Top federal bureaucrats using “preapproved’ messages

Published 03/12/2012
Environment Minister Peter Kent

Environment Minister Peter Kent     ~ CP

At first, a top Environment Canada official seemed game to discuss “unmuzzling” government scientists during an international science conference earlier this year.

“I would be very interested in participating,” Karen Dodds, an assistant deputy minister, said by email to colleagues when she received an invitation to sit on a panel aimed at opening the lines of communications between the news media and federal scientists.

Instead, she sat in the audience as a spectator during the session at the Vancouver conference, and was informed she should refer questions about the government’s strict communication policy to Ottawa, where a government “tactics” committee was working on a response, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act.

The response  –  that Environment Canada is “exemplary”  at responding to media inquiries – was eventually released as a letter to the editor signed by Paul Boothe, then the deputy minister of environment, after it was edited and pre-approved by Environment Minister Peter Kent’s office and the Privy Council Office. The Privy Council Office, or PCO, reports to the prime minister.

The federal government is so involved in supervising messaging that even officials defending its communications policy use lines “preapproved” by their political masters, the documents show. Continue reading


Dead Fish Swimming – Virus may have killed Fraser River salmon

Vancouver Sun Fri Jan 14 2011

By Margaret Munro Postmedia News

Volcanic eruptions, giant squid and sea lice have all been invoked to explain the wild swings in British Columbia’s famed Fraser River sockeye-salmon runs.

Now scientists are raising the possibility that a mysterious virus is responsible for killing huge numbers of Pacific salmon before they reach their spawning grounds.

“The mortality-related signature reflects a viral infection,” a team of federal and university researchers reported Thursday in a study that tagged and tracked wild adult sockeye salmon, then biopsied their gill tissues.

The compromised salmon, which appeared to have a viral infection at sea — a phenomenon study co-author Scott Hinch at the University of B.C. describes as “dead fish swimming” — were 13.5 times more likely to die before spawning than healthy fish. Continue reading

Feds muzzle scientist over salmon study

Wed Jul 27 2011 Vancouver Sun

By Margaret Munro
Postmedia News

Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist based on Vancouver Island whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada’s West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.

Science, one of the world’s top research journals, published Miller’s findings in January. The journal considered the work so significant it notified “over 7,400” journalists worldwide about Miller’s “Suffering Salmon” study.

Science told Miller to “please feel free to speak with journalists.”

It advised reporters to contact Diane Lake, a media officer with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Vancouver, “to set up interviews with Dr. Miller.”

Miller heads a $6-million salmon genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island.

The documents show major media outlets were soon lining up to speak with Miller, but the Privy Council Office said no to the interviews.

The Privy Council Office also quashed a Fisheries Department news release about Miller’s study, saying the release “was not very good, focused Continue reading