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Margaret Atwood: Canada’s War on Science “A Shoddy Treatment of our Tax Dollars”

Acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood appeared on Jian Ghomeshi’s CBC radio show Q where she spoke out against the muzzling of Canada’s taxpayer funded scientists.

Ghomeshi started the conversation with, “Margaret, you’ve recently told the Ottawa Citizen that you feel our current government is hostile to a particular kind of science. What were you thinking of particularly?”

“Oh, now we’re talking!” she responded.

“It’s all over the internet that the scientists that you and I pay for with our tax dollars, we’re not allow access to their actual results. They have to submit that to some kind of Big Brother bureaucrat who tells them whether or not it’s, quote, ‘on message,’ before they can tell us what they found out.”

“Number one,” she said, “that is a very shoddy treatment of our tax dollars. And number two, it’s potentially hazardous to your health because what if they’re finding out things that are going into our drinking water, into the air…and we’re not being told about it.”

“And number three,” Ghomeshi added, “a great source of frustration to the scientific community.”

“That too,” said Atwood, “a great source of frustration to them, the ones that your tax dollars are paying for…Tax payers paid for this stuff, we should be allowed access to the results as those results come out and those people should be able to talk to…journalists, because the journalists are the interface between them and the public.”

“And how concerned are you that environmental science or investigative science are going to be undermined in a significant way?” Ghomeshi asked.

“Pretty concerned,” Atwood responded. “And I’m not alone in that. In fact the New York Times has just had a piece on it in which they said this government here in Canada is worse than the Bush government in the United States was on that same issue.”

“You’re also handicapping Canadian technology in that way and you’re handicapping Canadian education," she said.

For more on the War on Science, read "Harper's Attack on Science: No Science, No Evidence, No Truth, No Democracy."

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When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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