi-disciplinary solutions.
      — Experts bring their own prejudices to their research (too often unacknowledged)
      — Experts nearly always miss paradigm shifts — how could they not, when their research is necessarily focused on what has gone before?
      — Experts often disagree with one another — you need only pick up an academic journal to recognize that in almost any discipline researchers are frequently challenged on their methods, assumptions, arguments and conclusions.

      Of course the input of academic researches is valuable where it relates to a real-world problem — but it is not the be-all-and-end-all of decision making.

      • — Non-experts avoid focusing on a single aspect of complex issues; in fact they avoid knowing about complex issues at all! This makes them even better at taking narrow views, so they can despise diversity even more!
        — Non-experts usually have no area of expertise and know nothing about even one discipline, much less about multi-disciplinary solutions Keep it simple and stupid, d'uh.
        — Non-experts have their own prejudices and don't do any research (so no chance of ever learning better)
        — Non-experts spend all their time watching for paradigm shifts, but they miss them because they are too ignorant to know what to watch for anyway.
        — Non-experts never get challenged on their methods, assumptions, arguments and conclusions because they never produce anything worth being published in academic journals. Unless they publish on the web, where they can delete comments they don't like. And they never disagree with each other except almost always.

        Non-expertise… for people too lazy to acquire expertise.

        • Holly — Given that most of us are "non-experts" in most areas, I don't think your comments are particularly helpful. Perhaps you meant to refer to "ignorant people" rather than non-experts — in which case your observations might be correct, but since all of us have different views on who is ignorant and who is not — again, I would have to say "not helpful." I don't believe the "experts" and the "non-experts" should be pitted against one another as you appear to want to do. Where does that get us? My comments were only intended to identify the ways in which "expert" opinions only give part of a picture at the best of times, and also can be full of holes.

          • Sorry, but you clearly have no idea of what kinds of things experts are likely to know, nor how they are likely to behave. You wrote a bunch of hogwash such as how experts aren't involved in multidisciplinary solutions, even though the word "multidisciplinary" means people from different disciplines, in other words experts, working together.

            Amateurs may occasionally have something to teach professionals, but amateurs, people who study something for the love of studying it, may become experts through hard work. But nobody becomes an expert without working at it.

          • Re: "Sorry, but you clearly have no idea of what kinds of things experts are likely to know, nor how they are likely to behave."
            which is why I kept my comments general — intending primarily to discuss the concept of "expert", and its relevance to problem solving, rather than to discuss any specific "experts" and what they may or may not know. I also did not say that experts are not involved in "multidisciplinary solutions" — clearly some are — but rather that individual experts usually do not themselves embody multidisciplinary expertise (usually). My comment was intended only to flag something additional to consider when looking for solutions and weighing advice from experts. Finally (in reference to your introductory "sorry") — no need to apologize — I think you are spouting hogwash yourself.

          • Your concpt of "expert" is not based on reality.

      • "Of course the input of academic researches is valuable where it relates to a real-world problem — but it is not the be-all-and-end-all of decision making."

        Exactly. A good policy-maker takes input from all sides and then formulates a decision accordingly. His decision may not match what any of the experts recommended, but that doesn't mean it ignored their input.

        If Harper is actually refusing to consider the advice of those with experience, knowledge, and skin in the game then he's a fool. But Geddes didn't make that case – he just pointed to academics who are apparently annoyed that Harper didn't follow their sage advice. Oh well. Academic egos can be a little oversensitive sometimes.

        I think that most journalists, having never been either policy makers or experts, aren't that good at distinguishing the complementary roles of each.

        • "…If Harper is actually refusing to consider the advice of those with experience, knowledge, and skin in the game then he's a fool…"

          So since Harper is making the long-form census voluntary without consulting any competent statistician first, and indeed AGAINST all of their advice, HARPER IS A DAM' FOOL.

  31. I'm not convinced that Stephen Harper thinks he is smarter than the "experts"; instead, for reasons described in the story, he chooses to minimize or even eliminate the weight given to expert opinion.

    He (and Harper supporters) are totally free to do that, although it would be helpful if they would be more explicit about this choice.

  32. While the above is a simplistic, and cynical take on experts, (Kudos, however, if you want a winning simplistic argument it never hurts to be a cynic) it is awfully long to not directly address one of the key issues brought up in the article. BTW your same argument applied to politicians would take them all to be self-serving, corrupt, power lusting fiends in it to defraud the Canadian people for lucrative pension. Applied to politicians, Bill C-95 would indicate that the onus is on Harper to prove immediately that the Conservative government is not a criminal organization. (that last was just a plug for Cash's post)

    Nobody is saying, turn the keys to 24 Sussex over to a committee of "experts". Nobody is saying not to weigh all available advice by the source and motivations of that source.

    The issue is refusing to meet, or listen to the experts and in some cases simply getting rid of expertise altogether. If you want to be the voice of reason backing up the Conservatives that is the real issue that needs to be addressed.

  33. Perhaps you try to catch up there guy – you should at least try to look like you know what you're talkign about.

  34. It is amazing how many people feel informed enough to post yet still believe climategate happened. The investigation cleared the scientists yet you all keep referring to it. The Republican party made up climategate because they knew if they bellowed enough about it, those who only read headlines would believe it. The truth does not matter to people like these and our PM is now being advised by the GOP's very same advisors.

    • Nice try Asif(nine)… the investigation(s – there were three), were all led by folks tied to the global warming community and were far from unbiased – in fact in each instance the investigating panel stood a lot to lose if climategate was shown to be true. The real test will be the fraud trials that are in front of the courts. When your guys are proclaimed innocent on them, I'll listen.

    • "The Republican party made up climategate"

      lol Sorry, no. The people who wrote the emails confessed that they were genuine.

      • Their stolen emails were lied about by denialists.

        • No evidence to support your assertion.
          The Norfolk police investigation and the National Domestic Extremism Team have made no findings available and the investigation is now into the 10th month.
          Too bad Sherlock Holmes is dead, his expertise is sorely needed to complete the investigation.

  35. I cannot believe the BS on these comments. Everything to “he’s a bully” to he is a religious bully. This man has not done anything to screw up Canada. Except, perhaps to try and make some people take personal responsibility instead of blaming everything else but themselves for their problems. I do not care if the person going to jail for molestation; murder; or violence of any kind comes from a bad home; a neglected home or a good home. If he/she does these crimes–he/she goes to jail. When the Government got rid of capital punishment, we were told these people would receive LIFE SENTENCES–not 10 years; not 15 years–Life. Life sentence should mean life sentence.

    • If this government were really serious about crime, wouldn't they be looking into the loopholes that allow people who get off, even though they blew over the limit and are caught in possession of cocaine? But no, locking people up and throwing away the key is a much better approach. Thing is, incarceration only happens to those who can't afford top notch legal advice – the connected don't usually even see the inside of a courtroom. How about a chilling thought, but one consistent with everything this leader has done… Those prisons are really for those who don't share his ideology. Lock up all the academics! Chairman Maoharper thinks you are a dangerous criminal!

    • Don't expect the LefTwits to use logic or common sense. 8 years for a life sentance is more than enough for the hug a thug crowd who think reciticism is the only measure by which crime sentances should be measured upon. They would like their thugs to come out of the pen with university educations (preferably in the social "sciences") and a better lifestyle than many would face on the mean streets. They just don't get that when Canadian's are annoyed by criminal sentancing it is because we want them put away for punishment – for our good, not for that of the thug. I've seen a rapist get 2 years (out on parole after 3 months with time served (double time) for breaking into an apartment and brutally raping a young woman (with her child in the next room – threatened to kill her and the child). Explain to me how that's fair to the poor woman? This thug actually smiled at her when he got his sentance. And LefTwits wonder why we are incensed by this.

    • Personally, I don't like the Harper government a whole lot. And I find some of the ways he behaves to be bullying of others. That's not necessarily a bad thing in every instance. Sometimes the elbows need to come up. Every time? No.

