Green Party of Canada Platform: 3.6 Environmental science support: Reverse the “brain drain” in federal science capacity

A continuing review of  the Green Party of Canada’s Platform:

3.6 Environmental science support: Reverse the “brain drain” in federal science capacity

In the last two decades much has occurred to erode the scientific capacity of the federal civil service.

The deep cuts in budgets through the “program review” phase of the former Liberal Government happened to coincide with a widespread (or at least within the OECD) fad for “smaller government” and the injection of a managerial fetish in the civil service. Many experienced scientists took early retirement on very favourable terms. Managers from other departments, without any policy strength or scientific background, moved into key positions in departments such as Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans.

Many have decried the shift to a managerial culture, in which policy expertise is degraded in preference to some generic management experience. The professional union representing civil servants has also noted that the careerist ambitions of the new civil service culture do not serve the public interest. The previous esprit de corps and expertise within scientifically-grounded departments better served the public interest.

While Greens do not favour big government for its own sake, it is penny-wise and pound-foolish to allow government policy to be starved of solid scientific in-house expertise. The Green Party notes another economic reality of operating with a “leaner” civil service. Much work ends up being “out-sourced” at a higher cost than if the government had its own scientific strength.

The Greens believe that the federal government must signal to the civil service that it values and supports a strong scientific capacity for the Government of Canada. That includes regularly seeking scientific advice regarding all levels of environmentally-related decision making. We decry the shift to a managerial culture, in which policy expertise is degraded in preference to management experience.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Direct the Clerk of the Privy Council to reform the civil service to elevate core competence over a managerial culture.

  • Include $15 million annually to the federal budget to be used for adding knowledgeable scientific staff to Environment Canada, Health Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans ($5 million each) thereby increasing their competency.

  • Re-establish the posts of Ambassador for the Environment and Sustainable Development, a position that was eliminated by the Conservatives in 2006, and of a Science Advisor to the Prime Minister.

  • Ensure the independence of the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development, through a stand-alone piece of legislation allowing the Commissioner to report directly to the House of Commons.

Comments and discussion are welcomed.  I am examining this as I go to gain a better grasp of their platform and invite all who are interested to do the same with comments and discussion.

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