It's not enough to bash in heads, you have to bash in minds
            

Environment Canada scientists told to toe the line

The Conservative government has an abysmal record on environmental issues, and is now finally doing something about it.

Environment Canada has “muzzled” its scientists, ordering them to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers will help them respond with “approved lines.”

The new policy, which went into force in recent weeks and sent a chill through the department research divisions, is designed to control the department’s media message and ensure there are no “surprises” for Environment Minister John Baird and senior management when they open the newspaper or turn on the television, according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service…

Until now, Environment Canada has been one of most open and accessible departments in the federal government, which the executive committee says is a problem that needs to be remedied.

The problem was clearly the openness of Environment Canada, and not the of lack of action on environmental issues. You can always trust the Conservatives to do the right thing.

It says all media queries must now be routed through Ottawa where “media relations will work with individual staff to decide how to best handle the call; this could include: Asking the program expert to respond with approved lines; having media relations respond; referring the call to the minister’s office; referring the call to another department,” the presentation says.

The reality, says insiders, is the policy is blocking communication and infuriating scientists. Researchers have been told to refer all media queries to Ottawa. The media office then asks reporters to submit their questions in writing. Sources say researchers are then asked to respond in writing to the media office, which then sends the answers to senior management for approval. If a researcher is eventually cleared to do an interview, he or she is instructed to stick to the “approved lines.”

Climatologist Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria works closely with several Environment Canada scientists. He says the policy points to the Conservative government’s fixation with “micro-management” and message control.

“They’ve been muzzled,” says Weaver of the federal researchers. “The concept of free speech is non-existent at Environment Canada. They are manufacturing the message of science.”

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