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

In their 2017 budget tabled this week, the Liberal government delivered on their promise to strengthen science in government, but fell short in supporting basic academic research.

Delivering on their promise to establish the new Chief Science Advisor role, Budget 2017 offered $2 million annually for the CSA and related secretariat. This indicates the CSA will have supporting staff - this is inline with our recommendations to the government regarding the new role, and certainly a win for Canadian science. 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.

With a section on attracting talent to Canadian universities, the budget announced 25 new “Canada 150 Research Chairs” from the 2015 Canada Excellence Research Chairs funds, as well as a new science award - “The Prime Minister’s Gold Medal.” The government also delivered heavily on funding for the promotion of STEM skills in underrepresented groups, and made strong statements on the issues of gender inequality in science.

It’s worth noting that research funding for agriculture and agri-foods, and climate change projects were included in this budget, with a strong focus on government research for clean technology and the health implications of climate change.

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 and concerning. These tri-council granting agencies (NSERC, CIHR and SSHRC) serve as the backbone of Canadian academic research, and 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, and to stand up for fundamental science when it’s so harshly under attack in the United States.

Budget 2017 also addressed the Fundamental Science Review, noting that the report from the expert panel lead by David Naylor, will be made public in the coming months. Some have speculated that tri-council granting agencies could see funding announcements after the report is released and the expert panel recommendations are addressed.

In 2016, the Liberal government increased tri-council funding by $95 million  - a strong response to the nearly 8% cut to the granting agencies’ funding under Harper between 2007 and 2015.

However, a one-time bump is not enough to bring Canada up to meet its OECD peers for HERD (Higher Education expenditures on Research & Development) as percentage of GDP. Many groups, E4D included, in providing consultation to the Fundamental Science Review, called for increased, sustained funding for fundamental and discovery research, and this budget failed to deliver these requests. The government has been warned, time and time again, to bring fundamental science out from behind “the presentable facade of innovation.” As Nobel laureate John Polanyi pointed out last year - science and innovation may be linked, but their needs are very different. Budget 2017 failed to address the needs fundamental science in Canada

 

New science developments from Budget 2017:

Innovation and Skills Plan and Innovation Canada (p.46)

  • Budget 2017 establishes Innovation Canada, a new platform led by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada that will coordinate and simplify the support available to innovators.
  • Innovation Canada will develop six Economic Strategy Tables to identify innovation opportunities in advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and clean resources.
  • New platform will also undertake a whole of government review of innovation programs

Attracting Talent to Strengthen University Research (p. 68)

  • 25 “Canada 150” Research Chairs will be created to attract top-tier international scholars and researchers to Canada and enhance Canada’s reputation as a global centre for innovation, science and research excellence. The invested $117.6 million over eight years for these new chairs will come from the existing Canada Excellence Research Chairs program.

Promoting STEM to Young Canadians (p. 74)

  • $10.8 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to allow PromoScience to support more STEM learning activities for Canadian youth—in particular underrepresented groups.
  • $1.5 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to expand the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence to include 17 new STEM-themed awards. These awards will recognize teaching excellence and allow for broad sharing of teaching practices at the national level.
  • New Prime Minister’s Gold Medal. This award will recognize scientific excellence and bring greater international acclaim to Canadian scientists and researchers.

Fundamental Science Review (p. 78)

  • “In particular, the panel looked at the challenges facing women and other underrepresented groups, and considered ways to make current supports more accessible and inclusive. Findings from the review will help maintain and strengthen Canada's international standing in fundamental science and ensure that our scientists have the tools, training and support needed to excel globally.” The panel’s report will be made public in the coming months.

Strengthening Science in Government (p. 88)

  • $2 million for the Chief Science Advisor and related secretariat
  • The Government will work to develop a new federal science infrastructure strategy over the next year. This will include a review of existing investments in federal science infrastructure, including federal laboratories and testing facilities, and provide a roadmap for future investments.
  • $80 million on a cash basis over five years, starting in 2017–18, to replace the Sidney Centre for Plant Health, located in Sidney, British Columbia.

