B.C. scientist back at work after opposing Harper directive
CanWest News Service; Vancouver Sun Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2006
OTTAWA - A federal scientist who was fired after sharply objecting to a political directive from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has won back his position, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said Tuesday.
Andrew Okulitch, a 64-year-old ''scientist emeritus'' based in Salt Spring Island, B.C., objected to a Sept. 5 e-mail directive from Lunn's office asking bureaucrats to refer to the Government of Canada as ''Canada's New Government.''
Okulitch replied to the e-mail by writing: "While this ridiculous and embarrassing policy is in effect, I shall use Geological Survey of Canada ... as opposed to idiotic buzzwords coined by political hacks."
Okulitch soon received an e-mail from assistant deputy minister Irwin Itzkovitch telling him he could no longer be part of the emeritus program, which provides retired scientists with access to government facilities but no salary.
"Given your strong, though misdirected views, of the role and responsibilities, as well as authority of the government, as elected by the people, and your duty to reflect their decisions, I accept that you are immediately removing yourself from the emeritus program," Itzkovitch wrote.
Lunn said Tuesday the government has reversed that decision because Okulitch shouldn't have received the e-mail in the first place.
He said the requirement to use the phrase ''Canada's New Government'' was intended for bureaucrats providing correspondence for the minister's office.
''We're proud to be the New Government of Canada,'' Lunn told reporters. ''This is not something that we expect department officials or bureaucrats to use at all. It's in ministerial correspondence and, again, it's something we're quite proud of.
''And so that e-mail that went out to the scientist should never have gone out in the first place.''
© CanWest News Service 2006