Harper’s stimulus update plugs research
In a pseudo-town hall meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper provided an update on the government’s economic stimulus plan. The wide-ranging speech was unsurprisingly positive, with the PM indicating that 80% of stimulus spending has already been allocated. The PM briefly addressed the role of research spending in the update:
Ladies and gentlemen, our Economic Action Plan is also looking beyond today’s unemployment and at the job creation of the future. And nothing is more focussed on Canada’s long-term economic future than our massive investments in scientific research and development.
In fact, led by Minister Goodyear, we are investing proportionally more in R&D than any other G7 country. This year, the three main federal research granting councils will have four hundred million dollars more for projects than they did just three years ago.
Under our Economic Action Plan another two billion dollars is going into upgrading research labs and classrooms at universities and colleges across the country.
- new internet labs at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish,
- upgraded chemistry, biological science and health innovation facilities at the University of Alberta,
- and expanded information and communication technology facilities at the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College, right here in “Canada’s Technology Triangle.”
We are also expanding rural broadband, upgrading Arctic research, and providing greater support for clean energy research. These investments and others not only stimulate economic activity today, they will also build the foundations of our economic future.
It is telling that the Prime Minister points to “internet labs” and “information technology facilities” when given the opportunity to talk about research. Why not talk about cutting edge work on diabetes at McGill University, or on protein biochemistry at UofT? What about leading researchers of global warming, or in the social sciences? The unwavering focus on infrastructure – actual “stuff” – suggests a lack of appreciation by this government for what research is, how it contributes to society, and how researchers work.
I also need to point out the slick salesmanship when the PM says, “This year, the three main federal research granting councils will have four hundred million dollars more for projects than they did just three years ago”. If this speech is about the “stimulus plan” of the most recent budget, why is the PM framing granting council funding in a three -year window? Right, because the funding to the granting councils was cut in the stimulus plan, which doesn’t make for great evidence that ” nothing is more focussed on Canada’s long-term economic future than our massive investments in scientific research and development”…