Toronto Star Op-Ed: Muzzled Scientists, Open Government and the Limits of Rules

I’ve a piece in today’s Toronto Star “Rules are no substitute for cultivating a culture of open government” about the Information Commissioners decision to investigate the muzzling of Canadian scientists.

Some choice paragraphs:

The actions of the information commissioner are to be applauded; what is less encouraging are the limits of her ability to resolve the problem. The truth is that openness, transparency and accountability cannot be created by the adoption of new codes or rules alone.

This is because even more than programs and regulations, an open government is the result of culture, norms and leadership. And here the message — felt as strongly by government scientists as any other public servants — is clear. Public servants are allowed less and less to have a perspective, to say nothing of the ability to share that perspective.

and on ways I think this has consequences that impact the government’s agenda directly:

This breakdown in culture has consequences — some of which may impact the government’s most important priorities. Take, for example, the United States’ preoccupation with Canada’s environmental record in general and its specific concerns about the oilsands in regards to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The government has spent the last month trying to burnish its environmental record in anticipation of the decision. And yet, it is amazing how few in Ottawa recognize the direct link between the openness around which government scientists can speak about their work and the degree of trust that Canadians — as well as our allies — have in our capacity to protect the environment.

I hope you’ll give it a read.

2 thoughts on “Toronto Star Op-Ed: Muzzled Scientists, Open Government and the Limits of Rules

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