Rick Mercer thinks we're living in a very different country these days, thanks largely to the Conservative government.
"This is the new Canada," he said at the end of his rant Tuesday night. "Thank you for not talking."
The CBC comedian has taken up the plight of scientists, particularly "eggheads in the Arctic," who say they feel muzzled by Ottawa. An American oceanographer working on a climate change project with Canadian scientists made waves this month when he said our federal government was limiting his academic freedom.
Conservatives are now requiring foreign researchers who work with federal scientists to sign "restrictive" new research agreements that limit how they share information.
And that's not sitting well with the "Rick Mercer Report" star.
"Our government told them they had to sign a piece of paper saying they could never discuss their findings in public unless a political staffer in Ottawa said it was okay which is never going to happen," Mercer said.
While the Canadians did what they were told — "they want to eat" — the Americans "went ballistic," Mercer said.
"It’s freedom of speech this and freedom of speech that. And the way they were carrying on you'd swear that they had been transported back in time and dropped behind the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War," he said. "Nope, you're in Canada in 2013. You want to do science in these parts you better get used to it. And get over yourselves."
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But it's not just scientists that have been silenced under Harper's Tories, he continued.
"Remember when Canada used to have a Veterans Affairs Ombudsman? He used to go on TV every night and scream bloody murder every time the government abused our veterans. Well, he's gone. They got a new guy in there now. Do a Google News search, he barely comes up. And then there's the Cabinet. If scientists have been muzzled, half of the Cabinet has had their voice boxes removed. And then there’s the backbenchers. They have taken to communicating with a series of blinks and twitches like in a hostage video."
The issue of "muzzled" scientists in Canada, though, has the potential to gain traction as more and more researchers share their frustrations. Federal scientist David Tarasick recently claimed he couldn't breathe a word to the media about his findings on one of the largest ozone holes found above the Arctic.
Veteran science journalist Margaret Munro has also done her part to shine a light on this issue. She told a group gathered at the American Association for the Advancement of Science that this kind of control from the federal government is just the way things are done now.
"It's pretty clear that for federal scientists, Ottawa decides now if the researchers can talk, what they can talk about and when they can say it," she said.
This isn't the first time that Mercer has come to the defence of the scientific community. In October, he released a scathing critique of the Harper government's decision to shut down the Experimental Lakes research station in Ontario.
All of these changes suggest a gear-shift for scientists in this part of the world, he concluded.
"So if you are a scientist, don't take it personally, times have changed. The days of discussing science and your findings in public, they’re over. It is a bygone era like smoking in the supermarket."
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All <a href="http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/environment.aspx">data comes from The Conference Board of Canada</a>.
16. The United States
4. The United Kingdom