Stephen Harper Finds Science on the Road to Damascus

Here’s Stephen Harper doing his best to stay out of the Enbridge pipeline debate – the biggest (non-soccer) controversy in Canada these days:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is defending the independence of the environmental review process underway for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, telling reporters in Vancouver the project will be evaluated scientifically and a green light to proceed would not be based on politics.

Decisions on these kinds of projects are made through an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks that are associated with the project. And that’s how we conduct our business,” Harper said.

“The only way that governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically and not simply on political criteria,” the prime minister added.

While this is a perfectly reasonable position for Harper to take, it’s also unexpected. After all, the Stephen Harper Amish Drinking Game has “science” in the centre square – it’s simply not a word that ever crosses his lips.

Of course, Harper’s conversion to science does seem to have more to do with convenience than faith when you consider his government came to power thanks to a GST cut economists everywhere hated. It’s the same government that killed the long-form Census over howls of protests from every single expert (other than noted censologist Lorne Gunter) – then cut Statistics Canada’s budget to rub salt in the wound. His Minister of Science doesn’t believe in evolution. Don’t even bother bringing up safe injection sites, the fisheries act, or climate change. It’s no wonder one of the world’s leading scientific journals has demanded that Harper “set scientists free“.

So while I welcome Harper’s newfound love of science, I’ll remain a skeptic until I see more supporting evidence he has changed his ways.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at www.calgarygrit.ca and online at the National Post.

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11 Responses to Stephen Harper Finds Science on the Road to Damascus

  1. Paul O

    If folks cared about evidence, they wouldn’t have made the accusations about Harper which have been made so frequently and so carelessly.

  2. MyOwnView

    “Science” is the new buzzword and a convenient get out of jail free card. They can say there’s no scientific evidence and go ahead with what they want to do. The little word missing is “yet” … there’s no scientific evidence yet. Once something happens, well now, it’s got backing to do something about it. Total reactive, short sighted mindset.

  3. Rotterdam

    “government came to power thanks to a GST cut economists everywhere hated”

    Liberals have zero credibility with the GST.
    Mulroney was the only PM with the courage to implement the GST. The Liberals got elected promising to abolish it. If the Tory GST cut was so bad why did Liberals not put back the increase in the subsequent election platforms?

    • CalgaryGrit

      Given the Conservative commercials which aired during the 2008 election, I could swear the Liberals were going to raise the GST.

      Unless of course those Tory ads were lying?

      • Rotterdam

        So the GST cut was good!

  4. Brian from Toronto

    As you know – you run a politics blog after all – politics trumps science. If politics demands that a Liberal or Conservative P.M. has to follow some policy despite the science, they do – always have and always will.

    Case in point: the Liberals signing the Kyoto agreement with no intention whatsoever of implementing it.

    Signing an environmental treaty you don’t intend to follow isn’t putting science first; it’s just a way of scoring easy political points with the Liberal base.

    Of course if they had tried to implement Kyoto, that would have been putting science first – but at the cost of abandoning reason. Because anyone with sense, knew this whole treaty thing was never going to work.

    And the moral of that is that sometimes it’s better *not* to follow the science – which is why we’re wise to have politicians in charge, not technocrats.

    • CalgaryGrit

      If there was no way to actually cut emissions without bankrupting the economy, then signing Kyoto was an abandonement of evidence-based policy.

      In that respect, I’d almost argue that move was against science rather than for science.

      But even having this debate, we can see how easy it is to throw around the term “science” to make an argument, eh?

  5. Ed

    This is a bit hackish. The “social sciences” (what used to be known as political economy), including economics and the researchers who use Statistics Canada, aren’t actually sciences. I’m sure Harper know that.

  6. Danny-O

    Nice to see CON trolls still have their hackles ready for attack. Harper’s well-stated distaste for ‘evidential decision making’ as listed by CG, his regular lumping of any group that opposes his ‘by the gut’ preferred defence — including scientists, who threw an interesting hootenanny last month in support of the grand ol’ chicken PM… His stating that the Enbridge decision is just a predictable dodge, his ‘hey, don’t worry about my hidden agenda, Canada’s protected by the courts/senate/bureaucracy (all since gamed to impotence)’…

  7. Brian from Toronto

    Donny is a good example of one of several reasons I’m unlikely to take out a Liberal membership again or campaign for my local Liberal candidate again – at least not in the near future.

    His childish understanding of politics is too common. “Hidden agenda”? Sorry, how many years have we had a Conservative government?

    The supposed hidden agenda has been revealed as the Conservatives hewing to the political centre. To the right of Pierre Trudeau certainly but perhaps to the left of Paul Martin – I speak of course of the Paul Martin who wrote budgets, not of the Paul Martin who campaigned on hysterical anti-Americanism in order to appeal to turnip heads like Donny.

    But to clarify one point: I didn’t mean to criticize the Liberal’s Kyoto strategy. The decision to not implement it was the correct policy. The decision to sign it (with no intention of implementing it) was the correct political move.

    However, it did have a cost. Rather than going for the easy political points, the Liberals could have started a grown-up conversation on climate change, perhaps along the lines of how to adapt to it, since obviously this whole treaty thing is never going to work.

    But realistically I don’t think there was anyone on the Liberal bench who could have led that debate (and I don’t recall anyone on the opposition side making terribly cogent arguments either).

  8. Robert V

    Dan, I love your blog, and have for over a decade.

    But if you’re going to hack on a politician for using the word “science” to defend purely political decisions then you’re hacking on the LAST guy that should be on your list. A guy who you seem to agree is doing it for the first time in his career.

Reply to Robert V

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