The screaming erupted last Wednesday afternoon, just down the street from Parliament Hill, in the offices of a Conservative cabinet minister.
Two officials with Canadian Association of University Teachers sat on one side of a boardroom table and on the other sat Gary Goodyear, Minister of Science and Technology, his policy adviser Wesley Moore and a civil servant ready to take notes.
CAUT, a lobby group that represents 65,000 staff at 121 colleges and universities, had planned to raise concerns over the government's handling of research funding. But within moments, it became clear they wouldn't get very far.
Irrational anger. Sounds like Harper's kind of guy. And then the talking points come out. Like a drone.
“The minister was very angry,” said David Robinson, associate executive director of CAUT. “He was raising his voice and pointing his finger … He said everyone loves their [federal budget] and we said, ‘A lot of our members don't love it'… and he said, ‘That's because you're lying to them, misleading them.'”
With them or against them. Stupid and paranoid. The Conservatives are building a great case for Canada to not have nuclear weapons. You wouldn't want these loonies access to such things.
The talks, Mr. Robinson said, went from bad to worse. In 15 years on the job, he “never had a meeting like that.”
No sane person wants to have that kind of conflict when presenting their case.
Mr. Goodyear agrees. “I, too, have never had a meeting like that. It was a unique experience and one I don't care to repeat.”
No insane person wants to have their delusions challenged in such a way.
Yet, so many in the scientific community are disappointed, frustrated about – and even fearful of – the government's treatment of research.
James Turk, CAUT executive director, said the meeting with the minister typifies the chill many scientists feel coming from the government, calling the reception “nasty pit-bull” behaviour.
“If they treated us like that – and they have no control over us – you can imagine how they're treating the presidents [of the federal granting councils],” said Mr. Turk. “Their intention is to intimidate their critics.”
Criticism has come not only from expected corners such as CAUT, but also from university faculties and researchers across the country, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and the French Canadian Association for the Advancement of Science.
They warn Ottawa's stand on research will make it tough for Canada to recruit or retain top talent; that the Conservatives are investing in bricks over brain power; that they nurture commercial ventures but neglect basic research; and that funding comes with strings attached. To some, this suggests a new era of political interference is afoot in Canadian science.
Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., said the government has been steadily investing in science and technology since 2006, with a new emphasis on commercialization and that it has designed an overall strategy to ensure Canada remains a world leader in research.
“We have done everything right,” he said.
Oh goody. Absolute messianic certainty. I could pull several more scary nuggets from the article. If you need to hear more, read the entire article.
A Science and Technology Minister with a disdain for science has about as much a chance of providing good stewardship of basic research efforts as a Finance Minister who doesn't believe in a government role in the economy has at writing a good stimulative budget.
I could go on and on about the ineptitude of one of Harper's Ministers. There is plenty of material to work with. At some point, however, the Liberals have to accept responsibility for the no coalition strategy. And not in the risible Harper-Ignatieff Coalition nonsense. The key problem is that strategy has consequences. I understand the logic. But the Conservative machine will western anger as part of the election campaign. As we saw this weekend, the attacks will come.
Meanwhile the carnage Harper leaves along the road continues to grow. By not following the prerogatives open to the Opposition, we have seen a budget without sufficient EI changes and poor stimulus spending. We have Ministers violently opposed to the group they are expected to advocate for. We have legislation for useless anti-crime measures and intrusions into our civil liberties coming down the pike to act as cover for Conservative fundraising schemes.
Forcing an election in June will likely bear the fruit of removing Harper from office. But the collateral damage from unfriendly fire will get worse and worse.Recommend this Post