Federal policies block communication on everything from drugs to climate: report

Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, commander Canadian Joint Operations Command, speaks to the media in Wainwright, Alta., in May 2013. ~ PHOTO by SGT. MATTHEW MCGREGOR/COMBAT CAMERA

Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, commander Canadian Joint Operations Command, speaks to the media in Wainwright, Alta., in May 2013.
~ PHOTO by SGT. MATTHEW MCGREGOR/COMBAT CAMERA

The Harper government’s preoccupation with message control has earned several federal departments a failing grade for communication.

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Federal government ices polar briefings

Ice floes float in Baffin Bay above the Arctic circle as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent on July 10, 2008. ~ JONATHAN HAYWARD CP

Ice floes float in Baffin Bay above the Arctic circle as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent on July 10, 2008.
~ JONATHAN HAYWARD CP

Federal scientists who keep a close eye on the Arctic ice cap would like to routinely brief Canadians about extraordinary events unfolding in the North. But newly released federal documents show the Harper government has been thwarting their efforts.

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Environment minister “denies” interview with ozone scientist

Peter Kent in Parliament

Peter Kent in Parliament

Published 01/12/2012

Environment Minister Peter Kent has repeatedly said the government does not muzzle its scientists. But Kent’s office stopped David Tarasick, an Environment Canada researcher, from talking to journalists about a report on last year’s unprecedented Arctic ozone hole, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act.

It’s the latest case uncovered by Postmedia News where ministers’ offices or the Privy Council Office have prevented federal scientists from talking to the media about their science.

The documents also say Kent’s office and the Privy Council Office, which reports to the prime minister, decide when and if Environment Canada scientists are allowed to brief the media about anything from wildlife to water quality.

Last fall, Kent was adamant in the House of Commons that ”we are not muzzling scientists.” And the minister reported to a parliamentary committee in May that “circumstances simply did not work out” to allow Tarasick to give interviews when a study he co-authored on the Arctic ozone hole was published in Nature, a leading science journal. Continue reading →