transparency

Fri, 2014-08-08 15:31Carol Linnitt
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Evangeline Lilly: It’s My Job To Stand Up For Canadian Scientists

evangeline lilly desmog canada, war on science

You may know the Canadian actress for her tough-girl roles in Lost or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. But Evangeline Lilly has a battle – besides those with orcs and island smoke monsters – to fight: the battle for Canada’s scientists.

Lilly first heard about the defunding and muzzling of Canada’s federal scientists when she was reading DeSmog Canada just over a year ago. In a spate of funding cuts, the federal government eliminated some of Canada’s most prestigious scientific institutions, to the dismay of scientists and Canadians across the country. And since the Harper government has been in power, strict communications protocols have prevented scientists from speaking with the public about their research, limiting public awareness of taxpayer-funded science.

Lilly, who now lives in the U.S., said she keeps an eye out for stories about her homeland. And it always concerns her when she stumbles across something so disheartening.

I think it’s always a little bit scary and astounding when as a citizen of what you consider to be a free nation you discover one day for various reasons…that something awful has been going on under your nose and you didn’t know,” she told DeSmog Canada. “And that happens to me a little more often than I’m comfortable with nowadays.”

Lilly was dismayed to learn that “all over Canada right now scientists are having all their funding pulled,” she said, “especially scientists who are speaking about climate change.”

Mon, 2014-04-28 15:09Madeline McParland
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Could BC be First to Enact Full Financial Disclosure Rules for Extractive Industry?

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A new campaign for transparency is pushing British Columbia to become the first province to require mining, oil and gas companies to reveal what they pay to domestic and foreign governments. The initiative, led by Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada and Publish What You Pay (PWYP), a group that campaigns for full disclosure from the Canadian government, asks Canadians to send a postcard, reading “Information is Power,” to B.C. Finance Minister Michael De Jong.

The groups hope to hand-deliver more than 500 postcards to the Minister on May 1st.

When citizens can follow the money generated by the natural resources their country supplies to the world, they can ensure their government is using these revenues to improve their communities, rather than lining the pockets of people in power,” the groups state on the campaign’s website.

The TRACE campaign, or TRancesparent & ACcountable Extractives, advocates for accountability in the global extractive industry, starting with B.C.

The TRACE Campaign is currently focused on increasing transparency, by making it mandatory for extractive companies registered in Canada to disclose all payments they make to governments, at home and abroad,” the groups write.

Tue, 2014-04-15 09:27David Ravensbergen
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Joe Oliver's Transparency Rule a Parting Gift to Canadian Mining Companies

canadian mining companies, transparency

On March 3rd, former Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver unveiled a new transparency initiative that will require Canadian mining companies to report significant payments made to governments both abroad and in Canada. Under the new law, medium and large publicly traded companies will post the details of payments above the $100,000 threshold on their company websites, listed on a project-by-project basis.

Oliver described the initiative as a “comprehensive and meaningful approach” designed to “enhance transparency and accountability in the mining and oil and gas industries.” 

The new legislation comes as the most recent installment in a long list of policy changes implemented by the Conservative government in an attempt to improve the international standing of the Canadian extractive industries.

Last month saw the opening of the Vancouver headquarters of the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID), a joint project between the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and École Polytechnique de Montréal that received nearly $24.6 million in funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. According to the CIIEID website, the institute’s mission is “to improve governance of extractive sectors in developing countries.” 

The timing of both Oliver’s announcement and the opening of the CIIEID reflects not only the growing importance of the mining and oil and gas sector to the Canadian economy, but also the increasing level of social and environmental conflict associated with the activities of the Canadian extractive industries both at home and abroad.

Fri, 2014-02-21 17:50Guest
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Michael Mann: Canadians Should Fight Harper's War on Science and the U.S. Should Help

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This is a guest post by distinguished climatologist Michael Mann. The article originally appeared on The Mark News.

The scientific community has long warned that environmental issues, especially climate change, need to be a global concern. Climatologist Michael Mann argues that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration is purposely obstructing the research that needs to take place to solve these problems.

In early 2013, the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced new science communications procedures that threatened the publication rights of an American scientist who had been working in the Arctic with Canadian researchers since 2003.

This was the first time the Canadian government’s draconian confidentiality rules had infringed on the scientific freedom of an international academic – or, at least, it was the first time such an incident had been made known. Professor Andreas Muenchow from the University of Delaware publicly refused to sign a government agreement that threatened to “sign away [his] freedom to speak, publish, educate, learn and share.”

To many of us American scientists, this episode sadly came as little surprise. We have known for some time that the Canadian government has been silencing the voices of scientists speaking out on the threat of fossil-fuel extraction and burning and the damaging impacts they are having on our climate. I have close friends in the Canadian scientific community who say they have personally been subjected to these heavy-handed policies. Why? Because the implications of their research are inconvenient to the powerful fossil-fuel interests that seem to now run the Canadian government.

Fri, 2013-09-27 15:16Carol Linnitt
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“A System in Crisis”: Information Commissioner on Canada’s Freedom of Information

Suzanne Legault on DeSmog Canada

Suzanne Legault, Canada’s Information Commissioner, says federal officials are suppressing freedom of information in Canada.

I am seeing signs of a system in crisis, where departments are unable to fulfill even their most basic obligations under the act,” she told a group of bureaucrats yesterday in a private meeting.

A copy of the watchdog’s speaking notes was obtained by The Canadian Press.

Fri, 2013-06-07 11:46Erika Thorkelson
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Alberta Tory MP Rathgeber Jumps Ship Over Transparency Issues

Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber blasted the Federal Conservative party Wednesday for their lack of transparency, claiming that “unelected staffers” and advisors to the Prime Minister’s Office have been interfering in parliamentary business.

Tue, 2013-04-30 09:35Adam Kingsmith
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The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada

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Less than a generation ago, Canada was a world leader when it came to the fundamental democratic freedoms of assembly, speech and information.

In 1982, Canada adopted the Access to Information Act – making it one of the first countries to pass legislation recognizing the right of citizens to access information held by government, and as recently as 2002, Canada ranked among the top 5 most open and transparent countries when it came to respect for freedom of the press.

Fast-forward a decade, and we've become a true north suppressed and disparate – where unregistered civic demonstrations are inhibited and repressed, rebellious Internet activities are scrutinised and supervised, government scientists are hushed and muzzled, and public information is stalled and mired by bureaucratic firewalls.

Thu, 2013-03-07 10:12Erika Thorkelson
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Harper Budget Bills "A Disgrace and an Insult to Parliament and to Canadians," Analysts Write

A new report from policy analysts calls on the Harper government to end the use of overloaded omnibus bills such as C-38 and C-45.

Based on posts originally published on Scott Clark and Peter DeVries’ blog 3D Policy, the report is set to appear in Inside Policy magazine. It harshly criticizes the government’s record when it comes to budget transparency.

It is now recognized by most observers of the federal budget process, that the integrity and credibility of the process has been seriously eroded in recent years,” they write.

Less information is now provided to the public in budgets than under previous Liberal and Conservative governments; the authority of Parliament over government spending has been weakened; the understanding of Canadians as to what the government is actually planning to do in the budget has been eroded. Canadians should be concerned not just with the erosion of Parliament’s authority, but also ultimately with their own ability to hold the government to account for its actions.”

Though they keep their comments to fiscal concerns, the issues they target also throw light on the Harper government’s tactics of obfuscation when it came to issues of environmental regulation, specifically in terms of Bill C-38 and Bill C-45.

Wed, 2013-02-27 09:26Patrick Eldridge
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Harper People Problems: Public Relations vs. Public Access to Information

Sunday marked the beginning of Freedom to Read week, an annual event reminding Canadian citizens of the intellectual freedom they are constitutionally guaranteed. It also reminds us we are governed by other citizens with the capacity to permit or limit that freedom. These are citizens that we can hold accountable only to the extent that we know how they make their decisions and what consequences those decisions have. 

The event this year stands out on the Canadian political landscape, an uncomfortable reminder of just how frustrated the free flow of information has become in this country.

The timing is significant, as the event arrives on the heels of a University of Victoria study that highlights the Harper government’s efforts to restrict media access to federal scientists. 

Mon, 2013-02-11 05:00Guest
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Federal Government Muzzles DFO Scientists with New Policy

This is a post by Michael Harris, originally published on iPolitics.

Everything has a crack in it; that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen, take a bow.

Another crack has appeared in the Harper government’s surreptitious but merciless war to muzzle Canadian scientists — and just about everyone else.

The light entering through this particular crack shines on a disturbing fact. Canada, the only parliamentary democracy in the Commonwealth where a government has been found in contempt of Parliament, is now the only democracy in the world where a government bureaucrat can suppress scientific research.

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