The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) was created 25 years ago to advise the Canadian government how to achieve a sustainable economy. It operated as an arm’s length policy advisory agency with multi-stakeholder, cross Canada representation. The NRTEE took its job seriously, and its reports, especially on climate change, repeatedly embarrassed the Conservatives. Last May, they announced that NRTEE funding would cease at the end of March 2013. That time has come.
Not content with preventing the NRTEE from issuing any new reports, the Conservatives have also taken steps to minimize future access to its existing reports, which are so critical of them. NRTEE had arranged to transfer its documents to the website of Sustainable Prosperity, a think-tank based at the University of Ottawa, where the documents would have been easily searchable and accessed.
Instead, at the last moment federal Minister of the Environment Peter Kent forced the NTREE to transfer its documents only to Library And Archives Canada (“LAC”), where he “intends” that the information will be made available “in accordance with Government Canada Information and Publications Policies”. The LAC was established in 2004 by the Library and Archives of Canada Act, with its stated purposes including preservation of Canada’s documentary heritage, being a source of enduring knowledge that is accessible to everyone, and serving as the “continuing memory” of the federal government.
Unfortunately, the “continuing memory” of the federal government doesn’t seem to include sharing knowledge with the public or media. Documents on that website site are not Google-able (why on earth not?) and generally very hard to access. Very recently, the new LAC Code of Conduct came into force. The Code has been roundly criticized as an instrument that will muzzle LAC employees.
How ironic, sad, frightening and infuriating, that Mr. Kent, a former journalist, would go so far to hide NRTEE documents from the public. So here we are, in a “free” democracy, where our government is methodically shutting down environmental research, silencing environmental scientists, and hiding existing reports. Is it all to keep us quiet about the adverse effects of the tar sands?