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Should federal scientists get involved with federal politics?

posted Nov 16, 2014, 10:22 AM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Nov 16, 2014, 10:27 AM ]
(Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

(Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Listen  <----click here to listen to the interview

For years now we've been hearing grumbling from federal scientists. Now the union that represents most federal scientists says it's going to play an active role in the next federal election campaign.

Peter Bleyer is a special adviser to the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

He told The 180's Jim Brown that shifting policy under the Harper government has left union members feeling they need to take political action.


"We feel that this government - our members are telling us this - has done a lot of damage to the federal public service and the federal public service's ability to do their job when it comes to health, the environment and public safety."

Peter Bleyer

The federal government insists it is a staunch backer of public science. After a series of protests by scientists across the country last year, then-Minister of State for Science and Technology Greg Rickford issued a statement saying, "Our government is committed to science, technology and innovation and taking ideas to the marketplace."

He added that Canada ranked number 1 in the G7 for its higher education research and development.

But Peter Bleyer says that PIPSC members are especially concerned about how research and findings from federal scientists is shared with the public. A survey of PIPSC members by Environics found that nearly half of the members questioned say they're aware of specific cases in which political interference with their scientific work has compromised the health and safety of Canadians or environmental sustainability.

But Bleyer says it's a real challenge getting specific evidence out because scientists are fearful. He says that existing whistle-blower legislation is not strong enough.

"They need that atmosphere of fear to be withdrawn and then they need recourse that will allow them to come forward."

Peter Bleyer
He says the union will stop short of partisan campaigning but will work to bring attention any and all parties that endorse evidence based policy and transparency.