      But back to crime:

      The key to successful rehabilitation is for offenders to take responsibility for their crimes and their futures. IT's not a matter of "my mommy was mean to me so I gotta beat you to death with a club." The ideal is much more like: "I chose to take drugs. I chose to leave school. I chose to get involved with criminal activity. Those choices led me here. I need to make choices that will keep me out of here in the future."

      For reference: The average time served for someone convicted is 17.6 years. Of those on parole, less than 1% are charged with an offense after parole and 0.2% for a violent offense. One study looked at nearly 12,000 releases of offenders on parole or statutory release between 1975 and 1999. Of those 12,000, 37 ( 0.3%) were subsequently convicted for another homicide. (http://www.npb-cnlc.gc.ca/rprts/pls_2002-eng.shtml)

    • My favourite in the news recently was someone who was sentenced to life in prison with no posibility of parole…for 7 years.

    • You expect the intolerant left to produce evidence and actual facts before making ad hominem attacks?

      The egalitarianism and welfarism of modern liberal government are incompatible with the facts of human nature and the human condition. But the rise to power of the liberal agenda has resulted from the fact that the people of western societies have irrationally demanded that governments take care of them and manage their lives instead of protecting their property rights. This misconception results in massive violations of those rights while permitting government officials to act out their own and their constituents' psychopathology..

  36. hth, thanks for at least making a thoughtful post. Most of the other comments above are just partisan crap, a glorified partisan p*ssing match. It's just depressing to read.

  37. What a biased article. It uses a "expert" who it acknowledges is at risk of losing tens of millions of dollars of funding for about 75% of it's "content". Why don't you just quote other biased, hypocritical LefTwits like Suzuki and Gore while you are at it? (each of which does exactly the opposite of what they insist the rest of us should be legislated against). Come on McLean's… you can make your Leftist bent a bit more evenhanded.

  38. Qmoceam worked for a man who acted like Prime Minister Harper.So this means what?Pretty poor analogy.Seems with that logic you would be comfortable voting NDP .

  39. It's the Dunning-Kruger effect:

    "…As Dunning read through the article, a thought washed over him, an epiphany. If Wheeler was too stupid to be a bank robber, perhaps he was also too stupid to know that he was too stupid to be a bank robber — that is, his stupidity protected him from an awareness of his own stupidity…"

    "…After comparing the student's own impressions with their actual performance, a clear pattern emerged in Dunning and Kruger's data: Worse students grossly overestimated their own performance, while top students somewhat underestimated theirs…"

    And guess which commenters here will not understand what the link is all about?

  40. Frankly, Harper could find few stronger endorsements than criticism from the Canadian Institute of Planners:

    "Working on behalf of planners and the planning profession, CIP serves as the national voice of Canada's planning community. In its capacity as the national professional institute and certification body for the planning profession in Canada,"

    Here's an idea: maybe Canadians don't want so-called "experts" planning their society and, through it, their lives.

    This is NOT a revolutionary idea.

    • Huh, well how 'bout that? I wasn't aware that city planning was part of some nefarious plot to control the masses.

      Learn sumthin' new everyday I guess.

      • Interestingly enough, the CIP never seems to explicitlyurban planning as their area of interest, and they make it clear that they don't plan to stop there.

        Their obsession with so-called climate change — the favourite pet cause of all would-be social engineers — clearly indivicates that they aren't content to limit themelves to that, either.

        • "Our Members work in the public service and the private sector, in a wide variety of fields including land use planning, environmental resource management, land development, heritage conservation, social planning, transportation planning and economic development"

          Biggest bunch of Trotskyites I've ever heard of!

          • Yup, that's right.

            Because certainly no Trotskyite has ever taken an interest in social planning and economic planning. EVER.

          • I KNOW! That's why I'm agreeing with you! Those Trotskyist bstards should be locked up and we should throw away the key!

            Frankly, their existence gives me chills.

    • Yeah, who needs to anticipate new roads/sewers/power lines anyway!

  41. “I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” – William F. Buckley, Jr.

    Notwithstanding that world renowned intellectual thinker Iggnatieff is a Harvard grad, I think the same can be said of any of the inferior Canadian universities and institutions.

    So what's happening in Canada for the intelligentsia to connect with Canadians??

    We've got to reconnect to Canadians. "That's why we're doing it." .. "Michael Ignatieff says the Liberals must "reconnect to Canadians" over the summer and show them his party can offer a better alternative to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives." (from a CBC article). Ignatieff said this on the first day of his bus tour, in the rain, in Ottawa .. remember? But how can a disconnected Iggy "reconnect" the equally disconnected Liberal party to Canadians??

  42. Political 'gut feel' beats out 'academic brainy bee ess'!

    • Kinda like the French and the Hijab, eh?

  43. "Why Stephen Harper thinks he's smarter than the experts"

    uh… Because the press gallery told him he was? Who came up with the "chessmaster" title?

    • It couldn't have been a certain inkless wretch, could it?

      • Nah… There's only one genius in that inkless world…

  44. "tens of millions of dollars" – the only thing the 'experts' are looking for, and they'll make up all kinds of 'evidence' to get their hands on the money. If these 'experts' are so smart they should be able to contribute to the economy instead of suckle from government like parasites.

    • Gotta love the name he picked.

      • Mr. and Mrs. Anthropist were quite taken with the name Phillip for their new baby, I'll have you know.

        • I've been calling him Philanthropist the misanthropist. Oops, I guess that should be misanthrope.

  45. The bafflecrap initiated by the malcontent Olaf, fertilized by the orduric contribution of John and finally harvested by the gullable Gaunilon is really not the point is it? Picking two of several available examples and saying "look these prove nothing" really doesn't accomplish very much in dismantling Geddes thesis.

    To my mind, this is the reason for the political importance of the long form debate. There are no Liberal hacks to blame. Except for about 20 people, nobody had an entrenched position. There was a Harper appointed body of experts whose expertise spread well beyond academia and included substantive experience in the public and private sectors. The Minister's initial defense amounted to that he had a right to do whatever he wanted and so he did just that. Kinda a confession. Then he lied, got catchout by some guy with "dignity", and now he has kinda confessed again. The government didn't want advice from experts, the government didn't want advice from companies & organizations that use the data. Asked about the above, Kevin Bacon said "These are the facts and they are not in dispute".

    Once a killer is seen with a smokin gun over one body… all of the other corpses suddenly seem suspicious.

    • Once a killer is seen with a smokin gun over one body… all of the other corpses suddenly seem suspicious.

      Exactly. Just as journalists have for years been cherry picking the experts that advocate the positions that fit their narrative, and ignoring those who don't. Often at the same time failing to inform us of political or financial motivations and connections hiding behind the opinions of said experts.

      I've seen enough of that kind of "ordure" (nice word BTW) from our media that I don't much bat an eye when they trot out an "expert" any more.

    • I don't see how I can be construed as the malcontent in this scenario. I just don't think that "Geddes thesis", properly considered, leads to any conclusions other than a) academics think Harper should always follow their advice and b) sometimes he doesn't. Not following "expert advice" on occasion (preferring partisan/electoral advantage, ideological coherence, the advice of other experts, etc.) is perfectly common in a modern democracy, for better or worse.

      Unfortunately, a few examples of 'populism' (that is, advancing politically popular policies), a couple of spurned academics who despite being specifically excluded from the policy making process seem to know precisely how it works, and a reporter dying to craft a juicy narrative, have facilitated the delusions of yourself and the other members of the Rebel Alliance, and given you the opportunity to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you're fighting for truth and love and goodness against ignorance and hatred and evil. It makes you feel intellectually and morally superior. I get that. I just don't feel the need to join in.

      • It makes you feel intellectually and morally superior. I get that. I just don't feel the need to join in.

        Your reticence is commendable.

        • I thought so. I'm not in it for the glory, Crit.

          • Well said!

          • Seriously. It would have been so easy to jump on the bandwagon, join the Rebel Alliance, and bask in the warm glow of dozens of thumbs-up from fellow freedom fighters. Instead, you were rightly skeptical of the author's much too pat "goes with his gut" narrative, anecdotally supported by two jilted academics.

