Stephen Harper's petro-Tories have a well-earned reputation for suppressing inconvenient environmental science, but they attained new Stalinist lows when their ministers prohibited Canadian Ice Services from disclosing their government-funded research on the rapid loss of Arctic ice.
The CIS scientists had asked for permission to hold a "strictly factual" press briefing on the catastrophic loss of northern ice, for which they required nine levels of government approval; the sixth level — ministerial offices — vetoed it.
Ice on the northern pole isn't just a bellwether for warming and an important habitat — the white polar ice increases the planet's albedo and reflects back much of the sun's heat.
Observers say the case is further evidence of the way the Conservative government is silencing scientists.
"It's suppression through bureaucracy," said Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy (E4D), an Ottawa-based non-profit pushing for open communication of government science.
"Why is it that we need nine levels of approval for this sort of thing, what's the justification," said biologist Scott Findlay, a co-founder of E4D and member of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa.
He said the government's "Byzantine message control" is not only wasting time, money and resources, but having a "corrosive" effect on the public service.
Federal government puts polar briefings on ice [Margaret Munro/Postmedia]
(Image: Frozen Greenland Meltpond, NASA Goddard, CC-BY)