Political Interference & Industry Influence

“Some departments like Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada should be less tied to government policies and be accountable to the people. Situations like the wild salmon stocks in British Columbia and aquaculture should have been better managed and based on scientific expertise. It is inconceivable that in 2013 they are trying to hide the truth for political and economic interests, to the detriment of Canadians.” [FR]

“The interference in our work may not come from politicians; but the managers are so scared of offending policy makers and ministers’ offices that they are providing policy and medical advice only that they think the minister wants to hear. The truth is collateral damage.”

“Very difficult to watch something that has taken 100 years to build destroyed in a short time to satisfy political ideology.”

“Political control now takes greater priority in decisions on regulation than protection of our environment and health. This control means that professionals in the public service are increasingly being treated like children— and that the entire system has slowed down (since all the decisions are being made at a progressively higher level—and that those decisions are sometimes difficult for employees at the program level to implement). Moreover, it is getting harder and harder to consult the public on government initiatives.” [FR]

“The department just follows the instructions from a higher level. So the ideological cuts are being made higher up. I’m waiting patiently for a new political party to be elected to start feeling proud again of my work . . .” [FR]

“I feel the management responds negatively, to potentially significant data, that indicates an impact to the environment. In general, I am asked to downplay findings and feel that consulting with academia on our findings is discouraged.”

“The present government of Canada would like to eradicate basic science research because it does not bring immediate political gain. This approach to research is short sighted and unproductive, it leads to government researchers acting at the direction of industry which has little capacity or inclination to think strategically or for the greater good.”

“Regarding political interference -- it is not so much that there is a presumed presence of direct interference as there seems to be a fear to go against the current grain of government ideology, so decisions seem to be made seemingly to "protect" the minister or the Agency. Too much weight has been given lately to Industry views and not enough to ENGO or First Nations etc. in decision-making.”

“They’re very subtly manipulating scientific information : for example, after working on a publication, the Minister won’t approve it, but will stall it by asking questions. . . this strategy is used until the publication is outdated . . . this is but one example . . . International trips for scientists have been cancelled because they were deemed unjustifiable; they wait until the end of day on a Friday (when there are fewer media representatives around) to release a disturbing report. Since the current government came into office, the words “climate change” started to disappear from the titles of divisions and subdivisions of Environment Canada . . .”

“Transparency and recommendations based on science are well-received at the lower levels of the department; the watering down happens primarily at the political level and highest levels closest to the top. Science has been cut to the bone; there is no way to reduce further without just stopping.”

“Senior management expects public servants to embrace the fiction that we are here to fearlessly provide good advice to decision-makers. The facts are that even expressing mild concern with a chosen plan of action can lead to a harsh reaction.”

“The push for industry-led and industry-funded research is compromising our ability to carry out public-interest, long-term agricultural research. I have grave concerns about the future of research into sustainable agricultural practices, especially work looking at environmentally sustainable practices and/or the environmental implications of new products and practices. Industry-led research is targeted at increasing economic returns, and rarely does more than the bare minimum requirements in meeting environmental standards. The future health of Canadians and/or the Canadian environment will suffer for the loss of funding for public-led research.”

“The current government is recreating federal departments to serve the interests of its industry and business supporters and subverting the science to serve the public good and protect the environment. Public servants with a conscience live in fear to open their mouths to the media or the public to tell the truth of what is going on.”

“It is obvious to me. The recent changes to the Fisheries Act were done to facilitate economic growth for the big companies and not to protect the environment. Reducing our budgets, cutting staff, and making it difficult to travel to conferences are actions to further challenge federal scientists.”

“In my field, which involves regulation over health and safety, my agency has shown a marked increase in regulatory capture (i.e. decision makers tend to lean towards industry views) that extends all the way to the top. The top leader of the agency joined the agency with a very marked pro-industry, anti-NGO stance. This person has single-handedly taken control over most messaging that leaves the agency from what is posted on a website to what is said to the media. A "yes-sir" culture has emerged as a result of this leader's management style and scientific opinions that counter this leader's views are generally discouraged by line management.”

“Political interference in [scientific] analyses is another difficult situation to manage and brings me into conflict with my professional code of ethics.” [FR]

“Some fishing industry lobbies have more power than the deputy ministers. Most people are aware of the situation, but there is a lack of willingness in the organization to change it. Certain fishing quotas are based on political, rather than biological, data. But when things go wrong, scientists are blamed, instead of the people who ignored their recommendations when the decisions were being made.” [FR]