          • Crit, if you're suggesting that I'm some sort of "modern Canadian hero" just because I refused to get all bent out of shape and buy into a media-driven narrative hook line and sinker, and was willing to accept my subsequent unpopularity as adjudicated by 'the people' with courage and aplomb, well, I don't know what to say, other than you're absolutely right.

          • How's the R&D bandwagon these days?

  46. Replying to your points:

    1. I'm not sure that telling experts to stop lecturing others would be helpful in the current situation. For example, consider the census question: all of the objective evidence indicates that a mandatory survey is the only way to produce an unbiased data sample. There is virtually no statistician on the planet who believes otherwise. But that isn't stopping our current government.

    2. This just changes the problem into a meta-problem – instead of trusting experts, we now have to trust the people who create the list of experts. But these people are as equally likely to be biased as the experts themselves. (The Sun Media network's list of political "experts" would likely be different from that of the Toronto Star's, for example.)

    3. I'm not sure what "departmental interests" means, to be honest.

    4. I don't have a problem with this. Evidence has shown that the best solutions are produced when a wide range of people is consulted – everybody adds their own bit of knowledge to the problem. There's a world of difference, though, between saying that all stakeholders must be consulted (as you're doing), and saying that Joe Average, using so-called "common sense", makes better decisions than those fancy-shmancy ivory-tower intellectuals.

    5. The risk here is that the merely lucky will be rewarded, as opposed to the smart. It's like somebody tossing a coin eight times, getting "heads" each time, and then being consulted as an expert on how to get a coin to land "heads". (Some financial experts achieved their acclaim in this way.)

    • 1. But the issue isn't whether or not we should have a statistically valid census. The issue is a tradeoff between census accuracy and the coercion people experience by having to fill out the long form. I think it is a pretty clear tradeoff (the inconvenience is low, and the benefit is high), which is precisely why I would be comfortable letting people reach their own judgment.

      2. What you are suggesting as a bad thing is the status quo. The Sun has its experts, the Star its experts and so on. The problem is that journalists do the selecting. I am not proposing that. I am proposing that academics make a list. They may also have biases, but at least they actually KNOW who is an expert and who is not. Journalists do not have that ability.

      3. If you work for say, the Pentagon, you benefit when the Pentagon gets more money – in terms of job security, power, prestige and possibly your wages. As a result you may be more likely to push for policies that will result in the Pentagon getting money. This is particularly true for those at the top, who also prefer for their department to have more influence over policy matters. This can have a real effect on policy, because it is government departments that present options to governments. This effect could be mitigated if people were not pawns of departments, but rather had the ability to move horizontally.

      Even non-affiliated experts often have similar incentives. The prestige of academics that specialize on a particular issue is proportional to the importance of the issue. In addition, academics tend to commit themselves to certain perspectives in which they invest a great deal of time, prestige and effort. Einstein, for instance, had a strong professional interest in people believing the theory of relativity, and would have such an interest even if he was wrong.

      4. We agree here.

      5. In the long-run I think it is far more likely that skilled assessments will prevail over luck. Moreover, futures markets would help counteract biases formed from the tendency to only notice predictions when they go wrong because we would have a continuous measure.

  47. The evidence that Harper does not trust experts is pretty strong. Evidence for the public not trusting them is weaker.

    It is true that economists score pretty low… but are any of them really expert?

    • But economists ARE the relevant experts for a wide range of public policy matters. If not them, it could be senior civil servants, but they score even lower. The fact that people trust engineers and doctors (and they trust them less than firefighters and nurses) has little bearing on politics. It would be more useful if they had university professors listed, or specifically professors in the social sciences.

      And your survey doesn't ask the key question – of whether people trust members of those professions IN GUIDING PUBLIC POLICY. When asked "do I trust doctors", I am probably going to think of whether I trust my doctor on medical matters. The World Value Survey directly asked people whether they wanted experts to make political decisions. So, nice try.

      • Agreed that neither of our stats are relevant; (did they really ask if people wanted experts to make political decisions rather than have input?!?)

        Agree that economists are as close as one can come to an expert in many areas of public policy. Of course, there is absolutely no excuse for a government not to be able to find an economist to support their policies.

        Increasingly this government is moving against the advice of physical scientists and engineers in addition to professors in the social sciences.

        • They asked whether it is a good or bad feature of a political system to have experts making decisions.

          • Then it was a ridiculous survey question and not at all relevant to the discussion at hand. Seriously, they asked whether people supported their democratic representatives being replaced with unspecified "experts?"

            Who on earth would support that? That would be, at best, a benevolent dictatorship.

          • 40% of Canadians supported it. It was presented as one of a range of priorities for a political system – and not as being mutually exclusive from democratic elections, etc. Is the World Values Survey perfect? No. But it drives a lot of expert discussion in comparative politics (datasets can often reinforce a false consensus around relatively arbitrary questions of coding in a discipline).

          • It's actually very relevant to the discussion at hand. It's pretty hypocritical for people (and I'm not necessarily including you in here) to attack Harper for not listening to experts if they themselves are not prepared to listen to the experts. And not just on issues where they happen to agree with the experts but on ALL issues.

            You've hit the nail on the head. We're a democracy, not a technocracy. If the experts can't convince the government or Canadians to go in the direction they want then that is the experts fault/problem. I really don't see why Harper is being criticized for doing what elected governments have done since the first government was elected.

  48. The article makes the assumption that it is political expediency that drives Mr. Harper's disdain for science and empirical research. An alternative hypothesis is that he (and members of his cabinet) are ideologues and science and empirical research are poison to the ideologue. My proof is that he is quite willing to enact unpopular policies as well as popular ones. Building prisons when crime drops does play to the political expedient "boogie man out to get you" narrative but also the belief in justice (meaning Biblical "cut off the hand that steals" Justice) which is an ideology. They seem to enjoy passing judgment on those who transgress (those who are least like they believe themselves to be) and they are harsh judges indeed.

  49. Perhaps Mr. Harper is aware of the many European Countries who have done away with their mandatory census's–a fact no lazy Canadian Journalist has dared research. More: Germany is Next. Hello? Germany is nixing their census? Why is no journalist asking why? How they will accommodate need for data etc?
    Of course everyone knows Germany is known for its intellectual abyss. There is no science there, no technology, and no Mathematics, and no Statisticians there– never have been I guess…(sic)

    • European countries who've done away with the census have far more "Big-Brother" like registries in place so they don't need a census, as Stephen Gordon has been repeatedly saying, (who HAS researched the topic) as have others. IF you think the census is such a tyrannical thing here.. you'd faint over the state control of info that some of those European countries who dont have a mandatory census or a census at all have.

      Not a good example to try to be using.

      • Why do the statistics need to be run by inefficient governments? How do the europeans do it ? through private registries? Through the government indirectly? Let's take the example of fedex: if fedex wanted to gather statistics, it could do so privately without involving the government. This would cost fedex money and they would decide whether it was worthwhile in the market. The government on the other hand has no idea whether so and so is worthwhile and they just spend money whatever ways they want. So how does europe govern its statistics without the government? what do they do? I'm seriously asking because maybe the way they do it is better… or maybe not – you tell me, or point me to the info that would inform us.

  50. The widening gulf I see is that "the right" makes blanket statements about "the left's" motives and beliefs, while the "the left" does the same thing about "the right."

    • That is probably a fair point… YOU MURDERER-LOVING COMMUNIST! I will try to refrain from making blanket statements about left, which are usually biased by my own personal experiences anyway (although I am probably in a better position to generalize about the left, since I barely know any conservatives).

  51. No doubt it's good strategy, but I think it might be personal as well. Remember, most of the basic tenents of the "Calgary school", to whom Harper has devoted his intellectual life – are pretty much derided by most serious scholars. Rainer Knopf and TeD Morton will never be anything except fringe legal commentators, for i nstance. I think it now appeals to his dark psyche to attack not only the ideas of experts, but now the very idea of experts themselves ("Why, if I cannot be the smartest, there shall be no such thing as intelligence at all!!! BWAHAHAHHAHAHHA)

    • Knopff and Morton have co-authored or co-edited literature with a number of very well regarded political scientists, including Les Pal, Janet Heibert and Peter Russell. Their critique of the judicial role in interpreting the Charter has been subject to consideration, criticism and/or backtracking by top legal scholars (Hogg, Roach, etc.). Morton's book on Law and Politics is in its third edition and read in faculties across the country. Their Calgary school disciple (Chris Manfredi) is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at McGill. Just because you don't agree with their politics doesn't mean that they're broadly derided or fringe commentators.

