Leef’s polar bear letter reveals much about Conservative ideology

Leef's polar bear letter reveals much about Conservative ideology Recent statements by our Yukon Member of Parliament about the health of polar bear populations have triggered an avalanche of criticism. So they should. The grossly inaccurate claims tha

Recent statements by our Yukon Member of Parliament about the health of polar bear populations have triggered an avalanche of criticism. So they should. The grossly inaccurate claims that appear in Ryan Leef’s letter to Yukon constituent Heather Cobban are based on a single study that was thoroughly deconstructed and rejected by polar bear experts years ago.

It is unfortunate that people like Dr. Ian Sterling and Dr. Steven Amstrup – who have a combined 67 years of experience studying polar bears – now have to waste their time addressing this misinformation. The letter is useful, however, in providing greater insight into our current government’s difficult relationship with climate science.

Let us be clear: this is not a simple misunderstanding about current science on polar bear populations. In his letter, Mr. Leef is deliberately endorsing the findings of a small minority of scientists – widely viewed as a fringe group of climate skeptics – at the expense of extensive and robust scientific evidence from the most prominent researchers in this field. Not only is he marginalizing a vast literature of research demonstrating that declining sea ice is negatively affecting polar bear populations, but he is rejecting these findings outright as “unscientific and inconsequential to decision makers.”

In making this statement, your Yukon MP is not only demonstrating a profound lack of understanding about what makes research “scientific” or “unscientific”, but also tacitly asserting that scientific findings are inconsequential to government decision-making. This bears repeating: your political representative in parliament is saying that government decisions should not be constrained by science. Think about that.

In the (understandable) uproar that has followed this letter, Mr. Leef made some curious statements to the National Post that may help to explain his unusual position on this issue. In defending his decision to cite American climate deniers rather than our government’s own researchers and scientists at Environment Canada, our Yukon MP stated that he did not want his constituents to think that he was simply “spewing out the propaganda of his government.”

By definition, this statement implies that Mr. Leef views the research and analysis conducted by Environment Canada as systematically biased towards a specific doctrine or cause. In fact, our federal public servants are mandated to do the exact opposite: they provide unbiased and impartial information to help politicians make informed decisions about issues that matter to Canadians.

In this case, the ‘doctrine’ being propagated by Environment Canada happens to be scientific reality: our climate – especially in the North – is changing, and this is resulting in real and harmful impacts on our natural environment and ecosystems.

In conclusion, I would like Yukoners to consider the following: is it more likely that scientists studying the impacts of climate change on our environment are advocating a dissident position through disingenuous and unreliable research and analysis? Or that political officials are looking elsewhere for minority opinions because the facts presented to them by their own experts does not suit their ideology?

Stephen Roddick,


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 4, 2020

Dawson City’s BHB Storage facility experienced a break-and-enter last month, according to Yukon RCMP. (File photo)
Storage lockers damaged, items stolen in Dawson City

BHB Storage facility victim to second Dawson City break-and-enter last month

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new councillor in a byelection held Dec. 3. (Wikimedia Commons)
Watson Lake elects new councillor

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new… Continue reading

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Most Read