This bill was proposed as one solution to growing concerns over the erosion of science and evidence-informed policy decisions in Canada (2). In recent years, we have seen drastic cuts to both federal government and academic research(3). Many important evidence gathering institutions have been lost including the long-form census (4), and government scientists are increasingly restricted in their ability to openly communicate their research (5). Most alarming, many public policy decisions disregard all available evidence (6)(7)(8).
Having a dedicated office that provides non-partisan, independent, objective, and readily available analysis of the science relevant for public policy issues is a huge step in the right direction.
Many other governments recognize the importance of such a position. The U.K. has the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (9), the U.S. has the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (10). Canada had a very short-lived Office of the National Science Advisor, but it was eliminated in 2008 after just four years of operation (11). Though the Canadian Science, Technology and Innovation Council was established in 2007, the limited science advice it provides to government is completely confidential (12).
Canada needs a Parliamentary Science Officer to give science a stronger voice in the federal government.
This new office would have the mandate to (13):
- Assess the state of scientific evidence relevant to any proposal or bill before Parliament;
- Answer requests from Committees and individual Members of Parliament for unbiased scientific information;
- Conduct independent analysis of federal science and technology policy;
- Raise awareness of scientific issues across government and among Canadians;
- Encourage coordination between departments and agencies conducting scientific research.
If we take action now, this bill could gain the cross-party support needed to make it to the next stage. It may only need a small push - while the bill was introduced by NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, the Conservative and Liberal Parties have a similar proposal in their policy books (14)(15) and the Green Party recently passed a policy motion supporting the creation of a Parliamentary Science Officer (16).
Please send an email to your MP, the party leaders, and the Minister for Science and Technology right now to show your support for creating a Parliamentary Science Officer - a position that provides elected officials with balanced, nonpartisan scientific information. It’s easy - simply sign the form below, or draft your own letter.
1. Bill C-558
2. The Canadian War on Science: Update on the chronology of the Conservative government’s anti science actions - Confessions of a Science Librarian
3. “Decline in federal support for S&T now a long-term trend according to latest data”, Research Money, 27(12), August 27, 2013.
4. Statistics Canada, 2011 Census questionnaire
5. The Big Chill, The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada
6. “Adrift from the moorings of good public policy: ignoring evidence and human rights”, International Journal of Drug Policy Volume 19, 2008.
7. BC addicts get injunction to keep using prescription heroin
8. Harper government eliminated reviews for oilsands projects following warning of water disruption
9. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, UK Parliament
10. Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House
11. Canada abolishes its national science advisor
12. Science, Technology and Innovation Council of Canada
13. Bill C-558: Parliamentary Science Officer | Kennedy Stewart, MP
14. Conservative Party of Canada Policy Declaration 2013 [page 11]
15. Liberal Party of Canada Policy Resolutions 2012 [page 20]
16. Creation of Parliamentary Science Officer | Green Party of Canada