      • They have a bit of extremist cache as political scientists. That's why I was careful to say legal commentators.

  52. To paraphrase a great man, "I would rather be governed by the first 500 names of the Toronto phone book, than by the faculty of the University of Toronto."

    • Ummmmm … I don't think so …'Morontonians' … ???!!!!!

      I would rather be governed by the first 308 names of the Calgary phone book, than the faculty of the University of Moronto …!!!!

      Now that sounds better by a long shot …..LOL

    • Aaron A. Aaronson for Prime Minister!

  53. The parasitic Canadian leftist establishment embedded in our society and gov't must be flushed out with a strong conservative enema. The next election will be Harper and sane Canadian taxpayers versus the Lib-Dip-Sep coalition junta, the civil service, the parasitic organizations sucking off the public teat and the leftist Liberal media maggots.

    If Canadians again refuse to elect a majority Harper Conservative gov't, the nation will disintegrate under the leftist slime and detritus.

    • Who don't love them a good ol' fashioned junta?!!

      I gotta admit, I like you a whole lot more when you break out your word of the day calendar :)

      • Actually it's the "Coalition Troika Junta" … but I just didn't want to overdo it … ;-)

    • Gee, you don't think there's any exaggeration here, do you? We live in a great country. We're better off than almost the entire world. Whether or not Harper's re-elected, we'll still be better off than the rest of the world. It's just politics. Calm down.

  54. "Municipalities use Census data, particularly long-form data, to target which resident groups and neighbourhoods require public services like immigrant settlement support, low-income housing, child care and transit." — letter from FCM president Hans Cunningham to Industry Minister Tony Clement, July 8.

    " Derek Cook, Calgary's research and social planner, said eliminating the mandatory nature of the census will make it unlikely there will be any useable data on neighbourhoods. The current census is sent out to a carefully selected series of households per community, to ensure as accurate as possible snapshot of the country. 'If we don't have that data at the neighbourhood level, we're crippled,' said Cook, who has worked at the city for 11 years." — CTV news, July 8.

    • Hate to burst YOUR bubble too, Bob, but Derek wasn't talking about "immigrant settlement support, low-income housing, child care and transit". He was talking about (and I quote) "roads/sewer/power lines".

      I'd almost say "nice attempt to move the goalposts" — except that it was actually clumsy and inept.

      • Patrick Ross wrote: "…As a matter of fact, roads/sewers/power lines and all of these things are determined by municipal governments, based on the decisions THEY make about property zoning based on land surveys and geographical information. The census has nothing to do with it…"

        Then he wrote: "…Derek wasn't talking about "immigrant settlement support, low-income housing, child care and transit". He was talking about (and I quote) "roads/sewer/power lines"…"

        In other words THE SAME THING.

        • Right. That must be the famous longform geographical census, where they ask plots of land about their moisture absorption rates.

          I hear if that one wasn't mandatory they wouldn't get very many responses.

          Now that the necessary mockery is dispensed with, I have to point out to Holly that decisions regarding targetted social services and UTILITIES are very different decisions, on numerous different levels.

          First off, decisions regarding targetted social services are made long AFTER a development is completed and populated.

          Decisions regarding utilities are made long BEFORE property development begins.

          Not only are these not "THE SAME THING", they are as dissimilar is possible. Either Holly Stick has no clue what's being discussed, or she's simply being relentlessly contrarian.

      • I don't know ALL of the uses of the census by municipalities. I'm not a statistican, or an employee of a municipality. But I'd wager that if municipalities are using census data to build low-income housing, that would imply the servicing of said housing by roads, sewers, and power. Who'd want to live in a unit with no road, no toilets, and no hydro?

        • Of course you don't know all the uses of the census by municipalities. You've made it evident that you know absolutely nothing about it.

          By the way, the planning of low-income housing? Is more heavily determined by information gathered through income tax returns and by local advocacy than through information gathered through the long-form census.

          Looks like you lose on that point, too. I guess you'd better vote my comments down a few more times as retaliation.

          • You seem angry with me. I'm not sure why. Have I done something to offend you, other than politely disagree? I'm not sure I've ever voted someone down. Or up. Is there a way to tell?

            As to low-income housing — if the President of the FCM says they use it, I kinda want to believe him.

            Just so we're clear: Edmonton says they use their census data for things like recreation centres and LRT line placement. http://bit.ly/bYigKG

            This Globe and Mail article outlines the use of census data by developers to design now housing develoments, by municpal economic development authorities to attract businesses, for breakfast programs, library placement, http://bit.ly/9gDWQi

            In Toronto, the census is used "to plan, among other things, Toronto's Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy, the proposed Lawrence Heights revitalization, immigration settlement services and public transit design." http://www.insidetoronto.com/news/cityhall/articl

            Halton region says it uses census data for everything up to the expansion of its hospital. http://bit.ly/doiwtw

          • Well done. Now watch Patrick grab the goal posts and run with them over to a different football field.

  55. Where the H do you think they get their information? From STATSCAN!

    page 4, note 6 <a href="http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Z9qlQ1FSWxoJ :www.uquebec.ca/observgo/fichiers/77425_ps.pdf+sewer+line+statscan&hl=en&gl=ca&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiN4yzcrYzOLre2SQzpZ0YJmCdTGeZLJPH0EHHF6OfBK2iRJUUoTkoM8emnGe69YLeL-uIL-V61BeqX-2jppohZ6LyeOJGrLEfxRwzTVAYyZu1Tv8N29sIH5lZyxkrgUmS-pXsb&sig=AHIEtbQGY0_bZK6oXAwGnbEH8RbTMiiKTQ” target=”_blank”>http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Z9q…” target=”_blank”>:www.uquebec.ca/observgo/fichiers/77425_ps.pdf+sewer+line+statscan&hl=en&gl=ca&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiN4yzcrYzOLre2SQzpZ0YJmCdTGeZLJPH0EHHF6OfBK2iRJUUoTkoM8emnGe69YLeL-uIL-V61BeqX-2jppohZ6LyeOJGrLEfxRwzTVAYyZu1Tv8N29sIH5lZyxkrgUmS-pXsb&sig=AHIEtbQGY0_bZK6oXAwGnbEH8RbTMiiKTQ

    • Once again, if you're going to try to shift the goalposts, you're going to have to do it less clumsily than this.

      Demonstrating that construction industry groups list statistics on their websites doesn't change the fact that the planning of roads, sewers and power lines has nothing to do with the census.

      • Of course if anybody shifted goalposts, it was you. We (you and I) were talking about the nefariousness of the Canadian Institute of Planning. Then you brought up the census as a response to Derek Pearce. I must admit, I found it a strange non sequitur…

        Now let's get back to talking about those sick deviants in the Canadian Institute of Planning!

      • Prove that it does not.

        • The burden of proof isn't on me to prove ANYTHING.

          As a matter of fact, Derek Pearce is the one suggesting that census data contributes to these decisions.

          It's up to HIM to prove that census data — moreover, data included on the long-form census — contributes to these decisions.

          If you want to try to help him, be my guest. I suspect I'm about to be EXTREMELY amused.

          • Ignorance is bliss.

          • I suspected there was a reason why you embrace it.

  56. Why Stephen Harper thinks he's smarter than the experts – No but Canadians don't feel they get honesty from the newspapers. Good example: "oil sands". It's meant to deceive. It's a LIE. Canadian media repeat it hundreds of times a day. That makes them LIARS. If they can't clean up their own act, they can't clean up politics.

  57. Illogical.

    Some of the best arguments on this site get a run of negative reactions because they make people uncomfortable but are not easily refuted. If you make a sloppy argument for an unpopular position you get flooded with replies, if you make a good argument for an unpopular position then you get a flood of "thumbs down."

