Their hope apparently is that it will be obvious to anyone that research about squirrels or lemmings or what have you is clearly not a contribution to the public good. "Leave it to the free market," one can almost hear them say. "If the people want to know about population cycles of arctic rodents, or, as is the issue today, northern flying squirrel reproductive success, let them buy tickets!"
These examples give rise to much hilarity. See for example the headline in yesterday's Toronto Star: "Squirrel sex-life research is nuts: Tory"
The article's lead:
It sounds nutty, but it's true: Premier Dalton McGuinty's personal ministry is spending $150,000 to study the sex lives of northern flying squirrels.The article goes on to give a brief sketch of what sounds like important and interesting research.
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said with the provincial budget being introduced on Thursday, taxpayers should be aware of where their money is going.Nurses and highways are important, but if we succeed in destroying the conditions that support human life through continued degradation of the environment, or accelerated global warming, they obviously won't matter a damn. There is so much we don't know about how our world works. Research such as the project being made fun of here supplies the pieces we need to keep putting the puzzle together.
"Only these guys are so addicted to spending that they would search high and low to find someone who's studying the sex life of a flying squirrel.
"People have to ask ...: Is the public interest being served by the expenditure of this money?
"Academic freedom is great and people can study whatever they wish, but we don't have to support all of that kind of work with research grants ...when we don't have enough money for nurses or to build highways or fund a lot of other things."
It is frightening that people in positions of power in Canada apparently fail to understand this. And the scariest thing of all is that the guys on the federal level who habitually called the funding of biological and ecological research "waste" are now in government.