Editorial 31-6

Seizing opportunity and taking risk may not be considered innately Canadian traits but they should be. US president Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House, his nativist rhetoric and the Republican Party’s plans to slash spending on key areas of research have opened up opportunities on several levels.

As our southern neighbour turns inward, Canada is moving in the opposite direction, moving onto the world stage and staking out a bold position as open, inclusive and innovative. The talent we require to build up our knowledge-based economy may now consider Canada a more attractive option than a polarized nation seemingly unable to reign in violence and intolerance.

The recently announced Global Talent Stream of the freshly minted Global Skills Strategy is a potent example of seizing on the glaring disparities between our two nations, offering companies and research institutions fast turnaround for applications to bring in foreign talent. Striking while the iron is hot seems almost un-Canadian but wholly appropriate given the circumstances.

The Trump administration’s budgetary intentions for 2018 call for deep cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, and that’s just for starters.

Canada has demonstrated strengths in these areas, affording us an opportunity to lure skilled talent from the US and elsewhere while repatriating Canadian companies and researchers that left during the science cuts of the Harper years. The new Innovation & Skills Strategy, if properly resourced and implemented, could be the tool for ushering in a new era of innovation and knowledge-based growth.

Then there’s the risk. With an unhinged demagogue now installed in the White House, there’s the chance of retaliation, possibly greater than the perceived offence. But as the old saying goes, without risk there’s no reward.

Mark Henderson, Editor