    This is not an endorsement of the original comment BTW, I didn't really like it because it made lazy generalizations about "the Left."

    • Plus there's that one guy who is somewhere around -73 because he questioned the Columnist Who Must Not Be Named and got a couple of -400s on his record.

  58. I have a different take on this. It is not that the Conservatives are not interested in "expert" opinion, it is just that they have a different take on who the experts might be. Truth is — you can argue any side of any issue and usually select out facts accordingly. Traditionally, academics have been identified as representing "expert" opinion, but often their take comes from a somewhat rareified environment that is detached from ordinary experience/reality. You need only look at the broad range of conflicting medical research to understand that experts and research are only part of the picture. What is true in the medical universe is, I believe, true in the arena of social sciences as well — and sometimes alternative points of view do not get serious consideration in academia. Do you expect that research done in a women's studies program would give you a complete picture of how women fare these days with respect to matters of equality? My main point is that research needs to be put into perspective, and will not necessarily provide clear answers for policy directions. It is also important to understand what biases creep into any research that is done. Polls, focus groups, talking to constituents, people in the know (e.g. military on military matters) and weighing alternatives also come into play. Ideology — having a set of principles guiding decision making — is also important. Usually, those voting for a party support whatever ideology the party represents.

    • This is a very good argument, although I think it is getting harder and harder for governments to consult in this fashion. The amalgamation craze reduced the small low-level units where a stakeholder approach would be likely to work. Instead we increasingly have large political units with diverse constituents. That makes it harder to figure out who gets a seat at the table – and sometimes including some has worse effects than including none. Charlottetown, for instance, did involve consultation, but that process tended to elevate certain groups that happened to be more concentrated and vocal. Hence it should not be surprising that the eventual referendum failed.

    • If the conservatives could come up with a way to get the statistics privately or through some other organization, they would have a case. I've been skeptical of this whole statistic census issue and wonder if we really need Government to do the statistics, or have some other organization do it, possibly even in a competitive market, or pulling the data from existing sources to save money. Instead of just fighting and name calling, the conservatives and liberals (and moron canadians that fanboy up to those parties) actually need to show what the viable alternatives and solutions are.

  59. There's two ironic things about this article:

    (1) For a discussion of the merits of allegedly "expert" advice, it's fundamentally just anecdotal; it thus relies on appealing to readers' prejudices rather than proper evidence (by "expert" standards "anecdotal evidence" does not count as evidence)

    (2) It's attempt to appeal to reader prejudice is emphasized by the fact that in attempting to explain the trend which it purports to identify, it nowhere addresses the fact that Harper and his circle are much closer closer to the putative "experts" than any other Canadian government: that is, Harper and his immediate circle are actually closely connected to academia, and are often actual academics – something which could not be said for, say, Trudeau, Clark, Mulroney, Chretien, Martin…. and not even Ignatieff (he had academic appointments, but did not do proper academic work, and so is not recognized as a "real" academic by other academics). Presumably the author of the story does not pursue this angle because it would distract from the preconception (i.e., prejudice) which he is trying to play into – the "narrative" about the Harper government which he is trying to create. And maybe, also, because journalists are not generally well educated enough to be able to pursue that line of inquiry.

  60. The census debate concerns the quality of census data, and not the existence of census data. The debate is about a policy choice to eliminate the need to punish citizens for failing to divulge detailed information about themselves to the state, at the expense of less robust data. I'm skeptical that the conclusions Geddes' interviewees draw reflect "less robust data", as opposed to perceived useless data. It's inaccurate to say that the government has ignored concerns about having worse data: it has considered them and made a policy choice to proceed nevertheless.

    Also, the opposition to Vancouver's Insite injection facility reflects a policy choice to say that denouncing the use of hard drugs (or removing the opportunity to flaunt their use) is better than mitigating the specific harms that hard drug users do to themselves. The government is not ignoring scientific evidence about the "health benefits" of Insite (mitigated harms), but has said those benefits are not relevant to its decision to say "hard drugs are illegal, everywhere." That may or may not be a policy that should be voted for, but it's not policy that ignores evidence.

    • When you go on wikipedia to find out what the population of a certain province is, do you not find this information useful? if you wanted to move to toronto, would you not be interested in how crowded it was? I think statistics are definitely useful – what the conservatives have to do is come up with an alternative way of getting useful statistics, whether it be from some private organization, from existing data (like from employers, town offices, etc.). They might even be able to save money, most likely, by getting rid of big government run inefficient stats organizations who don't have a competitive market, and therefore are prone to wasting tax payer dollars. But could you even have a competitive statistics system? why have several different companies competing for doing the job of statistics? would it work? I'm not saying I'm in favor of private statistics vs government statistics – I'm just proposing some kind of alternative solution to ponder.

  61. Similar to my post above, the crime and punishment debate is presented entirely in instrumental terms, i.e., as if the only reason we imprison people is to reduce crime. It's not. We also imprison people to punish them because they *should* be punished (apart from whether that punishment is useful), and also to publicly denounce their actions. The government has said there are other relevant factors that inform things like mandatory minimum sentences, and consideration of other factors is not the same as ignoring the factors the experts happen to spend their time researching.

  62. I'm just curious. Why do Conservatives continually claim that academics don't live in the real world? I know several who would fit the definition of "academic"…teachers, professors, scientists…and they seem to live in exactly the same middle-class world that I live in. They have to pay the bills, just like I do. They have families. They like to drink beer and listen to The Supersuckers really loud.

    They come from a variety of backgrounds. Some local, some not. Some rural, some urban. Some blue collar, some white collar. Some are married, some are single. Some pay for the round when it's their turn, some go to pee.

    Yeah, they do have certain expertise. I seek out that expertise when needed. Just as they seek mine when building a deck or looking for help with a piece of writing, or trying to keep that old car (because they live in real world and can't afford a new one) running for another year. It only makes sense to seek out expert advice when needed. Why the Conservative need to misrepresent and attack the experts?

    • Most of the financial experts said that the value of property could NEVER go down…especiallly in the US…how'd that work out?

      • There's a pretty big difference between the voodoo economics that guys like Harper practice and the study of statistics or the physics behind much of the science of global warming.

        • What is the difference, exactly? Financial deregulation came straight out of academia – the bulk of peer-reviewed research suggested that deregulation increased growth and innovation, while having a minimal impact on on risk.

          • The biggest difference is that in science when a hypothesis is unsupported by the evidence, it must be discarded. In Harpo-land when his hypothesis is unsupported by the evidence he just restates the exact same failed hypothesis again.

        • Yes, Suzuki, the UN and their ilk do not have an axe to grind…or a political bias…noooooooo pure SCIENCE.

    • I think the real criticism is that academics live all too much in the real world. Like anybody, they hold ideologies and cognitive biases, are members of social classes, ethnic groups, genders, and have certain professional interests. Why should we expect them to be paragons of objectivity when we know that most people are not?

      • Because they are trained to study things with objectivity. No doubt some are more capable than others of objectivity; but they are expected to be able to be objective about their areas of expertise, and they are being judged by their peers. They may be entirely subjective about other parts of their lives.

        And as one learns more about one's area of expertise, one develops the humility of understanding how much there is that one still does not know. How many yappy bloggers have never ever studied any subject in depth, or done the hard work of understanding the basics of any field of expertise?

        • I disagree that there are strong incentives to be objective in academia. Firstly, you have to ask what papers are going to get published – those with weak or inconclusive results, or those with strong results. Clearly it is the latter that tends to get through the door. A few people can make a career out of writing review articles, but it pays to have strong results (and thus it pays to oversell your argument).

          Secondly, scholars have serious professional commitments to particular ideas. If a theory you invented is discredited, it seriously diminishes your standing. However, the relatively undeveloped nature of empirical methodology in the social sciences ensures that bad theories never die. Instead, you can dispute methodology or build a new dataset based on different assumptions.

