“These allegations (of a memo directing provincial staff to stop using the term climate change) are serious (and) I was shocked to read them.” – Mike Schreiner, Leader, Green Party of Ontario
A News Commentary from Doug Draper
Posted August 28th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Sometime this August, an email went out to employees in the provincial government’s Ontario Parks department from an official higher up in the food chain, notifying them that; “Per Premier’s Office, we are not allowed to mention climate change in social media at this time. ….We will let you know about any change in this direction.”
On first blush, the contents of this note seems so preposterous that it leaves one wondering if it is, to use a Trump term, “fake news.”
Indeed, a follow up memo was sent to Ontario government employees this past August 24th from Steven Davison, an acting secretary for the Ford cabinet, calling the information in the email “false” and adding that “the premier’s office never provided direction regarding the reference of climate change in social media posts.”“The (Ontario) Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks remains responsible for climate change and it remains a priority for this ministry and this government,” Davidson’s memo continued.
In a separate letter, responding to concerns raised about the original memo by Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, the province’s Environment Minister Rod Phillips insisted that “our government takes climate change very seriously and we understand the importance of taking steps to protect the environment.”
“We care a great deal about the environment and we remain committed to take action to encourage lower emissions (of climate changing carbon and other pollutants to the atmosphere),” Phillips added in his letter to Schreiner.
So committed, one might respond to Phillips with a fair measure of sarcasm, that one of the first things Ford’s self-described “Government for the People” did after taking office this summer was scrap the former Liberal government’s “cap and trade program” to reduce carbon emissions, without having anything better or, more to the point, anything at all to replace it with.
“Promise made, promise kept,” Ford boasted when this program, which has had a record of working successfully to reduce the discharge of climate altering carbon emissions in other parts of the world, was scrapped.
The swift cancellation of this carbon reduction program by an Ontario Conservative Party with no authentic record of making environmental protection a priority going back to the time when Mike Harris became the province’s premier in the 1990s serves to justify any concern Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner and others had about the memo to staff, directing that the term “climate change” no longer be used.
Polling agencies in Canada and the United States typically find greater percentages of people who believe climate change is a hoax or has nothing to do with human activities, voting Conservative or Republican.
After all, it wasn’t that many months ago that Trump and his Republican’s to the south, which are about as close to being political soul mates to Ford’s Conservatives as two parties might possibly get, circulated a list inside some of its agencies of terms that should be banned from government documents, including “evidence-based” and “science-based,” which are frequently used with reference to research on climate change.
In his letter to Ontario Environment Minister Phillips, Schreiner writes that “these allegations (of a memo directing staff to stop using the term climate change) are serious (and) I was shocked to read them.”
Whatever has really happened hear around questions and concerns over this memo that has sparked coverage in The Toronto Star, on CBC and other media, citizens who care about the e environment and want governments to take action on climate change would be wise to err on the side of caution and keep a very close eye on what the Ford government does or doesn’t do in this area.
I’m making a very safe bet that this is far from the last time serious concerns are going to be raised about what the Fort government is or isn’t doing to protect our environment.
Now here is the Green Party leader’s letter, followed by a response letter from Ontario’s Environment Minister –
The Honourable Rod Phillips
Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks
Ferguson Block 11th Flr
77 Wellesley St W, Toronto, ON
Yesterday, reports emerged that government staff were directed to refrain from using the term ‘climate change’ on social media. The information was allegedly shared by an Ontario Parks employee who wishes to remain anonymous, but who provided a photo of the directive being sent by email.
Minister Phillips, these allegations are serious. I was shocked to read them. If true, these actions are extreme and unjustified. Government censorship of science is unacceptable in a democracy.
Ontarians are owed a clarifying statement from you or the Premier about these reports. The people of this province need to hear from their elected leaders that there is not a moratorium on talking about climate change or other scientifically accepted facts in Ontario Parks or any other government ministry or department.
Your government has maintained that it believes that climate change is real and human caused. I am asking you to please clarify what has transpired and to state unequivocally that all public servants and political staff within your ministry and all government ministries and departments are permitted to speak about climate change.
Sincerely, Mike Schreiner, Leader
Green Party of Ontario
NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .
“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders