Manning as champion of science
A couple of articles this weekend highlighted former Reform Party leader Preston Manning’s emergence as a voice of support for better science policy in this country. Having seen him speak on the subject at the fall’s Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), I can confirm that he is an eloquent and ardent supporter of science and scientists in Canada. His appearance at last weekend’s Science Policy Symposium in Gatineau, QC provided another opportunity to profile Mr. Manning’s thoughts on how science can better influence policy in Canada, and why it should.
Mr. Manning shared the stage at the conference with David Suzuki, two public personas assumed to be as far apart as possible on the ideological divide. My experience with Manning, however, demonstrated that when he speaks about science and environmental policy, he’s far from the cartoonish right-wing idealogue his opponents imagine. He’s thoughtful and passionate about why Canada needs to be doing a better job environmentally and scientifically. As such, he and Dr. Suzuki aren’t that far apart.
Léo Charbonneau, at the University Affairs blog Margin Notes, provides a nice summary of the presentation by the two men. Manning reiterated the main points he presented at the CSPC – scientists need to get involved in politics, scientists need to do a better job of communicating effectively, etc. Léo’s piece provides a good outline of his points, as well as Dr. Suzuki’s response. As Léo points out, there remains an unanswered question about what to do if elected officials choose not to listen to scientists, despite the best efforts of scientists to engage and communicate effectively.
The Globe and Mail’s Elizabeth Church presented a profile of Manning’s work as a spokesman for science policy in the weekend edition. It’s a nice summary of the work Manning is doing, and also addresses the pairing of Manning with Suzuki at the conference. Despite the lack of fireworks onstage, she manages to get one inflammatory quote from Suzuki: “Our big disagreement is he thinks the free market is going to solve everything, which is total bullshit.” Nice, Dr. Suzuki. That’s some effective scientist communication.