          Thirdly, because academics are specialists, they often have skewed views of the salience of their issue of interest. Lets say you are an expert on Botswana. The forces that made you want to study Botswana in the first place are likely to make you think Botswana is important. Additionally, you are more likely to see Botswana connections all over the place. Worse, politics usually involves tradeoffs that should be evaluated in an interdisciplinary manner. However, experts are usually only an expert in one small facet of something. For instance, in negotiating Kyoto, Canada sent environmental specialists, while Europeans sent foreign policy specialists. Had we sent more politically sensitive representatives, we might have been able to negotiate a better deal (that would have been politically sustainable).

          I am not sure bloggers are the best basis for comparison, though I concede that I would rather live in an expert-run technocracy than a blogocracy.

          • Believe me, there are such strong incentives; an academic who has not earned the respect of his or her peers has nothing much.

          • Where does respect come from? Respect is based on publication rates and prestige of publications. Having your pet theory discredited, or not getting published because you are too fair is a bad way to get either of those things.

            Moreover, even if people tackling the same research question as you know that your research is crap, that is not necessarily true of people with other research questions. The other people that matter most in an academic career are those on the tenure committee. It is very unlikely that many of them will have much of an ability to assess the quality of your work because few departments hire people that study the exact same things (and if they do, those people are usually co-authors who have an incentive to praise your work).

            Prestige can be self-reinforcing as well. The most important gatekeepers in academia are the editors of journals. While there is an anonymous peer review system, an editor ultimately interprets the reviews. The editor also decides who is going to review key articles.

          • "Respect is based on publication rates…"?!

            Quality is more important than quantity. I hope you are not an academic yourself, because you don't seem to understand what it is about.

          • Your argument appears to be rooted in wishful thinking. Feist (1997) explores this issue in "Quantity, Quality and Depth of Research as Influences on Scientific Eminence: is Quantity Most important?" He looks at how the number and impact of publications relates to global eminence (peer recognition, honours and professional visibility).

            He classified professors as being of four types – silents (low quantity, low impact), perfectionists (low quantity, high impact), mass producers (high quantity, low impact) and prolific (high quantity, high impact). Silents performed significantly below the mean, while perfectionists performed close to the mean. Mass producers and prolifics, however, were both well above the mean – and tied in terms of eminence.

          • If you don't think that respect is at least strongly co-related to publication rates in academia then, once more, you just show your complete ignorance of it. There are a variety of ways of assessing academics, but tenure, pay level, hiring, etc., are all more strongly co-related to publishing and citation than anything else. Indeed, I know of the dean of a leading Canadian university who suggested choosing between candidates simply by looking at an index of publication and citation (i.e., never even looking directly at the candidates work).

        • Are you not aware that there are whole movements in academia which are based on denying either the possibility or the desirability of objectivity as you describe it? Various disciplines or schools of thought are based on rejecting the ideal of objectivity. Other academics of course do claim some degree of objectivity – they tend to be "conservatives".

          • I'm sorry, do you have some objective examples of these mysterious movements in academia?

          • They are unreported, of course.

          • They are not unreported at all. As I wrote in my response to your friend, you would have to be completely ignorant of what's going on in the contemporary academy to be unaware of these trends. I also cited some examples in my response to him, but really it's pointless, since if you haven't heard of these ideas before, you also won't have heard of any of the people associated with them, even if they happen to be some of the most famous and influential and widely cited people in academia today, and even if they hold top positions at Canadian universities. So, for example, Allen Hutchinson of Osgoode Hall Law School, and one of the most distinguished and respected individuals working in a Canadian university today, makes the sort of claims I describe above, but since you're evidently ignorant of someone like that, it would make no difference to point this out to you. You'll just continue to wallow in your ignorance, all the while yelping about how Harper doesn't like "experts" – experts whom you obviously no jack sh*t about.

          • While Peter is wrong about conservatives being objective (there aren't any conservatives in academia), there certainly are academics that eschew objective truth. Postmodernists and critical theorists argue that everything is socially constructed. Extreme variants do argue that the world is ideas the whole way down.

          • No conservatives in academia? Wow, that is false. Look at Tom Flanagan, who is an academic, though I would dispute whether he is a good one in numerous cases.

          • I was employing hyperbole. However, only 9% of Canadian professors surveyed by TRIP considered themselves to be right of centre (most of whom said "slightly right of centre). It is fair to say that very few academics are conservatives.

          • Quit spouting your fake little statistics; one study about some international studies professors does not apply to all academics all over Canada.

          • Once again, when the data does not support your position you have decided to bury your head in the sand. It is not so easy to engage in a rational data-oriented debate, is it? I don't think Conservatives are smarter than Liberals or vice versa, however they are prone to different kinds of problems. Conservatives tend to argue from ideological principles, and filter out data that does not fit their principles. Liberals tend to argue from authority ("most experts believe…"), but do not take the effort to look at the data or debate that underlies those arguments. The oft-repeated line that "reality has a liberal bias" should raise alarm bells. Reality is not ideological. It is real, tangible and observable. When people assume that reality fits their view of the world they take leave of a rational dialogue.

          • It's Conservatives who repeatedly deny reality. Since I'm not a Liberal, I can't speak for them, but I believe fewer Liberals than Conservatives live in Fantasyland; and the rest of us live in reality. Try it sometime.

          • There are definitely conservatives in academia, by saying what you just said you completely ruined your credibility, and will now be known as a lefty loser lunatic, also known as a libtard. In fact, all you have to do is look up someone like Milton Friedman who is a nobel prize winner and a conservative libertarian, although the libertarians are a bit different than the religious conservatives (Milton was an atheist). Also look up people such as Geert Wilders, considered right wing, even though he's a humanist atheist educated type.

          • Uh, anyone who was remotely familiar with academic literature would be aware of it. There are literally too many examples to name, so it really all depends on what discipline you're interested in. I could also list some of the relevant names, but if you're not aware that such people already exist, then you're evidently too ignorant of academia for those names to mean anything too you. However, some famous examples would include Richard Rorty, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, John Rawls. And their views have influenced some of the most prominent people working in the Canadian academy: for instance, with Allan Hutchinson (Osgoode Law) or James Tully (currently at UVic, previously at both McGill and Toronto). You would have to be totally ignorant of what's going on in the contemporary academy not to have heard of these people and their ideas.

          • Why don't you briefly sum up the ideas of each of them, for the benefit of us ignorant types?

          • Hahahaha. Yeah, you want me to "briefly sum up the ideas" of a whole string of the most famous academics in the contemporary world. Yeah, see, the only way to really understand these people is to… read a book – actually, many books. Of course, if you'd actually had some prolonged exposure to academic at a moderately high level, you'd already be roughly familiar with them. Anyway, I already briefly summarized one of the major claims which they all share above, namely, that they all reject the ideal of objectivity which you are claiming distinguishes academic work. So there's your brief summary. If you need more than that, read a book. Like an "expert" would. In the meantime, since you apparently know nothing about these people, stop pontificating about what academics think or how they act. You obviously have no expertise about the "experts".

          • While the grace of your writing demonstrates your own debt to them.

          • This is vapid. Anyway, look at Hutchinson's most recent book if you want to see a leading light of contemporary Canadian academia explicitly rejecting the idea of objectivity which you're claiming that academics represent.

          • Is that a Dodge or a Chrysler?

      • Funny thing, I know a physics/astronomy guy (not sure what his degrees are in, but those are the basic areas he works in). He can be pretty subjective on some things, but when it comes to his area of expertise, he's very objective. Ask him a simple layperson's question about string theory, for instance, and he'll describe three different theories to you, tell you which he favours, and explain exactly why.

        That's been my experience with most academics, from English profs to biologists to statisticians. Very few are unobjective when it comes to their area of expertise, and will often present opinions they do not share to give a broader view of the subject.

        So yeah, they live in the real world, but when it comes to the area of their expertise, they not only strive to be objective but encourage others to be as well.

        • It requires a certain intellectual integrity which is not much valued by political partisans who spend too much time blogging.

        • Objective in what sense? I don't think academics are likely to inject their personal political ideology into analysis of the issues they study most closely (although many professors succumb to the temptation to use their lecturn as a soapbox, on the right and the left). However, I do think most have strong professional biases. They may present the other side of the argument, but it is usually difficult for lay-people to figure out whether they are giving the other side a fair shake. Moreover, the ways in which professors engage with civil society do not lend themselves to that kind of a discussion. How often do "experts" get more than a sentence or two in the average newspaper article? So even if professors are objective and fair, the ones that tend to get calls from reporters may be those most willing to give clear and concise answers (that usually fail to represent both sides).

