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David Baxter PhD

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Alberta scientists will be protected from 'those who would seek to undermine them'
by Drew Anderson, CBC News
September 26, 2018

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips unveils plan to create code of conduct after attacking conservatives


Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says the province's office of the chief scientist will create protections for scientists. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Alberta's environment minister went on the offensive Wednesday, slamming what she broadly described as conservative politicians who don't believe the science of climate change or science-based decision-making.

And then Shannon Phillips went one step farther and said her government would create a scientific professional code of conduct.

The code would protect scientists, their supervisors and managers working for Alberta Environment and Parks, from political interference and allow them to share their work with the public.

"The office of the chief scientist will lead the implementation independent of any political involvement or oversight," she told the Alberta Climate Summit.

"We will set the precedent that the information gathered by government meets the highest and most rigorous scientific and ethical standards."

'Shielded from political or other interests'
That came after Phillips defended her government's climate leadership plan and said the United Conservative Party would gut the program if elected and return to the old system — a move she said would undermine investment and confidence in Alberta's burgeoning renewable energy sector.

"We must not let that kind of instability undermine our growth and our recovery as Alberta exits this recession," she said.

Phillips said scientists would be encouraged to speak openly and freely about their work.

"We will ensure that this freedom is shielded from political or other interests," she said. "Science and scientists will be valued for their work and protected from those who would seek to undermine them."
Sara Hastings-Simon, the managing director of the clean Alberta economy program with the Pembina Institute — which put on the conference — says it's a positive move.

"I think it's very important as we look at the changing world that we live in, that we are making good decisions — the general public, policy makers, businesses — based on facts," she said.

"And a big part of that is understanding the science that underpins all of these changes, and so making sure that scientists are able to continue to do research and share that research is an important part of being successful as a province."

Energy sector confidence
Phillips said one of the reasons for enshrining scientific protections is to send a message that Alberta's energy sector is developed in a way that respects science and upholds the public trust.

But it was clear politics were also front of mind.

"We are seeing an inflamed rhetoric in my line of work when it comes to climate change denial, when it comes to ideological statements about cleaner air and cleaner energy," she said.

"When it comes to attacks on science and reason, I can't let that stand. That can't be the new normal. Reality isn't subjective, there is truth out there."
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