Manitoba

Conservatives not muzzling scientists, says 'Professor Popsicle' Gordon Giesbrecht

Gordon Giesbrecht, known internationally as Professor Popsicle for extreme temperature research, denies the Conservative government is muzzling scientists and cutting funding.

RAW: Conservative candidate Gordon Giesbrecht answers questions from listeners on CBC Information Radio

7 years ago
Duration 3:32
RAW: Conservative candidate Gordon Giesbrecht sat down with CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa, and took questions from listeners Wednesday morning

Gordon Giesbrecht, known internationally as Professor Popsicle for extreme temperature research, denies the Conservative government is muzzling scientists and cutting funding.
Gordon Giesbrecht speaks to CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Wednesday. (CBC)

Many in the scientific community were surprised when Giesbrecht announced he was running for the Conservatives, who were seen by many in the science community as the enemy.

"I've never been told what to say, what not to say," Giesbrecht told CBC on Wednesday, noting he has been federally-funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) since 1992.

He said the issue of muzzling has been a lot of hearsay with no solid evidence. And funding from the federal government for science has never been higher, he added.

"All I've ever heard is 'I know a guy who said this,'" Giesbrecht said. "I'm not interested in speaking about a few isolated cases."

In a 2013 survey by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, hundreds of federal government scientists said they had been asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons, and thousands said they had been prevented from responding to the media or the public.

Controversial video

The interview on Wednesday was one of the first times Giesbrecht spoke publicly since a controversial video surfaced late last month. In the 2009 video, Giesbrecht makes comparisons between abortion, 9/11 and the Holocaust.

"Six million Jews were killed in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. That's a staggering number, but get this: since abortion became legal in North America several decades ago, over 42 million unborn babies have been aborted," he says in the video. "That's a 9/11 every day for the past 35 years."

Since then, Giesbrecht has stayed out of the spotlight. He pulled out of a debate organized by the students' union at the University of Manitoba, where he teaches.

He also declined to participate in a CBC-Red River College Q&A to profile all of the Manitoba federal election candidates.

Giesbrecht on Wednesday said he has not been avoiding the public but actually trying to meet as many people as possible.
Gordon Giesbrecht says the issue of the government muzzling scientists has been a lot of hearsay with no solid evidence. Funding from the federal government for science has never been higher, he said. (CBC)

"I've been working hard talking to voters … [spending] most of my waking hours at the doors of people in the riding," he said, blaming scheduling conflicts for forcing him to back out of the debate.

Asked about the reaction on the doorsteps to the video, Giesbrecht said "there really hasn't been that many people talking about it. Some are unhappy with it but more are happy that I took a stand."

However, the abortion remarks are six years old and not made as part of an election campaign, he said, adding that Stephen Harper and the Conservative government have clearly said they are not going to reopen the abortion debate.

"And as a private member, I won't be either."

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