‘Providing unbiased advice to governments’

by Aaron Wherry

The opposition frets that budget cuts target important sources of information, including the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy. Environment Minister Peter Kent is apparently unconcerned.

Mr. Speaker, our government appreciates and has thanked the round table for its service over the years for any number of reports addressing environmental issues. However, the reality is that the round table was created a quarter of a century ago. It was created before the Internet, when there were few such sources of domestic, independent research and analysis on sustainable development. That is simply no longer the case. There are now any number of organizations and university based services that provide those services.

When the National Roundtable was founded in 1988, Brian Mulroney appointed David Johnston to be its first chairman. And two years ago, Mr. Johnston, as Governor General, celebrated the National Roundtable’s work.

The stated mission of the Round Table is, and I quote, “to generate and promote sustainable development solutions to advance Canada’s national environmental and economic interests simultaneously, through the development of innovative policy research and advice.”

It is a mission rooted in a clear-eyed understanding that our desire for a modern economy and our duty to a sustainable environment are not mutually exclusive—they are mutually reinforcing. Indeed, one requires the other.

Since its creation in 1988, the Round Table has carried out that mission with energy and creativity—undertaking exhaustive research, bringing together diverse interests, rallying the brightest minds and providing unbiased advice to governments. I am proud of what we began together.

And the durability of 22 years is a signal in itself of the importance and utility of the work and the dedication of each of you.




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‘Providing unbiased advice to governments’

  1. “Since its creation in 1988, the Round Table has carried out that mission with energy and creativity—undertaking exhaustive research, bringing together diverse interests, rallying the brightest minds and providing unbiased advice to governments.”

    WSJ ~ When We See What We Want:

    The larger lesson of the Gould-Morton affair is that bias is everywhere, that many of our studies are shot through with unconscious errors and subtle prejudices. To Paul Simon, we see what we want to see and disregard the rest.

    In recent years, it’s become clearer that these psychological shortcomings are a serious societal problem. Because we believe we’re impervious to bias—we’re blind to our own blind spots—we assume that our judgment isn’t affected by financial incentives or personal opinions. But we’re wrong.

    What this depressing research demonstrates is that the only way to get objective data is to have institutions that assume objectivity doesn’t exist. It’s not enough to force scientists and doctors to declare conflicts of interest, because our biases seep in anyway. Rather, we need to do a better job of funding truly independent studies and approaching with extra skepticism those that are not. We should also encourage researchers to make their raw data public, as Samuel Morton did, so that others can check it. As Stephen Jay Gould proved all too well, men are inveterate mismeasurers.

  2. I ‘d like to hear   Mr Johnston’s comments on the demise of the Round Table.. 

  3. But the round table might be an obstacle to unfettered development of the oil sands — and isn’t that global warming stuff an unproven theory anyway???  Drill baby, drill!

    • “isn’t that global warming stuff an unproven theory anyway???  ”

      Yup, its all over the internet apparently, so it appears Tom is already depending on that source of information.  Also he seems to be quite concerned about some prince in Nigeria.

  4. There are now any number of organizations and university based services that provide those services.
    Is Kent referring to those foreign funded radical environmental groups like Ducks Unlimited, Suzuki Foundation and Sierra Club Canada?

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