News / Halifax

Halifax crowd rallies against federal cuts to scientific research and programs

Canada is slipping on a scale “unlike anything we’ve seen before" thanks to cuts in scientific research and programs, says one Dalhousie University professor.

Thomas Duck of Dalhousie’s physics and atmospheric science department said due to the funding pulled for an Arctic research station and experimental lakes in Ontario, he’s had to say goodbye to many friends.

“It’s very real, scientists are leaving,” Duck said before a Stand Up for Science rally event Monday. “It means that our science is falling behind the rest of the world.”

The Halifax event was one of 16 held across Canada to raise awareness around the Conservative government’s cuts to science programs through budget cuts or Bill C-38, known as “the omnibus bill.”

Duck said “dramatic” cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans affects Nova Scotia because there is less data available on what’s in our waters.

“Of course this impacts your fishing, it impacts the health of entire ecosystems so ultimately … it effects your economy,” Duck said.

Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party, spoke during the rally and said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a plan to “muzzle” those scientists who could disrupt fossil-fuel production in Alberta.

May quoted Harper’s 2012 budget, which said the government will only fund science that is “business led and industry relevant.”

But May said this doesn’t make sense, because all inquiry is good for the economy and scientists often make discoveries while they’re not focused on profit.

Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone while working with the hearing-impaired, May said.

May said the 10 per cent cut to Parks Canada, which led to the laying off of all their scientists, and halted any data they collected on ecosystems, is especially troubling.

“This is not simply bad public policy,” May said. “This is the public policy of people who burn books in the public square and declare war on knowledge.”

Halifax MP Megan Leslie spoke about the importance of letting Harper’s government know not everyone agrees with the scientific cuts.

“They can get away with whatever they want if we don’t speak up, if we don’t push back,” Leslie said.

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