Science Highlights in Budget 2018

Budget 2018 was announced this week and we are excited to share that it includes significant investments in science and research. This budget contains significant steps towards the recommendations laid out in the Fundamental Science Review in 2017 and makes considerable mention of the Government’s commitment to evidence-based decision-making. As well as an increase of $925 million over 5 years for fundamental research through the granting councils, the Government has proposed forward-thinking solutions to challenges in Canadian science. Initiatives such as the new Tri-Council Fund for interdisciplinary and high-risk research, and investments in improving diversity and equality in academia are the right steps forward.  

This budget not only proposes significant investment in fundamental science in 2018-19, but also demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a robust Canadian science community in the future. This is a big win for science and it didn’t happen by chance. It happened because the science community pulled together and advocated in an unprecedented way over the last year. This united effort and voice was recognized in Budget 2018 by the Government:

“Since the recommendations of the Fundamental Science Review were released in 2017, the Government has heard the strong and united message from Canada’s research community on the importance of investing in the future of Canadian research - one that supports young researchers and embraces the increasingly international, interdisciplinary, high-risk and fast-breaking nature of leading-edge research.

In response, the Government is proposing measures to make Canada’s research environment more responsive, agile and modern in order to attract the world’s best researchers to Canada and take Canadian research to new heights.” (pg. 87)

Budget 2018 Highlights:

Granting Council Funding (pg. 88)

Base funding

Budget 2018 includes significant investment in the granting councils, providing historic funding of $925 million over five years, starting with $115 million in 2018-19, and $235 million per year ongoing. Here is the breakdown for the councils:

  • $354.7 million over five years ($90.1 million per year ongoing) to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
  • $354.7 million over five years ($90.1 million per year ongoing) to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
  • $215.5 million over five years ($54.8 million per year ongoing) to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Tri-council Fund

In addition to this base funding for the Granting Councils, the budget allocates an additional $275 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, and $65 million per year ongoing for a new tri-council fund to support research that is international, interdisciplinary, fast-breaking and higher-risk. This research fund will be administered by SSHRC.

Canada Research Chairs

Finally, in an effort to improve support for early-career researchers in Canada, the budget dedicates $210 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, with $50 million per year ongoing, for the Canada Research Chairs Program.

Research Support

2018 proposes to provide $231.3 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, with $58.8 million per year ongoing, to the Research Support Fund that provides universities with resources to cover the indirect costs of research, including overhead costs such as those related to the maintenance of laboratories and other research spaces.

Diversity and Equality in Academia

The granting councils have been tasked with achieving greater diversity among their research funding recipients. To support this goal, the Government proposes to provide $6 million over five years ($0.5 million ongoing) for surveys to collect improved data on researchers, and $15 million over five years to implement programs that support improved equality and diversity in academia at post-secondary institutions. (p.89)

Starting in 2018, the granting councils will be required to publish an annual report on their progress in addressing challenges in the research system, including equity and diversity, and support for researchers at various career stages. (p.254)

Canada Foundation for Innovation (pg. 90)

Budget 2018 announced important new funding for CFI to ensure researchers have access to the equipment and facilities they need to do their work.

  • $763 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, with proposal to establish permanent funding at $462 million per year by 2023.
    • NOTE - this is important as traditionally CFI funding has rollercoastered over the years - permanent and stable funding will go a long way in ensuring CFI’s success

Federal Government Research

This budget proposes a positive future for Canadian federal science by shifting focus to collaboration across science-based departments and allocating funds for the renewal of federal infrastructure and labs.

National Research Council

  • Budget 2018 announces a “re-imagined” National Research Council and proposes to provide $540 million over five years, starting in 2018-19 and $108 million annually for measures that will reinforce its research strengths and role as a trusted collaboration partner of industry. (pg. 97)
    • NOTE - the NRC has had difficult times in the last decades. While funding dwindled and it changed trajectories over successive governments, re-establishing the NRC as a world-class institute is welcomed. We will wait to see what this “re-imagining” entails.

