– “As the announcement of the next federal election approaches, the Conservative government’s scientific track record has been less than stellar,” said Max Roy, President of the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université (FQPPU). Its actions—such as muzzling scientists, abolishing the long form of the census, closing research centres and libraries, and diverting funding from university research to research that benefits businesses—cannot be ignored. Unsurprisingly, the budget presented by Minister Oliver follows the same logic as that behind its past actions: science dictated by the market.
“Basic research has been almost completely abandoned by the current government, which has put all its eggs in one basket: applied, marketable research,” continued Mr. Roy. Although the three federal granting agencies (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR) will be able to distribute an additional $37 million in permanent funding, this funding will be mainly directed toward research partnerships and research driven by industry. However, the three agencies’ budgets had decreased systematically since 2007, and so not only will the additional amount be allocated to politically oriented programs, but in effect, it will only be making up for previous budget cuts.
The controversial Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which is also economically oriented, will receive $950 million in funding this year. When the program was announced last year, it raised the ire of Canada’s scientific community, which voiced its concern over the fact that the Conservative government was once again funding research that would bolster its political agenda. Two Deputy Ministers are currently seated on the Fund’s steering committee and the composition of its selection board has yet to be announced. The FQPPU remains steadfast in its belief that research grants should be awarded based on independent peer review.
In a similar vein, the National Research Council (NRC), which in the past kept decision makers informed by providing them with independent scientific advice, became, in 2012, a service centre to stimulate business R&D. Its new mission was reaffirmed with a commitment of $119.2 million over two years beginning in 2015–2016.
By postponing research investments to subsequent years, the government is committing potential successors to its plan to undermine public research and reduce it to a means of serving the private sector.
Established in 1991, the FQPPU represents the majority of Quebec university professors at the national and international levels.