Positioning the NRC within the government’s “Innovation & Skills Plan” (p. 89)

  • The Government will undertake a review in 2017 to assess how the Council can best support the Innovation and Skills Plan.
  • The review will also assess what future role the NRC could play in “supporting innovation, creating more opportunities for women researchers and innovators, and supporting mission- driven, breakthrough research in collaboration with the new Impact Canada Fund.”
  • Renew funding of $59.6 million in 2017–18, to support the Council’s business innovation initiatives.

Innovation & economic growth projects (p. 90)

  • The Stem Cell Network, renewed funding of $6 million in 2018–19.
  • $80.9 million on a cash basis over five years, starting in 2017–18, for new projects through the Canadian Space Agency that will demonstrate and utilize Canadian innovations in space, including in the field of quantum technology as well as for Mars surface observation. The latter project will enable Canada to join the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) next Mars Orbiter Mission.
  • Quantum Computing to receive renewed funding of $10 million over two years, starting in 2017–18.
  • The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) will receive renewed and enhanced funding of $35 million over five years, starting in 2017–18.
  • $125 million, administered by CIFAR, to launch a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy

Advancing Agricultural Science and Innovation (p. 108)

  • $70 million over six years for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada starting in 2017–18, to further support agricultural discovery science and innovation, with a focus on climate change and soil and water conservation
  • $73.5 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to ECCC and NRCan to establish a new "Canadian Centre for Climate Services” for increased access to climate science and data by provinces, Indigenous groups, and other partners.
  • Establish National action plan to assess health impacts of climate change – Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the CIHR with $47.0 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to develop and implement this plan
  • $83.8 million over five years for INAC to integrate indigenous and traditional knowledge into climate change adaptation measures
  • $200 million over four years, starting in 2017–18, to Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Clean technologies at varying stages of maturity will be eligible, and eligible recipients will include industry, academia, federal laboratories and other research organizations. (p. 99)
  • $21.6 million over four years, starting in 2017–18, to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada to continue the Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program

Conservation and resource protection (p. 124-126)

  • $364 million over two years to the Parks Canada Agency to continue its management of national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites.
  • $43.8 million over five years to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for aquatic invasive species programming
  • $70.5 million over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada to protect Canada’s freshwater resources, including in the Great Lakes and Lake Winnipeg Basins.
  • $201 million over four years to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada and the National Research Council Canada to continue to take action to address both indoor and outdoor air pollution.

Carbon (p. 127 - 128)

  • $11.4 million over four years to Environment and Climate Change Canada to support the accelerated replacement of coal-fired electricity generation by 2030
  • $56.9 million over four years to develop greenhouse gas regulations in the marine, rail, aviation and vehicle sectors.
  • $17.2 million over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada and Transport Canada to develop retrofit regulations and a clean fuel standard.
  • $13.5 million over five years to Natural Resources Canada to help reach target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from federal operations by at least 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030

Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (p. 129)

  • $73.5 million over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada to establish the Canadian Centre for Climate Services and build regional adaptation capacity and expertise.
  • $47.0 million over five years to Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for a national action plan on the health risks caused by climate change.
  • $18.0 million over five years for Health Canada to implement a climate change and health adaptation program for First Nations and Inuit communities.
  • $83.8 million over five years to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for integrating traditional Indigenous knowledge to build a better understanding of climate change and increase resiliency of northern communities.
  • $21.6 million over four years to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada for the Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program and the Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative.
  • $16.4 million over five years to Transport Canada to ensure that Canada’s federally managed roads, bridges, rail systems and ports are able to withstand the effects of natural disasters, climate change and extreme weather events.
  • $135.4 million over four years to Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada to ensure a co-ordinated, whole-of-government approach to climate change
  • $26.4 million over five years to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to support Indigenous collaboration on climate change.

Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (p. 159)

  • $22.7 million per year ongoing for Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support the national measures associated with the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy

Indigenous Stewardship (p. 170)

  • $25 million over five years to support a pilot Indigenous Guardians Program, facilitating ways for Indigenous communities to manage their traditional lands and waterways, monitor ecological health, maintain cultural sites, and protect sensitive areas and species.


 

Kathleen Walsh

Interim Executive Director

Kathleen Walsh brings a strong background in policy advocacy and campaigning to E4D as the organization’s Interim Executive Director. She has devoted her time to a number of non-profit organizations including the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Rideau Institute, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Equal Voice, and Famous 5 Ottawa.