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Green brain drain?

January 13, 2010

A series by François Cardinal in Montreal’s La Presse this week suggests that climate researchers are preparing to lead a brain drain from Canadian campuses (here, here, and here).

The suggested reason is the decision by the Conservative government to dedicate no new funding to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospherics Science (CFCAS), the major funding agency in the country for climate and environmental research. Though the government recently extended CFCAS’s mandate by a year, through March 2012, the Foundation hasn’t received any new government funding since Paul Martin’s Liberal government dedicated $50-million to the Foundation in 2004.

Cardinal suggests researchers believe CFCAS is doomed to closure, and as many as 20 climate researchers across the country are already seeking employment elsewhere. Dr. René Laprise, the director of le Centre pour l’étude et la simulation du climat à l’échelle régionale (ESCER) de l’UQAM, suggests that his group – the only one of its kind in Quebec – will be forced to close its doors if CFCAS doesn’t receive new funding to support groups like his.

Quebeckers, more than other Canadians, are politically motivated by environmental issues. The recent photo-op of PM Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest at a green energy project announcement in Rivière du Loup (which, coincidentally, elected a Conservative candidate in a traditionally Bloc riding by election just two months ago) suggests that the Conservatives recognize that they will need to improve their environmental bona fides if they want to perform well in Quebec. We’ll see whether the forthcoming budget might include some funds to save the UQAM research group…

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