Harper government’s assault on reason, scientists, ‘Orwellian’ and ‘alarming,’ warns pollster, Harris/Decima’s Allan Gregg says feds have twinned ‘abandonment of reason’ with ‘willful dissemination of misinformation’ by Alice Funke, September 10, 2012, The Hill Times
OTTAWA¬One-time Progressive Conservative pollster Allan Gregg lambasted the government for its “assault on reason” and bemoaned its “Orwellian” attacks on scientists and environmental policy advocates in a stinging criticism of the Harper Conservatives to a Carleton University campus audience of 250 last week in Ottawa. “Our government’s use of evidence and facts as the bases of policy is declining,” Mr. Gregg, chair of Harris/Decima public opinion and market research, who worked for 18 years as a pollster for former prime ministers Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, and Kim Campbell, “and in their place, dogma, whim and political expediency are on the rise.”
In a lecture titled, “1984 in 2012: The Assault on Reason,” Mr. Gregg said he first became concerned when the government cancelled the mandatory long-form census, of which he, as a pollster, was a long-time user, calling its explanation about the need to protect privacy, “creepy” and unfounded. Followed by the cancellation of the long-gun registry, even though its data was consulted regularly by nearly every police force, and the “massive penitentiary construction spree,” in spite of a “mountain of evidence” that crime was on the decline, Mr. Gregg said he started to see the cancellation of the census as a “canary in the mineshaft.” But Mr. Gregg said it was the nature of the cuts rolled out in the omnibus 2012 post-stimulus budget¬half the staff at Statistics Canada receiving redundancy notices; along with 20 per cent of the workforce at Library and Archives Canada; and 70 per cent of the scientists at Parks Canada; the cancellation of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy; the Experimental Lakes Area project; the National Council on Welfare and the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science amongst others; plus the massive changes to the Fisheries Act and Environmental Assessment regulations¬that really confirmed this “Orwellian” and “alarming” pattern for him.
“This was no random act of downsizing, but a deliberate attempt to obliterate certain activities that were previously viewed as a legitimate part of government decision-making¬namely, using research, science and evidence as the bases of policy formation,” Mr. Gregg charged. “It also amounted to an attempt to eliminate anyone who might use science, facts, and evidence to challenge government policies,” he added. … While Mr. Gregg said he thinks the Conservative Party genuinely believes that “this mythical Canadian Tire/Tim Hortons person has not been represented and that their voice hasn’t been heard in the public discourse in Canada,” he also said he thinks the scientists’ protests have been getting through to the government. “They’re not irrational to the extent they’re prepared to commit political suicide,” Mr. Gregg maintained. “The extent to which scientists stood up to them, and could actually put forward their case in a persuasive way, they will throttle it in; they will rein it in.”