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Knowledge Infrastructure Program, round two

August 26, 2009

Despite having spent “93%” of Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP) funds, the government continues to drag out the dog days of summer with new KIP spending announcements. Alberta joins BC as provinces to have received a second round of announcements. The amounts announced aren’t as dramatic this time, but the money is certainly being widely spread as the feds seem to be intent on making sure everyone gets a piece of the pie. Recipients in BC include Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Northern Lights College, and the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

While I’m sure these institutions are valuable contributors to post-secondary training and education, their funding under the program underscores how little KIP spending has to do with research, despite the government’s insistence to the contrary. These are political spending announcements designed, as always, to garner votes in diverse regions and with key demographics.

Appealing to targeted voters might also explain announcements of KIP money to two Christian Universities, Trinity Western University (TWU) and Atlantic Baptist University. KIP spending is, according to the government’s press releases, designed to “keep Canada’s research and educational facilities at the forefront of scientific advancement”. The funding to Trinity Western will provide $1.7-million to fund an expansion to the facilities which house the  Department of Biology, where “biological issues are viewed in light of a thoughtful Christian perspective”.  What is this Christian perspective? According to statements attributed to Trinity Western’s Board of Governors, “A doctrine of divine creation based on Scripture is the first element of a Christian worldview”.

Government support for religious education is a controversial subject which has been widely debated in other contexts, and I’m not particularly interested in rehashing the debate. Nonetheless, I think spending designed to support “educational facilities at the forefront of scientific advancement” – spending used by the government to counter criticism that it isn’t investing enough in scientific research and is risking Canada’s place in a competitive global environment – is inappropriately targeted to institutions whose basic principle (“education firmly rooted in the Christian faith”, as Atlantic Baptist states) contradicts basic precepts of research.

KIP spending may have lots of good justifications, but support for cutting-edge research is clearly not foremost among them.

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