Quirks and Quarks

The Quirks & Quarks science and environmental policy debate

The four major parties discuss fundamental science, evidence-based decisions, climate action and conservation of wilderness and species at risk

We discuss fundamental science, evidence-based decisions, climate action and wilderness conservation

(From left to right) Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan from the Liberal Party, Amita Kuttner from the Green Party, Peter Dyakowski from the Conservative Party and Diana Yoon from the New Democratic Party. They answer listener questions in the Quirks & Quarks science and environmental policy debate. (Craig Chivers / CBC, Ian Rusconi, Christine Scheewe and NDP)

Quirks & Quarks hosts a science and environmental policy debate with representatives from four national parties.

We put out a call to you, our listeners, for the science policy questions you'd like to hear the politicians speak to. We look at questions of science funding, the role of science in advising politicians on legislation and we'll look at two of the vital issues for the environment — climate and carbon emissions policy and conservation of our wilderness and the plants and animals who inhabit it.

The following has been condensed and edited for clarity

Question #1

"The question I'd like to ask is, are you committed to implementing the Naylor Report, which calls for a boost in support for fundamental research in Canada. If not, why? And if so, when?" - Andrew Pruszynski, assistant professor at Western University and Canada Research Chair in Sensory Motor Neuroscience

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan, Liberal Party candidate for Etobicoke North (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan, Liberal Party candidate for Etobicoke North: "I want to take you back to where we were in 2015. We had just had 10 years of the Harper Conservatives. There was a war on science. (...) When I was given the science portfolio, I had one overarching goal and that was to return science and research to their rightful place. And that's what I've been doing. And we made the largest new investment in research in Canadian history — $10 billion. It's a 25 per cent increase to our granting councils, which are the lifeblood of our universities."

Peter Dyakowski, Conservative Party candidate for Hamilton Mountain: "Let's not pretend that we took 10 years off from scientific advancement under the Harper government. We could look at many important innovations in Canada today that owe their birth to that period of time. (...) What we need to do is convert our basic research into the things that improve our world. We're missing an opportunity to make lives better and to make sure that we benefit economically from the work that we're doing." 

Amita Kuttner, Green Party candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour: "Fundamental science is fundamental. (...) It is the foundation of innovation and therefore something that we need as we transition to a new economy. As Greens, we actually commit to full implementation of the recommendations and full funding of the Naylor Report and the fundamental science review."

Diana Yoon, New Democratic Party candidate for Spadina-Fort York: "The reality is that the 2018 increased funding package seemed to be a one-off. [There has been] no new increase in funding to the granting agencies this year. We have to value fundamental science and applied science equally. I think that when we recognize the wealthiest corporations are likely to invest in research and development themselves, we also have to be publicly investing in fundamental science."

Question #2

"My question is: in 2017, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government appointed Dr. Mona Nemer as the Chief Science Adviser and she was given a three year mandate to carry out her activities. Are the federal parties willing to commit to this role and continue to have a chief Science Adviser within their governments?" - Farah Qaiser, graduate student at the University of Toronto

Diana Yoon, NDP: "The NDP is absolutely committed to keeping the Chief Science Adviser. (...) Expert advice should be able to be easily accessed from our all parliamentarians and not just the prime minister. And we have to make sure that the role is expanded to be a watchdog to protect and promote science across Canada."

Amita Kuttner, GRN: "We're very happy to have the Chief Science Adviser back. We also support the role staying in existence and also expanding. We would also like to see departmental science advisors safeguarded in a way that they can freely give advice and have their advice followed. And I think it's very important to talk about — not just science advising, but making sure that we follow the evidence that is presented."

Peter Dyakowski, Conservative Party candidate for Hamilton Mountain (Christine Scheewe)

Peter Dyakowski, CON.: "We're looking forward to working with that position, improving it and empowering it. We've got to make sure it's effective and providing value to Canadians. I think under the Harper government, they saw something that wasn't necessarily effective or providing value. We're committed to making sure in the future that this position does provide value."

