Monday, July 29, 2013

Momentum growing to maintain public access to the Saanich Observatory

The Centre of the Universe is perched atop Observatory Hill, next to the most important astrophysical facility in Canada, the Herzberg Institute, and right beside the Dominion Observatory which holds one of Canada's largest and most powerful telescopes. Soon we'll celebrate this telescope's 100th birthday - but will the public be invited to the party?

The Federal Conservative government has announced it is withdrawing the $250,000 needed annually to keep the Centre open.

I'm also concerned that this change could be a prelude to further cuts to the Observatory's funding and that it could be followed by additional restrictions on the public's access to Observatory Hill.

The Saanich Observatory is an important part of Victoria. It is a tourist draw, a regular component of the training routine for many cyclists, a beloved destination for star-lovers and amateur astronomers and -- most importantly -- a place where thousands of students have been awed by space and even inspired to pursue the sciences.

Observatory Hill is located within the provincial Constituency of Saanich South and dozens of residents have contacted me already to ask that I work to maintain public access. I will do my very best!

The value of this asset to the public far exceeds the cost of keeping it open. Our challenge is to make that argument persuasively to both levels of government. With your help I am confident we can do it.

This Global News piece to the right will give you an overview of where things are at right now.

I've also included the complete Hansard video of a Question Period exchange on this subject from last week so you can see for yourself what the Provincial Liberal Government is doing about this situation.

This week I am consulting widely with individuals determined to keep the "Centre of the Universe" open and preserve public access to Observatory Hill. I will share our strategy for moving forward soon.

Warm regards,


Lana Popham
MLA, Saanich South

Monday, July 22, 2013

Join the fight to save the 'Centre of the Universe'

Thousands of students (and many adults too!) have benefited from visiting the "Centre of the Universe".

And if you haven't, you best not delay as there will be only a few more opportunities to do so if the Federal Government carries through on its misguided plan to shut down the public's access to this interactive education Centre at the end of August 2013.

It is one of the only places on the south Island where the public can directly engage with high-level scientific endeavors. Every year many students visit the Centre and gain an appreciation of the power and awesomeness of outer space. Canada needs new generations of scientists and we know that the Centre has inspired many to pursue education and work in scientific fields. We must increase opportunities for our youth to engage with science. The decision to close the Centre takes us in the opposite direction.

The Official Opposition in Ottawa has released a formal petition calling on the government to keep the Centre open. It will be presented to the Federal Parliament in the Fall. You can sign it at my office, 4085 Quadra, Monday-Thursday 9:30am-5:00pm.

Please contact me at if you would like to help in the fight to keep the Centre open.



PS. You can also download the petition here, print it out and collect your own signatures!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Save the Centre of the Universe petition launched

Media Release

July 19th, 2013 - 2:23pm

19 July 2013
NDP MPs speak out against cuts to science on Vancouver Island
VICTORIA, BC - Today, Official Opposition Science and Technology Critic Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby – Douglas) and Member of Parliament Randall Garrison (Esquimalt – Juan de Fuca), launched a petition calling on the Government of Canada to restore the funding for public outreach in astronomy and astrophysics at the Centre of the Universe at Saanich’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.
“The Harper Conservatives have abandoned science in their rush to focus support on resource extraction industries,” said Garrison. “For many years, The Centre of the Universe has provided students, families, and amateur astronomy buffs with opportunities to explore space. This facility and its staff inspire the next generation of Vancouver Island scientists, but instead of investing in our future the Harper Conservatives once again ignores the needs and the aspirations of our region.”
“The closure of Centre of the Universe is just another example of how this Conservative Government is undermining science capacity in Canada,” added Stewart. “Labs across the country are closing down or cutting their workforce because fundamental research is no longer seen as worth the investment – and short-sighted decisions like these undermine long-term scientific progress and the necessary transition we must make towards a knowledge-based economy. New Democrats will continue to stand up for fundamental research, scientific freedoms and evidence-based policymaking.”
MPs Garrison and Stewart were joined by MLA Lana Popham (Saanich South) who stressed the negative impacts on her community. "The Centre is one of the few places on the south Island where the public can interact – and be inspired – by science in action. It is a tourist attraction, and a rare public asset that inspires our youth to pursue the sciences. The decision to let the Centre of the Universe go dark shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of engaging the public in the pursuit of science. " Popham said.
Please print and sign the petition attached to send to Randall in Ottawa. Postage is free, just address it to Randall Garrison, MP - House of Commons - Ottawa, ON - K1A 0A6