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Opinion, not science guiding federal policies, says UVic prof

Canadian politicians need to be asked some pointed questions about science, said Andrew Weaver, the Canada research chair in climate modeling and analysis at the University of Victoria.

“How do you see the role of science as informing public policy? That’s the overarching question and that’s what we should be asking our candidates,” said Weaver.

Though climate change dominates the federal political dialogue, other issues like science education in elementary schools and basic research funding in universities are just as important, he said.

“I think the public cares about the policies, not necessarily the science itself. There’s a disdain for science happening right now. Science is not informing public policy – it’s being formed on opinion,” said Weaver, who recently authored a book on the subject; Keeping our Cool, Canada in a Warming World.

Peter Nemetz, professor of sustainability and business at the University of British Columbia, said the current Conservative government has allowed opinion and ideals, rather than science, to guide policy decisions.

“A lot of progressive initiatives … have been cut for ideological reasons,” said Nemetz.

The Insite controversy is one obvious example of this scientific and ideological debate; despite scientific evidence proving its success, threats of closure by the feds loom over downtown Vancouver’s safe injection site.

“Another good question for candidates would be, do you think intelligent design should be taught in the school system,” said Weaver. “That’s not offensive, that’s an important question. It’s a very real debate in the States.”

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