say farewell to free speech

This is a too-brief take on a sci-fi author’s muzzling by the Harper government and why it bodes poorly for freedom of speech and, more…

This is a too-brief take on a sci-fi author’s muzzling by the Harper government and why it bodes poorly for freedom of speech and, more importantly, the fate of Earth.

The author is a hitherto little-known guy called Mark Tushingham.

During the day, he works as a scientist for Environment Canada. But, after work, Tushingham writes books.

His latest is called Hotter Than Hell. It is a novel about global warming and tells a tale about how climate change has rendered parts of Earth unlivable. It is sexed up by an implausible war between Canada and the US over water.

But, as Tushingham is a scientist, the facts underpinning the novel are sound.

And Tushingham was going to outline those facts before the National Press Club on Thursday.

But facts have no place in the new Canada.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose stepped in an ordered Tushingham not to give his book-launch talk to the media.

“He got a directive from the department, cautioning him not to come to this meeting today,” said Elizabeth Margaris, Tushingham’s publisher.

“So I guess we’re being stifled. This is incredible, I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

We have.

In Harper’s home of Alberta, where provincial scientists and doctors have been fired or threatened with discipline for discussing the dangers of the oil industry and global warming.

Now, the chill is national.

“I obviously not only hope, but expect, that all elements of the bureaucracy will be working with us to achieve our objectives,” Harper said in an interview on Thursday.

We’re not talking about whistleblowers, we’re talking about muzzling a guy who wrote a novel in his spare time.

So, we have a national government that threatens to discipline civil servants for discussing their hobbies.

This erases all boundaries.

What’s next?

Well, it gets better.

The disturbing gag order was issued as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government was quietly beginning to roll back 15 research programs related to Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto protocol.

And there are more cancellations to come.

But, apparently, Canadians worried about global warming – and that’s most of us — should be happy.

Why?

Witness the doublespeak of Resources Minister Gary Lunn: “The new government is committed to putting an end to the massive increase in (greenhouse gas) emissions that Canada has seen over the past decade.”

Great. Except: Lunn said this as the research cuts were announced.

“To do that, we need a new approach to addressing climate change that is effective and realistic for Canada,” said Lunn.

So, how do you reconcile the actions and words.

Well, you can’t.

The Harper government is lying.

Harper opposes Kyoto.

He doesn’t believe Canada can meet its targets without hobbling industry, specifically in Alberta.

Harper wants to back out of Kyoto and set up national emission targets less onerous for industry.

That is, he’s not concerned about fighting climate change at all.

Harper is all business. Apparently at any cost.

And he’s clearly out of synch with world affairs.

Even the US is beginning to wake up to the dangers of climate change.

Recently, National Geographic, Time and other major American magazines have ramped up their reportage of the crisis.

“Never mind what you’ve heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out,” wrote Time on April 3. “Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.”

The magazine leaves no wriggle room, no room for doubt. Earth is in trouble.

It cites the usual symptoms — forest fires, rising global temperatures, melting ice caps, species disappearance, droughts, hurricanes and typhoons as evidence of Earth’s growing illness that can’t be ignored.

“From heat waves to storms to floods to fires to massive glacier melts, the global climate seems to be crashing around us,” wrote Time.

“Even as nature crosses its tipping points, the public seems to have reached its own.”

Skeptics, notes Time, have become a “marginalized breed.”

Harper is one.

And that clearly endangers the nation.

We need people to talk up the crisis, to keep hammering the public with facts.

To wake people up to the crisis.

The public needs facts.

Like those that were to be provided by Canadian government scientist and novelist Tushingham.

But Harper is muzzling such people.

The nation is less free than it was six months ago.

It is less green.

And the government’s actions are clearly leading it into greater peril at a time when it should be taking bold action to lessen the danger.

Leading environmentalists across Canada urge the opposition to defeat Harper’s government if it abandons its commitments under Kyoto.

They are right. (RM)

Editor’s postscript

As this editorial was being written we got word that Garth Turner had abandoned his column.

In the last federal election, Turner had been elected to Parliament.

Nevertheless, he vowed to keep writing his weekly missive on financial advice.

He was difficult to muzzle.

Turner made national headlines after the federal election for publicly criticizing Stephen Harper over the floor crossing of BC MP David Emerson.

And he kept writing his column, until abruptly cancelling it this week.

He cites conflicts with his duties as a backbencher and husband.

But, given the events of last week, we have to wonder if he, too, was given an ultimatum by the Conservative whip.

Harper likes to control the message. And Turner was a maverick with a pen. (RM)