Supporting our scientists

Posted on February 25, 2009 in Debates, Education Debates, Governance Debates – Opinion – Supporting our scientists
February 25, 2009. Gary Goodyear

It’s unfortunate that Liberal MP Marc Garneau, whose op-ed “Support our scientists” appeared in the Post on Feb. 11, has not taken the time to properly read the federal budget. Otherwise, he would have noticed that the government of Canada has made substantial new investments in science and technology. What is odd about his criticisms is that the Official Opposition did not bother to make any pre-budget submissions in support of science and technology programs. Stranger still, Mr. Garneau voted in favour of the budget that he now criticizes.

Our government understands that innovation is essential to help our economy recover quickly, create jobs for the future and improve the quality of life of Canadians. Supporting innovation is especially important during the current global economic slowdown. Countries that invest heavily in research and development during difficult economic times emerge from recession stronger and more quickly than those that do not.

Our government is committed to basic, discovery-oriented research. Compared to other nations, Canada is extremely good at supporting university-based research. We invest more in higher-education research and development than any other country in the Group of Seven as a proportion of GDP. We are second only to Sweden in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development and well ahead of the United States (which ranks 17th).

Where Canada lags behind other countries, however, is in the area of commercialization — getting innovations from the lab to the marketplace where Canadians and people around the world can benefit from our newest discoveries.

That’s why two years ago Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched our government’s Science and Technology Strategy. We want to help Canadians turn their ideas into innovations, get discoveries into the marketplace and make better use of our talented researchers.

We’ve put in place a strong foundation of support for science and technology over the last few years and backed up that support with significant new investments. Since 2006, our government has provided $1.3-billion to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to develop, recruit and retain the best researchers in the world.

We created the Vanier Scholarships, launched the Industrial R&D Internship program and increased funding for the Canada Graduate Scholarships to encourage and develop new research talent.

In the past three budgets, we’ve increased funding for Canada’s three granting councils by a total of $205-million per year, providing more opportunities for scientists across the country to do more research.

As part of the government’s commitment to ensuring value for taxpayer dollars, the granting councils identified areas within their organizations where funding could be used most effectively. We are reinvesting these funds in science and technology programs.

Before Mr. Garneau criticized this review, perhaps he should have checked with Michael Ignatieff, John McCallum or Scott Brison, who have all been quoted as favouring a strategic review process in government.

Our government has opened Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research to promote the commercialization and job-creating potential of Canada’s leading-edge technologies, products and services.

We recognize the importance of Genome Canada and its work, so we’ve provided Genome with stable, predictable, long-term funding. I look forward to continuing to work with that organization as a funding partner.

This year, we’re adding $200-million to the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program to help small and medium-sized businesses innovate and conduct their own research. We have also embarked on an unprecedented $2-billion program to repair, refurbish and expand research facilities at colleges and universities across Canada.

In total, our government committed $5.1-billion to new investments for science and technology in our Economic Action Plan.

While others are busy being critical, our government is attracting the best researchers, providing them with the best equipment and helping them make more of their innovations available to Canadians.

-MP Gary Goodyear is Minister of State (Science and Technology).

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