          • Except the context we're really talking about here is science. Go ask a working climatologist about global warming and they'll tell you it's real. Go ask a statistician about whether voluntary surveys are as accurate as a mandatory census and they'll tell you the mandatory census is the way to go.

            The same goes for crime rates. There are two things that affect crime rates, demographics and social programs. There are a whack of studies and they all show that locking people up does not lower crime rates unless it's combined with rehabilitation programs.

            The same goes for the Insite Clinic. Peer reviewed studies say that it's working. The Conservatives don't like it because of their regressive stance on drugs and addiction.

            So you can argue that all of the experts in all of those different areas of expertise aren't objective and purposely diddled the data, but your claim won't be believable. What is far more likely, were you to look at the facts objectively, is that Harper and his Conservatives are ideologues who distrust science and picked a science minister who cannot explain the Theory of Evolution at a third grade level.

          • Yes but academics do not necessarily agree on things. They have different theoretical assumptions, belong to different schools of thought and so on (look at the TRIP survey I posted).

            As to crime and prisons you are incorrect. There is widely cited peer-reviewed research pointing to long prison sentences as reducing crime (without reference to rehabilitation). Three relevant perspectives are:
            -Levitt (2004) "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors That Explain the Decline and Six That Do Not " emphasizes both deterrence effects and the incapacitation effect of holding prisoners in jail (people in jail cannot commit crimes).
            -Nagin (1998) "Criminal Deterrence Research at the Outset of the Twenty-First Century" reviews studies of deterrence, finding 7 that support deterrence effects, and 2 that do not.
            -Robinson and Darley (2003) "Does Criminal Law Deter? A Behavioural Science Investigation " argue against deterrence arguments, instead emphasizing the incapacitative effect of putting people in jail (folks in jail can't commit crimes).

          • Often academics agree on large basic issues but argue about small aspects of them.

            What is wrong with them disagreeing, anyway? Are they supposed to all be like fundamentalists who think reality only has one possible interpretation and all else is heresy?

          • I am very much in favour of dissent against consensus arguments within academia. I was making the point that objective research doesn't necessarily yield the clear answers that Reverend Blair suggests it does – particularly in the social sciences. In fact that is probably what I take issue with the most – the tendency to present an expert consensus where there is none. Moreover, I don't think the public or journalists really understand the nature of academic consensus in the first place.

            Academic consensus is not like a poll. If 99% of academics agree with one position, while only 1% dissents, you do not have a meaningful consensus, so long as the 1% still has valid objections. This goes doubly for public policy issues, since most academics do not directly study public policy (rather they study more general concepts and apply them to public policy).

          • so long as the 1% still has valid objections.

            That is the crucial provision though. For some enduring topics, there will always be disagreement, a perpetual distribution of views, if you will. It becomes awfully prescriptive and arbitrary to define "meaningful consensus." if you take a more absolute critical view of the scientific arena, then it is easy to dismiss consensus, if the criterion is just the mere existence of dissent. Similarly, if you take a more casual view, then it is harder to be skeptical if you appeal to the majority. In some cases, the valid objection may pertain to a part or aspect of the theory under investigation. The Neo-Darwinian Synthesis provides a good case study for that, since it needed to address developments like epigenetics, neutral theory, or genotype environment interaction. Further, there is also growing disagreement in the scope and reach of the Adaptationist programme (popular adherents include Dawkins for example). Even if you ask biologists who are critical of the role of adaptationism in evolution, they would certainly not tell you that the theory of evolution much less adaptationism is under extreme fragility because the disagreements, while important, address only a subset of issues while generally the theoretical paradigm remains intact.

            This subtle point is usually lost in the public because the complexity of scientific inquiry compels people to simplify debates on fields or topics to a simple accounting, which probably reveals more about confirmation bias and ignorance of those outside looking in. It is no surprise really that many members of the public defer authority because taking researchers at their word is no less uncertain than attempting, with a rudimentary knowledge of the subject, to designate what objections are valid.

          • If you can get 99% of academics to agree on anything, you must be pure magic. A scientific consensus is reached when the vast majority of those working the area agree over a long period of time. Demanding 100% agreement on everything is a dishonest attempt to discredit science that you don't like. There is a consensus on global warming, there is a consensus on evolution, there is a consensus on plate tectonics and so on. Yes, you will be able to find some dissent, but that does not negate the consensus.

            As for the three papers you managed to find on Google regarding crime and deterence, the fact that you could only find three stretching back over twelve years, none being written since the Bush regime's failed experiment and one being from the Freakonomics guy (access to abortion reduces crime…Suck it Steve), you know as well as I that there are many more papers showing the opposite, and that those papers have done better under peer review.

            The claim that people in prison do not commit crimes does not show that putting people in prison reduces the overall crime rate. There are, as any honest cop will tell you, a bevy of people willing and able to step up and fill in for the incarcerated while they are away. In addition to that, a lack of rehab programs in our prisons (and Harper is killing the prison farms against expert advice and the wishes of the communities where those farms exist) cause prisons to be crime schools. The truth is that most crime is demographic (more young males=more crime) and socio-economic (more poor people=more crime). Now if want to mix the two (increased sentences combined with more rehab and job training programs, along with more anti-gang and social programs for kids) you'd likely have a point. Your either-or argument, and the incredibly witless policies of the Harper government are a non-starter though.

          • Hosertohoosier said: "I don't think academics are likely to inject their personal political ideology into analysis of the issues they study most closely"

            You, are an idiot.

  63. Most of us did not vote for this guy. Why haven't those who did gotten the message? We need to get the ,any other party, in power on a mandate to restore all of the things fuhrer is destroying including democracy and our world reputation and the future for our children, although it may be too late for the children. While he destroys our prison rehabilitation system we can only hope he doesn't do too much damage to the psychiatric hospitals because that's where he needs to go.

  64. Yes, I did bring that up — as a response to Geddes invoking their opposition to changes to the long-form census.

    Do try to keep up, as it's perfecly obvious that Holly Stick can't.

    As for the domineering character of the CIP, it was actually your distinctly non-contributing friend Richard who pointed out their commitment to social and economic planning — social engineering by ANY means.

    • Non-contributing?!? Moi??

      Harumpf! See if I ever agree with YOU again!

  65. You sure seem demanding for someone who failed to produce back up for her own claims.

    Your unsupported word is inadequate as well.

    You must realize that your previous inept attempts to prop up your arguments with information that doesn't actually support it has left you attempting to debate this topic from a position of weakness.

    After all, you were the one who suggested that utilities planning and social services planning are the same thing. Am I REALLY supposed to take you seriously?

    • Liar.

      • Oh, poor Holly. I'll assume that someone so concerned about honesty and propriety as to call someone a liar at least STRIVES for honesty, so I suspect that you simply must have been confused when you wrote THIS comment:

        I guess I should thank you. Dealing with THAT mess of stupidity earned me zombie kill of the week.

        • You are still suffering from cognitive dissonance. Go back and read it again.

          • No, Holly, I don't think so. I'm actually quite comfortable — far from suffering — and it's my personal rule to never kill the same zombie twice.

            Double-tap, perhaps. But when that zombie's dead, that zombie's dead. And your zombie is DEAD.

          • It is not fair to duel someone who brings a knife to a gun fight.

          • She didn't even bring a knife. She brought a plastic spork.

  66. I get what you're saying and I guess one's answer comes down to how one would interpret the question. That said, I don't believe for a second that either Harper or Bush are/were unaware of what experts were arguing when they go/went a different direction from their recommendations. Neither of those two men were particularly dumb or lazy no matter how much at least one of them tried to portray himself that way.

  67. "It seems to me most of Harpers so called mistakes are created by great gobs of left wing journalists"

    damn reality – it has such a Liberal bias.

    "Experts? We don't need no stinking experts"

  68. Just wondering…what colour is the sky in your world?

    • Ask your neighbour Glinda.

