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Budget 2017 highlights role of science in government but misses key opportunity to support academic research

In their 2017 budget tabled today, the Liberal government delivered on their promise to strengthen science in government, but fell short in supporting basic academic research.
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Kathleen Walsh, Interim Executive Director

C. 613-282-7573

“We are thrilled to see financial support for the Chief Science Advisor and their secretariat, and explicit mention of strengthening science in government,” said Kathleen Walsh, interim Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy. “The funding for the new Chief Science Advisor will go a long way in ensuring government science is open and transparent, and that government decisions are evidence-based.”

Following the strong support for academic research in last year’s budget, the complete absence of new funding for the tri-council granting agencies is surprising. This absence of new funding is a missed opportunity for Canada to benefit from the potential ‘brain gain’ given the poor outlook for science in the US.

“The tri-council granting agencies, NSERC, CIHR and SSHRC, are the backbone of Canadian academic research, said Dan Weaver, member of the Board of Directors for Evidence for Democracy. “Increased funding to the tri-councils could have presented an opportunity to truly attract research talent to Canada, especially given the situation south of the border.”

“When it comes to rebuilding science in Canada, it seems the government is resting on their laurels,” said Kathleen Walsh. “We hoped that the strong support for academic research demonstrated in their first budget would continue through to this year with an increase in funding for the tri-councils.”

The budget announced 25 new “Canada 150 Research Chairs” as well as funding for the promotion of STEM skills in underrepresented groups, and significant research funding for agriculture and agri-foods, as well as climate change. The document also addressed the ongoing Fundamental Science Review, with a report from the review panel to be released shortly.




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