Is ‘muzzling’ scientists against the law?

Politics on TV: The three things you need to see

by Aaron Wherry

Here are the three things you should not have missed:

  1. MPs on EI “house calls”
  2. Is it against the law to “muzzle” scientists?
  3. Andrew Cash defends himself on questions of ethical violations

EI “house calls”:

Power Play looked at the new practice of HRSDC employees making “house calls” to EI recipients in order to invite them to interviews at the local Service Canada office, getting MPs Kellie Leitch, Rodger Cuzner and Peggy Nash to weigh in. Cuzner considered it an intimidation tactic, and that the level of fraud is less than one per cent, meaning this was a heavy-handed tactic. Nash said that it was poor public administration to put seasonal workers on provincial welfare rolls. Leitch disputed the characterization, calling the visits random audits of 1200 recipients around the entire country regarding one specific program, ensuring that EI gets to those who need and deserve it.

Muzzled scientists:

After the Information Commissioner was asked to rule as to whether or not the practice of “muzzling” scientists is against the law, Power & Politics had an MP panel of Kellie Leitch, Megan Leslie and John McCallum to discuss the issue. Leitch insisted that these scientists are publishing and they are giving interviews, but the primary spokesperson for every department is the minister. At one point, Evan Solomon called her out for answering questions that he wasn’t asking. Leslie said the media needs access to scientists who can talk about their work rather than just a comms person summarizing it, while McCallum called the move “Orwellian,” and said that one can’t ask a minister to answer scientific questions they’re not qualified to. Solomon also spoke to Andrew Weaver from the University of Victoria (and deputy BC Green Party leader), who said that Environment Canada media responses went down 80 per cent under the new communications strategy, and that information is suppressed so that scientific evidence can’t undermine policy decisions.

Andrew Cash:

Solomon spoke with NDP MP Andrew Cash about the allegations that he has broken conflict of interest rules because he gets royalty cheques for music on Dragon’s Den, while he raises questions about the CBC’s funding in Parliament. Cash said that he has been in constant contact with the Ethics Commissioner about his debates and votes, and likened himself as an artist talking about cultural policy to a doctor talking about healthcare or a lawyer talking about justice. Cash asserted that it’s only a conflict if he’s asking about Dragon’s Den.

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Is ‘muzzling’ scientists against the law?

  1. I’ll leave a comment. Andrew Weaver is full of it. He knows darn well that government scientists are employees of the Federal Government. They sign (and always have signed) a non disclosure agreement on being hired. They sign the same piece of paper that accountants, clerks and other government employees do. Their work belongs to the Federal Government therefore, it is not theirs to disclose to the press, and other scientists unless the minister allows it. The Greenies are all unhappy about this because they don’t have an organization like NOAA (a US arms-length agency) that allows their scientists to run to the media and divulge alarmist un-peer reviewed literature. You never hear about the UK muzzling their scientists and they have the same set up. Universities are not part of the government and are free to publish whatever they want. Hence Hadley CRU can publish whatever it wants. What Weaver wants is for the Feds to set up an arms length agency for the environment that the Greenies can manipulate.

    • No. Many of the scientists “muzzled” by the Federal government had published their work in peer-reviewed journals, but still were prevented from speaking to the MSM on the subject of their work. Also, there have been instances when a researcher has presented their work at a conference, but not been allowed to answer media questions in relation to the presentation they just made. It’s not only overbearing, it’s stupid.

      • Agreed!

  2. There would be less than 1% fraud, therefore 99% of recipients are honest, but 100 % of recipients are randomly targeted for unexpected visits at their private residence by government officials. The same government that claimed that filing a census questionnaire was an intrusion of privacy defends sending government officials to citizens’ home for no reason. Strange.

    What kind of a note, if any, would an HRSDC rep make in the file an honest recipient if that person would refuse to open the door to a stranger?

    • Welcome to Harpanistan comrade.

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