      • She was asking about you just the other day…

  69. “Grand blueprints that have been done on the blackboard,” [Harper] said, “endorsed by experts with no practical experience in the economy or society, are disastrous.”

    This rather sounds like Harper's own situation he is describing. He has no "practical experience in the economy or society" as he has never run a business. He got a master's degree in economics – after about eight years – but never practised. And, in fact, he has been nothing more than a career lobbyist or politician.

    Sounds more like that typical seething Con resentment at work here. Anyone remember failed teacher Mike Harris lashing out at teachers in Ontario in the 1990s? More of the same.

  70. Hey Ryan – here's a chance to update your knowledge about climate change issues. Unless, of course, you're like Harper and you just kind of know they're wrong and don't need facts.

  71. Just because Harper didn't consult with some people (and the Geddes piece gives us nothing to suggest whether this is abnormal compared to other administrations, or how important these experts were) doesn't mean he isn't familiar with their perspectives. The kind of experts that advise Prime Ministers typically filter academic or government research that is in the public domain.

    And I think you underestimate the degree to which academic perspectives informed Bush's "gut". In the 1990's, the idea of democratic peace theory lent strong support to the idea that a more democratic world would be a peaceful one. This played a large role in shaping the neoconservative agenda to spread democracy by force.

    Alternately, an important factor in driving the invasion of Iraq was the notion that terrorists need a state sponsor. That particular assumption persisted in part because many realist international relations theorists operate with a state-centric view of the world. Bush's gut hadn't necessarily incorporated the latest evidence (for instance, more recent work suggests that democratizing states can be highly war-prone), but it hardly operated in the vacuum you suggest.

    • "And I think you underestimate the degree to which academic perspectives informed Bush's "gut"."

      IIRC, some guy named Michael Ignatieff, an academic at Harvard, had a pretty solid argument for the invasion of Iraq. Where would we be today to Bush had not listened to him and followed his sage advice to bring democracy to Iraq?

    • Heh – the Project for a New American Century is hardly an academic group. And in a thread where "experts" of all sorts are being slammed as biased, it's pretty rich to claim that Bush had the support of academics for the Iraq invasion.

      Of course the world would be better off with broader adoption of democracy. Beyond that, the idea that the Bush Doctrine had the support of unbiased experts is ridiculous.

      As for state sponsors of terrorism, there was no evidence (the experts were clear about this!) that Iraq was such a state. The experts were also clear that Iraq had no WMDs.

      The entire Iraq debacle, far from demonstrating that Bush listened to "experts", demonstrated that Bush manipulated press releases, raw intelligence and foreign allies to claim the support of "experts" for the invasion.

      As for Harper, what this piece is pointing out is a pattern; that Harper will create policy even when experts tell him it will achieve the opposite of its stated goal.

      Good governance requires more than just being "familiar" with expert opinion, or cherry-picking experts who tell you what you want. Ultimately there is such a thing as reality ('we're in a recession', 'this will hurt the quality of Statscan data', 'this will not reduce crime'). The idea that policy at least attempts to follow/achieve results in reality is important to Canadians. Harper is demonstrating that policy must support political ends, reality be damned.

      • You are conveniently changing the definition of experts based on what happens to suit your argument. There are two types of experts we are talking about here – academic experts on international relations, and experts within the US public service that specialize on foreign policy matters.

        I am not suggesting that PNC is academic, but their goal is a natural extension of democratic peace theory and they explicitly drew on that. Yes, experts (for instance, Russett) opposed PNC anyway, but that is hardly a ringing endorsement of the idea that experts are objective champions of truth. Nor did Bush necessarily ignore the experts on WMD's. George Tenet, for instance, assured Bush that there was a "slam dunk case".

        As to Harper, you (and Geddes) are simply wrong about what the evidence suggests. There is a lot of evidence that longer sentences reduce crime rates (look at Levitt's work, or Nagin's review article). It IS reasonably clear that Harper knew there was a recession in the works (why else did he call an election to try to preempt it). The census issue I am willing to concede, but I predict Harper will back down on that front.

        • I'm not changing any definitions. What I said was: "Beyond that, the idea that the Bush Doctrine had the support of unbiased experts is ridiculous."

          'Unbiased" being the operative word. PNAC is, notoriously, a bunch of high-profile rightwing operatives who believe that America should expand its global empire. Their work is developed to support that goal. Their output acted as a pseudointellectual fig leaf for the ambitions of the Bush administration.

          I'm not claiming that experts are all "objective champions of truth" and I think PNAC is clear evidence to the contrary. One can frequently find experts to support whatever assertion one chooses (see Levitt's work, or Nagin's review article). But an honest consultation with experts should produce an honest understanding of the state of the art, and an understanding of which opinions are outliers.

          If Harper knew a recession was in the works in late 2008, then he flat-out lied to Canadians in the weeks leading up to the election (which I think is the case). That's not defensible as respectful of expert opinion, is it?

          As for the census issue, Harper and his people continue to make policy promises that fly in the face of experts.

          And as for crime rates, your two individual citations aside, I have yet to see a comprehensive expert analysis that agrees that Harper's proposed American-style crime legislation will actually make Canadians safer. And I've seen loads of expert opinion to the contrary.

          Not only that, the best estimate I've seen of the costs of Harper's proposed program has been many billions of dollars. And Harper's only defense has been Rob Nicholson saying "nuh-uh" while he refused to release supporting financial data.

          What I saw with Bush and see with Harper is that right-wing politicians in particular will drive policies that achieve political ends, reality be damned. If the experts agree, then they're part of the marketing effort. If experts mostly disagree, then some facsimile will be dredged up and trotted out to provide cover. And if the experts unanimously disagree, they will be slandered and the policy will be driven ahead regardless.

          Whatever your definition of "good government", it's not compatible with that approach to policy-making.

          • I guess I fail to see how this is unique to the right. Governments aren't in the policymaking business, they are in the "getting re-elected" business. That said, there may be ways to structure things so as to more closely align political incentives and the requirements of good public policy.

  72. Yes it does seem disturbingly low from a victim's perspective, but longer periods of incarceration do not seem to reduce crime rates. So, what are we getting for the money we spend? Peace of mind? Maybe its worth it, maybe not. It is a tough balance. But our governments have never had an open discussion with us about crime and punishment and how as a society we want to address the problems. That would be a good starting point for me.

    • That's your problem right there – you haven't looked at the empirical evidence. In Levitt's (2004) study (in the Journal of Economic Perspectives – not Freakonomics), for instance, he argues that one of the biggest drivers of declining US crime rates in the 1990's and early 2000's was the increase in the prison population (both due to incapacitation effects and deterrence effects).

      He breaks down the sources of the 34% reduction in violent crime as follows (based on a statistical model):
      Changing demographics: 2%
      Better policing strategies: 1%
      Increases in the number of police: 5.5%
      Increases in the prison population: 12%
      Legalized abortion: 10%
      The decline of crack: 3%
      Increased use of capital punishment: 0%
      Concealed weapon laws: 0%
      Strong economy: 0%

      • Sorry, sorry, your empirical evidence is no good. It was produced by experts, y'see, and we can't believe them now, can we?

        • I have no problem with people drawing from experts, so long as they account for the professional biases that may exist, and so long as they consult widely (it is possible to learn from non-experts as well, for instance). And at the end of the day, it should be politicians, not experts, that make the final call. Politics contains many tradeoffs that cannot be navigated through rational debate (eg. freedom vs. equality vs. security).

          I do contest the notion that Harper in particular ignores the experts. The stuff I have been reading on crime of late would suggest that it is journalists who have ignored or fabricated expert opinions. I don't think this is so much a product of malice or bias, incidentally, but more a reflection of the limited education that most journalists have.

      • I'm curious about the way stats are tracked within prisons… Does a prisoner on prisoner assault, for instance, figure into the crime stats?

        • I presume those are included. He appears to use the Universal Crime Reports, which measures crimes reported to police. Maybe prisons are hotbeds of unreported crimes, but the reaction to Stockwell Day's comments would suggest that we can't discuss unreported crimes.