Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Dominoes of Democracy

Cause and effect. Sometimes the relationship is obvious, as in, for example, a cigarette left smoldering on a couch and the subsequent conflagration that destroys a house. Other times, to see the relationship requires some digging, some thinking, some connecting of the dots. To its shame the Harper regime, as retrograde and benighted as it is, has proven quite adept at obscuring such relationships. Thanks to this Machiavellian bent, we are all the poorer.

In a recent address to the Alberta Federation of Labour, one that, curiously, was not reported in the mainstream Alberta media, former Tory pollster and strategist Allan Gregg gave another version of his Assault on Reason speech he gave at the opening of Carleton University’s new School of Public Affairs.

Gregg made the following unassailable assertion to the group:

..."effective solutions can only be generated when they correspond with accurate understanding of they problems they are designed to solve. Evidence, facts and reason, therefore, form the sine qua non not just of good public policy, but of good value."

He went on to lament the steady decline of these criteria under the Harper government that began with the elimination of the long-form census, followed by

the destruction of the national long-gun registry, despite the pleas of virtually every police chief in Canada that it be saved. After that, under cover of an austerity budget, there were massive cuts to Statistics Canada, Library and Archives Canada, science and social science activities at Parks Canada, the Parliamentary Budget Office, the CBC, the Roundtable on the Environment, the Experimental Lakes Area, the Canadian Foundation for Climate Science and so on.

Gregg notes that these assaults on evidence-based decisions were followed by a multi-billion-dollar penitentiary-building spending spree which flew directly in the face of a mountain of evidence that suggested that crime, far from being on the rise, was on the decline.

Gregg draws the following conclusions:

"This was no random act of downsizing, but a deliberate attempt to obliterate certain activities that were previously viewed as a legitimate part of government decision making," Gregg stated. "Namely, using research, science and evidence as the basis to make public policy decisions.

"It also amounted to an attempt to eliminate anyone who would use science, facts and evidence to challenge government policies," he added.

So, beyond the obvious consequences of flawed government policy that is based on ideology instead of empiricism, what is the effect of all of this?

To be continued later today...

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