Federal laboratory infrastructure

  • Public services and procurement Canada will begin the process for the construction of multi-purpose, collaborative, federal science and technology facilities. Funding will support a new science infrastructure program management office to support the renewal of federal laboratories. The Government proposes to provide $2.8 billion on a cash basis ($58 million on an accrual basis) over five years, starting in 2018-19 with $4.5 million per year ongoing. (pg. 98)

Environment and species at risk

  • To better protect, preserve and recover endangered whale species in Canada, the Government proposes to make available $167.4 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. This includes funding for research to help us better understand the factors affecting the health of these whales, as well as actions that we can take now to help address threats arising from human activities. (pg. 150)
  • $1 billion over five years to support the proposed new impact assessment system and Canadian Energy Regulator; increase scientific capacity in federal departments and agencies; implement the changes required to protect water, fish and navigation; and increase Indigenous and public participation. (pg. 151)
    • NOTE: This funding is related to the Government’s recent announcement of renewed environmental assessment legislation. At this point we don’t know how much of the $1 billion will go towards government science capacity.  You can read more here

POLAR Knowledge Canada

  • $20.6 million over four years, starting in 2019-20 with $5.1 million per year ongoing to POLAR Knowledge Canada. The Government proposes to amend the Canadian High Arctic Research Station Act to support the transfer of the CHARS campus to POLAR Knowledge Canada (pg. 99).
    • NOTE: This does not cover our hopes of renewed funding for climate science in Canada. You can read more about the capabilities of CHARS vs. PEARL here.

Evidence-based Decision-making

  • $41 million over five years to Statistics Canada, starting in 2018-19, with $4.4 million per year ongoing in support of a whole-of-government approach to data. The Government will also explore further options, including through legislation, to ensure Statistics Canada can respond to data needs of the 21st century. (pg. 186)
  • Evidence-based policy under the gender section - This includes proposing $6.7 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $0.6 million per year ongoing, for Statistics Canada to create a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics. The Centre will maintain a public facing GBA+ data hub to support evidence-based policy development and decision-making—both within the federal government and beyond. (pg. 54)
  • $9 million over three years, starting in 2020-21, for the Council of Canadian Academics to ensure the Government continues to have access to world-class, independent scientific assessments to inform policy development in priority areas.

Indigenous Data and Research Capability

Support for the development and management of Indigenous data, through:

  • $3.8 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $0.4 million per year ongoing, to Statistics Canada to create the Indigenous Statistical Capacity Development Initiative
  • $3.8 million in 2018–19 for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to develop a strategic plan that identifies new ways of doing research with Indigenous communities, including strategies to grow the capacity of Indigenous communities to conduct research and partner with the broader research community.

Other Research Programs

In addition to providing funds for academic research through the granting council and for government science, the budget includes funding for a number of third-party organizations:

  • $15 million over three years, starting in 2019-20 for the Institute for Quantum Computing to continue to undertake high-calibre quantum research. (pg. 95)
  • $48 million over three years, starting in 2019-20, to the Centre for Drug Research and Development in renewed support for the Centre’s efforts to translate promising drug discoveries into commercialized health innovations and therapeutic products. (pg. 95)
  • $23.6 million over four years, starting in 2018-19 to the Rick Hansen Institute to support efforts to achieve breakthroughs in spinal cord injury research and care. (pg. 95)
  • $10 million in 2018-19 to the Institute for Research on Public Policy to endow a Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation, a permanent research body to promote shared understanding of the Canadian federal community. (pg. 95)

NOTE: For future budgets, the Government will consider a new approach to determine how to allocate federal funding to third-party research organizations, as advocated by Canada’s Fundamental Science Review.


Emma Bugg

Research Assistant

Emma is passionate about social and environmental justice and has worked on climate change issues for a variety of non-profit organizations. She has worked to learn leadership and organizing skills through volunteer work, as well as through social justice leadership training programs including IMPACT!