As I write this on Friday, August 13, 2021 there seems seems to be unanimous consensus that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will drop the writ this weekend (Update: He did on Sunday, August 15, 2021) and Canadians
will be are voting in a federal election on September 20, 2021.
Consequently, it seems like an opportune moment to feature the Periodically Political podcast and its parent organization, Elect STEM.
These are very high minded people: Darren Anderson, Christopher Caputo, and Monika Stolar.(click on the photos)., each of whom has at least one PhD in one science or other. (There’s a little more about the co-founders at the end of this posting.)
Here’s more about Elect STEM (STEM = science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), from the website homepage,
What We Do
We seek to make science non-partisan by engaging more scientists in politics.
Issues We Focus On
We provide information and support for Canadians with a STEM background who want to engage in politics across all parties and levels of government.
I have a few questions:
- How does engaging more scientists in politics make it non-partisan? Any evidence?
- Perhaps I missed it but where on the website is the toolkit or detailed information about how to enter politics (municipal, provincial, federal)?
- How is the Elect STEM website and its podcast being funded? (Is it self-funded?)
- Why not include STEAM (the A is for arts) and STEMM (the second M is for medicine)? (My suggestion: call the organization Elect STEM+)
Clever name for the podcast series! It is an allusion to the Periodic Table of Elements, yes?
For some reason, it was decided that the December 28, 2020 podcast would be called Episode 0. (I’m not a big fan of that decision.)
Their Season 1 Episode 1 (Kyle Demes interview) was posted January 20, 2021. Note: Demes who has a PhD in Zoology works as a strategist and consultant. He does not list any political experience on his website.
I recognized a couple of politician’s names (Preston Manning and Dalton McGuinty) as being part of season 1. I’m sure there are others. Do check out the list. From the little I’ve seen, it’s quite eclectic.
You will notice that after their 13th episode, which was a recapitulation (recap) of their first season, they added more episodes (Political Bonus Track no. ?). Dr. Mona Nemer’s, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, interview (episode 15, also known as, Political Bonus Track 2) was added on Friday, August 13, 2021.
I imagine this election campaign will either jumpstart season 2 or spawn several ‘Political Bonus Tracks’. Perhaps they’ll be able to interview:
- Marc Garneau, former astronaut, PhD in Electrical Engineering, and current Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Kirsty Duncan, PhD in Geography, former minister of science and minister of sport and persons with disabilities, current MP (Member of Parliament)
- Gary Goodyear, incomplete undergraduate degree in biomechanics and psychology, Doctor of Chiropractic (?), and former Minister of State for Science & Technology
- Ted Hsu, PhD in physics, former MP
- Molly Shoichet (pronounced shoy, then, ket or quette), PhD in polymer science and engineering, biomedical engineer, briefly, Chief Scientist for Ontario (it’s first)
- Pascal Lapointe, science journalist, editor-in-chief of Agence Science-Presse (Québec’s Science Press Agency) and founder of Je Vote Pour La Science,
- Andrew Weaver, PhD in Applied Mathematics, former leader of the BC (British Columbia) Green Party and former MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly)
- Moira Stilwell, MD, originator of a BC government science’ initiative (scroll down my April 28, 2020 posting to the ‘Year of Science in British Columbia’ subhead for a brief comment about how that idea changed shape as it went through the political process), and former Minister of Advanced Education, Minister of Regional Economic and Skills Development, and Minister of Social Development, currently head of Nuclear Medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of British Columbia
- Jane Philpott, MD and former Minister of Health, Minister of Indigenous Services, and President of the Treasury Board, currently Dean of Health Sciences and Diector of the School of Medicine for Queen’s University
- Rémi Quirion, neuroscientist, PhD (I’m not able to identify in which field), The Chief Scientist of Québec
- Someone (Mehrdad Hariri?) from the Canadian Science Policy Centre?
- Perhaps there’s someone who could talk about indigenous science and politics?
- What about someone from the Northern territories? (climate change and Arctic anyone?)
As for Kennedy Stewart who’s currently mayor of Vancouver, read on as to why that might be interesting.
A few comments
I don’t have any great moral objections to Elect STEM’s purpose (get more scientists to run for political office) but I’m not convinced that elected officials with scientific training will make a big difference.
Running for office at the federal and provincial and, even, municipal (of the larger cities) levels requires name recognition, which is acquired through party affiliation. There are very few successful independent politicians at any of these levels.
Once you’ve joined a political party and decided to run under their banner, you are obliged to support the party and its leader. Should you be successfully elected, you will vote along party lines or there will be consequences.
“Turning Parliament Inside Out: Practical Ideas for Reforming Canada’s Democracy” by Kennedy Stewart, Michael Chong, and Scott Simms (published in 2017) was written by three Members of Parliament (MPs) representing each of Canada’s major three political parties at the federal level. It is eye-opening to say the least.
Since the book’s publication, Kennedy Stewart has left federal politics and become mayor of the city of Vancouver. Somewhere along the way, he appears to have lost interest in science policy. (See my November 14, 2012 posting for the first of many posts covering Stewart’s science policy efforts. Just search ‘Kennedy Stewart’ in the blog search engine for the others.)
A PhD in political science, Stewart has focused his efforts on more newsworthy topics as he campaigns for the next election. He seems to have been in campaign mode since he first got elected as mayor.
Whatever you or I may think of that approach, the current Canadian political system rewards the behaviour. It’s something to keep in mind when insisting that scientists run for political office.
More about Stolar, Caputo, and Anderson (plus a bonus)
All three co-founders have ties to either or both the University of Toronto and York University.
I don’t have much about Monika Stolar, “scientist, graphic designer, communicator, and Research & Industry Relations Officer at Simon Fraser University,” other than her website
Christopher Caputo, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair. at the Caputo Lab at York University has his profile page here.
Darren Anderson, chief executive officer (CEO) Vive Crop Protection, was featured here in an interview (thank you! in a February 25, 2011 posting) when he was Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of the company then known as Vive Nano. Most recently, the company was mentioned here on the occasion of its 15th anniversary in a July 20, 2021 posting (scroll down about 45% of the way).
I don’t imagine it’s much of a surprise that I have more about Anderson and Manning, given my interest in nanotechnologyl.
Good luck to the Stolar, Caputo, and Anderson team. I hope to hear more from them.