On August 8, members of Canada’s science and technology community were given a fresh rallying cry ahead of October’s federal election, with the launch of the national #VoteScience campaign. Organizers want to put evidence-informed decision-making and the culture of transparency onto centre stage for voters and candidates… or, at least, not completely off in the shadows.
The groups organizing the campaign — including Evidence for Democracy and the Toronto Science Policy Network — offer several strategies for influencing the election in favour of science: a social media campaign, form letters to send to MPs, advice for engaging with candidates, resources for writing op-eds, and support for planning debates and roundtable discussions.
A recent story by CBC highlights the importance of such a campaign. At a summer training session, Elections Canada told environmental groups that running paid ads about the dangers of climate change could be considered partisan, given that People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier is a climate change skeptic. You don’t have to travel back to the Harper days to see how quickly such denialism turns to science suppression. Just look south, to Donald Trump’s war on climate science and science spending.
It’s a truism that most voters prioritize the economy when choosing a candidate, which is just another way of saying that they are worried about their own cost of living, much more than climate change. The #VoteScience campaign would do well to remind people that Canada’s future prosperity depends heavily on the support and maintenance of the knowledge pipeline, from basic science to applied science to commercialization.
After all, a vote for science is just a vote for scientists, unless the final leg of the knowledge transfer journey is secured — namely, creating value from knowledge. In many knowledge-based industry sectors, intellectual property and patent protection are essential. We are heartened by the recent federal initiatives to support IP at SMEs and universities, and have committed much of this month’s issue to exploring their utility and potential. Only when Canadian-funded and Canadian-made discoveries lead to Canadian-owned IP will everyday Canadians appreciate the value of voting for science.