Public Values

Federal scientists launch campaign to end self-policing in food industry

Research, regulation, power to act in the public interest need to be restored.

Michele Demers of PIPSCOTTAWA, November 3, 2008 — in the wake of the listeriosis tragedy and as Canadians face a continuing crisis with tainted foods and unsafe products, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the union representing 55,000 government professionals and scientists is launching a campaign to defend Public Science.

A series of government actions and policy decisions have seriously undermined both the capacity and the reputation of public science which is intended above all else to be independent, non-partisan and committed to advancing the public interest.

"Playing politics with science is a dangerous game," says Michele Demers, President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. "Too many Canadians have been affected by tainted food. It's about time we put public health and safety first."

"With its gag orders, firings and accusations of partisanship levelled at scientists and regulators, this government has done incalculable damage," adds Demers.

The national campaign launched today features radio advertisements running in markets from coast to coast, transit shelter and bus ads, and a Web site — www.publicscience.ca — which allows visitors to send targeted messages to Members of Parliament. The campaign draws attention to the harm deregulation and underfunding are doing to public scientists' ability to protect Canadians, their environment and their economic prospects.

"Listeriosis is only the tip of the iceberg of the dangers deregulation is opening up in this country," says Demers. "By eliminating rules and handing responsibility for safety to industry in sectors like transportation, food and consumer products, the federal government is playing fast and loose with Canadians health and safety."

In addition to other food borne bacteria and toxins, industry self-policing is also threatening Canadians in the transport sector, as the federal government moves to hand off responsibility for air safety to the airlines having previously done the same with rail safety.

Deregulation has gone hand in hand with cuts to resources ranging from the closure of weather offices and defunding climate research, ending food inspection programs and privatizing federal laboratories.

"Government regulators, inspectors and researchers are working with their hands tied behind their backs. They don't have the mandate, the time or the resources to do their jobs," says Demers. "Worse yet, they don't have the legal tools they need to get dangerous products off the market and punish companies that break the law."

Through the Public Science campaign, the Professional Institute and its members will work with allies in the scientific community and beyond to highlight the importance of public science and to press the newly elected Parliament to reverse the government's course. The campaign will advocate for an immediate end to industry self-policing, adequate resources for important research, and new powers and resources for independent regulators to enforce laws to protect all Canadians.

"The public good depends on good public science," concludes Demers. "Our campaign will make sure that Canadians are aware of the achievements and contributions of public science and how we can't afford to do without it."

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is a national union representing 55,000 professionals and scientists across Canada.

Posted: November 05, 2008

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