“You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing…”

Elizabeth May

Having worked on the issue of climate change for the last twenty two years, I have a really good memory for who said what when. For example, I remember that the Harper Conservatives answered an election questionnaire from the Montreal Economic Institute in the 2006 campaign, confirming that they did not accept the prevailing view of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (They were cage-y elsewhere. It was only in replying to a group of climate change deniers, that they put their anti-science views in writing.)

So I was not terribly surprised when they came to power as a minority that the Harperites ordered the Environment Canada science web sites cleaned up, with the offensive explanations of IPCC science removed.

Nor was I very surprised, when Canada shifted from international partner in negotiations, to saboteur (a move starting with the spring 2006 negotiations in Bonn).

It is clear that the Harper government does not want to adequately fund Canadian scientists. Environment Minister John Baird tries to dress up his anti-science stance as decisive. He generally denounces those who ask what happened to research funds by declaring “We have enough science! We need to act.” or some such clever and cynical obfuscation.

The decision to terminate the position of National Science Advisor fits the pattern. In some ways, you begin to think it cannot get much worse.

And then came the headline last week “Environment Canada 'muzzles' scientists' dealings with media Policy,” with the sub-headline “aims to stop Baird from seeing 'surprises' in news.”

I think more than a few people reeled at that one. It had been awhile since the Environment Canada staffer who was accused of leaked Baird’s draft climate plan was taken away in hand-cuffs and it is easy to get distracted about the Harper government’s attitude to environmental information making its way to the public. Because I started my work on climate change in 1986 as Senior Policy Advisor to the federal Minister of Environment, I know many Environment Canada scientists and senior (and junior!) officials.

Following the story on muzzling scientists, a retired Environment Canada scientist sent me this:

”This just in - Environment Canada announced that there will be no more weather forecasts until further notice. In order to avoid misrepresentation all forecasts will be subject to Ministerial approval. Stay tuned for breaking news. Spring may be a little late this year.”

I thought it was funny and said so... then the scientist sent me this, forwarded from a current EC meteorologist...:(names removed to protect the innocent from the wrath of Baird.)

“Apparently our operational meteorologists weren't even allowed to speak to the media about today's storm in southern Ontario until the media lines were approved next Monday!”

Now I was feeling more chilled than amused. I checked in to find out if I could quote from these emails removing all names. The reply was a bit more tentative. “I don’t want to seem paranoid,” he/she said (gender removed to protect the innocent), “But I had sent that last one ‘reply to all’ and the next day when I went to log on to my Environment Canada email address it refused my password and said my access had expired…it’s probably just a technical glitch. It’s probably nothing,” he/she tried to convince herself/himself.

If I find out, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, watch for Baird approved weather forecasting.