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