The Harperman imbroglio


in Canada, Films and movies, Geek stuff, Law, Music, Ottawa, Politics

This little song, written by Environment Canada scientist Tony Turner, has received a lot of media attention:

CBC: Harperman case: Can public servants be political activists?

The Guardian: Canada government suspends scientist for folk song about prime minister

Both the song and the public responses point to one of the big unsettled questions about the appropriate conduct of the public service. What are citizens who are employed to serve the public interest meant to do when the country is badly governed by their political bosses?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

. August 30, 2015 at 7:10 am

What happened to people being afraid of me?

I spent ten years cultivating an image of intimidation.

And now some bird expert is going to undo it?

I will not be taken down by a group of folk singers

Unitarian Church or not, I’ll take them out!

. August 31, 2015 at 2:40 pm
alena September 1, 2015 at 11:25 am

Great spirit lifting song–it is possible to turn this country around. I hope that everyone will go out and vote.

. September 2, 2015 at 8:52 pm
. September 17, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Political song ‘Harperman’ going coast to coast on Thursday

Singer/songwriter Tony Turner won’t be there when “Harperman” is sung on Thursday on Parliament Hill, or at any of the 41 events across Canada.

. September 19, 2015 at 5:17 pm

The Canadian Conservative government’s war on science, statistics and evidence have been a great boon to its ability to create policy that helps its friends and destroys the country, but the deep and arbitrary cuts to science and statistics have eroded Canada’s ability to know what is happening in the country to a terrifying extent.

Even as other countries are moving to “open data” as a matter of course in government policy, Canada has embraced a deepening, suspicious secrecy. Data that used to be open is gone — but ministers like the outgoing Tony Clement praise the openness of government with a straight face.

Reading Anne Kingston’s story in Macleans was like being on the receiving side of a boxer’s speed-bag practice, one punch after another, one bad policy after another. I pasted in a very small sample below, but if there’s one article you read in full this weekend — whether or not you’re in Canada — this is the one. If you want to understand how a digital transition in government can be a stealth attack on the very idea of truth and knowledge, read this.

Canada has a new underground of scientists and statisticians and wonks who’ve founded a movement called LOCKSS — “Lots of copies, keep stuff safe” — who make their own archives of disappeared data, from the libraries of one-of-a-kind docs that have been literally incinerated or sent to dumpsters to the websites that vanish without notice. There’s an election this October — perhaps we can call on them then to restore the country’s lost memory.

. September 19, 2015 at 11:39 pm
. September 19, 2015 at 11:43 pm
. September 20, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Lost StatsCan studies have been replaced by new studies—but what the new data track can be telling. The Households and the Environment Survey, begun in 2013, for example, tracks Canadians’ involvement with the environment—using measures such as birdwatching and volunteerism. The latest data reveal that 25 per cent of households have bird houses or feeders, and 18 per cent engaged in unpaid activities aimed at “conservation or protection of the environment or wildlife.”

Yet tax-funded environmental monitoring, conservation and protection has been debilitated with the closure of 200 scientific research institutions, many of which monitored food safety and environmental contaminants. Some were internationally famous. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut, which played a key role in discovering a huge hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic, closed in 2012. Also shuttered was a brand-new climate-controlled facility at the St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick. The original station provided writer Rachel Carson with documentation of DDT killing salmon in local rivers reported in her 1960 book Silent Spring, credited with giving rise to environmentalism.

The data gap naturally affects policy. “How can Environment Canada know how pollution from the oil sands has changed over the last 30 years, if they don’t have access to baseline reports?” asks Hoff, who reports that former Environment Canada colleagues call him for reports they can no longer access internally. Fisheries scientist Jeffrey Hutchings, a professor at Dalhousie University, says he can’t find studies on cod stocks dating to the 19th century that he referenced two decades ago at the now-closed St. John’s library, which had profound implications for cod management. “The work I was able to do then couldn’t be done now.”

. October 2, 2015 at 2:44 pm

‘Harperman’ singer retires amid conflict of interest investigation

The Environment Canada scientist whose anti-Stephen Harper folk song “Harperman” got him suspended from his job is retiring rather than waiting out an investigation into his behaviour.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the union that represents Tony Turner, says Turner’s retirement took effect this week.

He was suspended with pay this summer for alleging breaching the government of Canada’s values and ethics code for public servants by recording and posting on YouTube a song that takes the prime minister’s policies to task and concludes that “Harperman, it’s time for you to go.”

In a release, Turner says he was assured of a quick investigation, but as the weeks have dragged on he’s now decided it is better to retire from the civil service.

Turner says he continues to believe he acted within his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and says he did not act contrary to Environment Canada’s values and ethics code.

A spokeswoman for the public service union says Turner’s retirement does not affect the rights of other civil servants to free political speech, a right that was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1991.

. November 2, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Top bureaucrats met to resist partisanship imposed on public service

Deputy ministers gathered in May to discuss ‘creeping politicization’ of federal public service

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