Kirsty Duncan, LIB: "We believe in science advice to government and in strengthening evidence-based decision making. (...) I also asked Dr Nemer to develop Canada's first ever scientific integrity policy. I also asked that she helped build the science advice system, across government, by putting in place chief scientists across government science-based departments, so we can never go back to the days of decision making based on ideology."

Question #3

"My question is, what are the steps that you want Canada to take in the next decade to transform our economy to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050?" - Tony Reddin, the volunteer coordinator for the energy project of the Environmental Coalition of PEI

Amita Kuttner, GRN: "We absolutely support net zero by 2050 and also a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. (...) I want to stress that it's important to meet early targets because we're experiencing climate crises already across the planet, which means that there are people in the global south that are already suffering droughts and flooding and loss of land and sea level rise. The best we can do for others is doing stuff as quickly as possible."

Kirsty Duncan, LIB: "We are committed to the net-zero economy by 2050. (...)  And that's why we negotiated Canada's first national climate framework. We have invested billions of dollars to undertake 50 different measures to fight climate change, including putting a price on pollution, while making it affordable for families. The average family of four received a rebate in Ontario of $308 — that's more than they paid."

Diana Yoon, New Democratic Party candidate for Spadina-Fort York (NDP)

Diana Yoon, NDP: "What we are seeing is that at every level of government, we do not have the political will. We do not go far enough.  (...) The NDP government is absolutely committed to a net-zero target by 2050 and we would make different choices. When we see that $3.3 billion of fossil fuel subsidies is given up every year. We would end those fossil fuel subsidies."

Peter Dyakowski, CON: "Our technology-based approach to solving the carbon emissions issue is the only realistic approach. (...) We must serve as an example to the world of how a Western democracy, respecting the environment and the rule of law, can safely and responsibly develop our natural resources. And when I hear Minister Duncan and other members of the Liberal Party on this issue, they're speaking from both sides of their mouths. I'd like to know from the minister right now: will the Liberal Party complete the Trans Mountain pipeline that you bought with billions of our dollars?"

Kirstly Duncan, LIB: "Our government understands that the environment and the economy go hand in hand. (...) And that's why we will invest every dollar we earn from the Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada's clean energy transition."

Question #4

"My question is how would you work to improve species that risk policy and also advance the creation of protected areas in Canada to meet our international targets" - Stuart Livingstone, Researcher and Course Instructor in environmental science at the University of Toronto-Scarborough

Peter Dyakowski, CONS: "We're committed to the 17 per cent and 10 per cent goals. I'm sure I don't have to remind anyone that 'conserve' is a root word of 'conservative.' I'm a lifelong outdoorsman, conservationist and an environmentalist. We're going to consult more effectively — locally — to target the best areas to protect where we can have both the highest importance and also the most efficient accommodation to ensure that we meet these targets."

Diana Yoon, NDP: "The NDP is committed to protecting near 30 per cent of our land and our freshwater is in our oceans by 2030 backed by funding. (...) When we do conservation work, we have to recognize that Indigenous rights have to be at the forefront of that as well. We would implement a 40 million dollar coastal protection fund to clean up our ocean. We would ban single use plastics — with consideration with people with disabilities — and do a lot more to combat invasive species."

Amita Kuttner, Green Party candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour (Ian Rusconi)

Amita Kuttner, GRN: "We'd like to see our oceans protection and territorial waters go up to 30 per cent, but also our land up to 30 per cent protected by 2030, and also increasing funding to the federal departments to dramatically ramp up the development [and] implementation of endangered species recovery plans as well as protections."

Kirsty Duncan, LIB: "When we came into government, just 1% of our oceans were protected and our goal was 5% over four years. We got to 7.5%. And today, [for] our land and fresh waters, it's 11.8 per cent that are protected. But we have committed to protecting 25 per cent of our land and 25 per cent of our ocean by 2025."

You can hear the entire debate by clicking on the play button at the top of this page.