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The Opposite of Rational Decision Making

May 15, 2012

It’s rare that a government accused of undervaluing science and making policy decisions based on predetermined outcomes rather than rational analysis comes straight out and admits that how they function. But today Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird did exactly that.

“Why should taxpayers have to pay for more than 10 reports promoting a carbon tax, something that the people of Canada have repeatedly rejected?”

“It should agree with Canadians. It should agree with the government. No discussion of a carbon tax that would kill and hurt Canadian families.”

First, I’ll assume that the minister mispoke or was quoted wrong and that he is not implying that a carbon tax would kill Canadian families. Second, when exactly have Canadians rejected carbon taxes? I don’t remember a referendum on that. Third, worrying about public opinion is not the job of an arms-length commission that is supposed to give the government independent expert advice. In this case it was the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) which has for several years put forward arguments for how a national carbon tax would help Canada meet it’s international commitments to reduce carbon emissions without damaging the economy.

It is exactly such a group’s job to give this advice whether it is popular or not. It is the government’s job along with parliament to decide whether or not to follow that advice. The politicians are the ones who should balance the advice, what it is worth, how much citizens would support it and whether it should be enacted. If public opinion is against something that all the experts agree is good for Canada then it is the government’s duty to try to convince the public it is a good thing.  Then the opposition parties could argue against it if they don’t agree. Then if it’s not clear which side is right an election between parties explicitly supporting one policy or another may help settle the question.  That is any party could actually win a majority of the votes in Canada, which at the moment none of them, including the Conservatives, can even come close to. I shouldn’t have to to explain to Mr. Baird how democracy works but there it is.

No one who is attempting to make rational decisions in the interest of the country should be throwing away honest advice from experts which agrees with wide scientific economic opinion such as the value of carbon taxes for managing emissions. Cutting funding from NRTEE is just further proof that the Conservatives seem to have no interest in opinions which conflict with the decisions they have already made. This is folly, not decisiveness.

One Comment leave one →
  1. werdnagreb permalink
    May 15, 2012 10:27 pm

    Wow. I have never seen the government be so blatant about being anti-science. Perhaps they are getting too complacent and forgot that they need to pretend to be open minded.

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