Stephen Harper’s war on data

09.19.15

So let me get this straight: Hillary Clinton deletes a few personal emails and it causes a national uproar. Stephen Harper deletes DECADES of statistical, scientific and historical records and nobody bats an eyelash?

As this piece in Maclean’s explains, the Tories under Harper have gone to war on information. And we’re all losers:

Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them. But such accounts are only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. A months-long Maclean’s investigation, which includes interviews with dozens of academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians, has found that the federal government’s “austerity” program, which resulted in staff cuts and library closures (16 libraries since 2012)—as well as arbitrary changes to policy, when it comes to data—has led to a systematic erosion of government records far deeper than most realize, with the data and data-gathering capability we do have severely compromised as a result.

[ . . . ]

Disappearing data is only one part of a larger narrative of a degradation of knowledge—one that extends from federal scientists being prevented from talking about their research on topics as mundane as snow to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being forced to take the federal government to court to obtain documents that should have been available under Access to Information.

[ . . . ]

The result is a crisis in what Canadians know—and are allowed to know—about themselves. The threat this poses to a functioning democracy has been raised over the past several years, most recently, in the massive, damning June 2015 report “Dismantling democracy: Stifling debate and dissent in Canada” produced by Voices-Voix, a non-partisan coalition of more than 200 organizations and 5,000 individuals.

Read the whole thing.

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