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article imageOp-Ed: Scientist being investigated for Harperman protest song

By Ken Hanly     Aug 29, 2015 in Politics
Ottawa - Apparently, working for the Harper government means that you must not write protest songs that are not politically correct according to the Public Service Ethics Code.
Of course the Harper government is notorious for silencing its scientists in other ways as well. A 2014 study of media policies from 16 federal departments concluded that compared to the US, current Canadian policies place far more restrictions on Canadian scientists when it comes to talking to the media. In one instance last year, the Canadian Press sought to speak to federal government scientist Max Bothwell about his work on algae. After an exchange of 110 pages of emails to 16 different federal communications offices an article was published without the interview.
Tony Turner, was not speaking to the media without permission, he was performing with a group of mostly elderly singers, a protest song "Harperman". The song certainly suggests Harper should go and is highly critical of the prime minister as one would expect in a protest song. Most of the issues brought up are well known and established criticisms. For offensiveness it can hardly compete with Pussy Riot!
The Professional Institute for the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) is representing Turner. PIPSC president Debi Daviau said: We will stand up for its members who face the prospect of being disciplined for exercising their democratic rights as citizens. The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that public service workers, like all Canadian citizens, benefit from freedom of expression. Daviau said the the position of PIPSC was that Turner had done nothing wrong: “It (the song) had no relation whatever to his duties as a public servant,” Daviau said. Our position is that we believe that Tony Turner hasn’t done anything wrong.He is simply expressing himself through a folk song like any other artist might do.”Turner, a public servant for 19 years is nearing retirement. He was recently assigned to co-ordinate a project that would map priority areas for migratory birds.
Turner has also been active in the folk music scene since 1994. He has several CDs, and his Circle of Song is to be included in a new anthology of Canadian folk songs. The Otttawa folk musicians see the situation as a fight for freedom of speech versus the duty of a public servant of loyalty to the government. Diane McIntyre who sang one of the verses in the video said: “Can’t we make jokes or say anything? Are we all muzzled? This is the politics of fear. I am an activist and singer but mostly I am a citizen and I care about democracy and freedom of speech."
Turner won a songwriting contest with Haperman and this led to a performance at the annual Gil's Hootenanny. Chris White, the artistic director of the Ottawa Folk Festival recorded the song. There is a national singalong on Sept. 17th that will feature the song and it will go ahead whether Turner performs or not. The song was posted on You Tube in June.
Donald Savoie, a political scientist at the University of Moncton claimed that the song "crosses the line of behaviour expected of public servants". He does not say why. He also questioned Turner's judgment in publicly performing it which brought even more attention to the video. Presumably, he wants to bring more attention to the song and video. That is what protests songs are intended to do. Savoie thought that the government's judgment in investigating the song brought more attention to it. This he said risks giving the video more visibility. So what? Apparently we are to understand that the video deserves a certain amount of visibility which is less than it now has. I gather that Savoie thinks the Harper government should try to minimize the effects of protest songs. Perhaps he should apply for a job with the Harper government. Harper needs good tactical political advice right now.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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