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KIP Money Being Distributed Equitably, Sort Of

October 23, 2009

The inequitable distribution of stimulus money between Conservative and non-Conservative ridings has been receiving a lot of press. An investigation by the Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Ottawa Citizen showed that Conservative ridings are receiving  disproportionate share of the big-money spending announcements. A report in today’s Globe and Mail also shows that Conservative ridings are receiving about 38% more money than non-Conservative ridings through the Recreational Infrastructure Canada program. Accusations of partisan favoritism weren’t helped by the numerous pictures of Tory MPs handing out oversized government cheques with Conservative logos and their personal signatures on them…

So, what about spending through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP) – the “federal initiative to renew Canada’s college and university infrastructure”?

Depending on how one counts it, the Conservatives seem to be spending this money fairly equitably; the proportion of money spent in ridings represented by each party is roughly equivalent to the proportion of seats each party won in the last election.

To calculate the figures, I used the funding announcements from the government’s KIP site, and determined in which riding each announcement was being spent. Where institutions had multiple relevant campuses in ridings held by more than one party, I split the funding between the parties accordingly.

The results? There are a total of $1.56-billion in project spending announcements on the KIP site. Here’s how it breaks down:

Party Affiliation Amount Spent % KIP spending % Seats won in 2008 Election
Conservatives $772M 49.5 46.4
Liberals $394M 25.2 25.0
NDP $236M 15.1 12.0
BQ $147M 9.4 15.9

These numbers are admittedly rough – KIP spending is expected to reach $2-billion, so there are a number of announcements yet to come. Nonetheless, these numbers seem to suggest that KIP spending is being divvied up in a non-partisan way.

This equitable spending, however, puts the lie to the pretense that this money demonstrates the government’s commitment to science and research. Funding decisions for research would not be determined by partisan or geographic concerns (note: quick analysis suggests that the money is also being spent equitably according to geography/population). Instead, funding would be spent according to the needs/qualifications of the projects at the various institutions. Under such a funding strategy, we would expect that the larger schools would receive higher levels of funding.

Given that the biggest schools are located in the urban centres where the Tories do most poorly, a funding strategy based on either merit or sheer size should actually skew the numbers toward the Liberals (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal), NDP (Vancouver, Toronto), and BQ (Montreal, Quebec). Indeed, of the ten biggest universities in Canada, only one is located in a Conservative riding (Uof Alberta). Nonetheless, half of the ten biggest individual KIP spending announcements are in Conservative ridings.

Indeed, the third largest KIP spending announcement – $38-million – is for Conestoga College – whose Cambridge campus is located in Science Minister Gary Goodyear’s riding. Conestoga College, which also received funding for a second $5.8-million project, has 7,500 full-time students.

Despite the fact that the numbers undermine the government’s claims to be supporting research with KIP money, I thought the Conservatives could use some good news on the money-distributing front. As an economic stimulus, the KIP spending is being equitably distributed (with caveats…).

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    October 23, 2009 14:15

    We are being bribed with our own money. Nothing new! It also shows the futility of trying to raise the level of the debate. I am not sure that the NIH got it any better since its ridiculous success rates for challenge grants (3-4%) was a make work project (perhaps the hidden agenda was to employ more people to deal with reviewing grant applications). However, at least the US based their science funding on some semblance of peer-review and, therefore, excellence. Unfortunately, Canada has tossed out excellence in favour of pork barrel tradition and the incumbent politicians are thankful they’ve at last found a way to stuff the pockets of their favoured constituents based on location rather than ability. We’ll be paying for this so-called stimulus of rink acreage and second rate college decoration for the next 50 years. It’s depressing.


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