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

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver talks to media on March 5, 2020. The Yukon government said Jan. 25 that it is disappointed in a decision by the federal government to send the Kudz Ze Kayah mining project back to the drawing board. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Territorial and federal governments at odds over Kudz Ze Kayah mine project

The federal government, backed by Liard First Nation, sent the proposal back to the screening stage


Wyatt’s World for Jan. 27, 2021

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

The office space at 151 Industrial Road in Marwell. At Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 25 meeting, members voted to sign off on the conditional use approval so Unit 6 at 151 Industrial Rd. can be used for office space. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Marwell move set for land and building services staff

Conditional use, lease approved for office space

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Most Read