The winter-spring season in Canada coincides with the fiscal year of governments at the federal and provincial levels. Thus, British Columbia’s new government handed down its first full budget on February 20 while Ontario is scheduled to announce its budget on March 28.
But none was more anticipated by the R&D and innovation communities than the federal budget, which delivered up to $6.4 billion over five years in commitments for the sector. It still falls short of the recommendations in the Naylor report but the government response to calls for increased research funding left many in the ecosystem ecstatic, especially its commitments for fundamental research and research infrastructure build-up and maintenance.
For years, there was the dry spell left behind by the former Conservative government. It took a united front for the R&D voice to be heard. The shrinking spending power of the granting councils is only the most visible legacy the Budget confronted. Budget documents reflect a serious attempt to coordinate and integrate federal S&T spending, and there’s $2.8 billion to construct a series of multi-purpose R&D facilities where departments and agencies can collaborate.
But what remains to be seen is how these committed funds will flow as the 367-page Budget document is short on details that one hopes will be developed in the coming months. For example, it is not clear how the $572 million earmarked for the implementation of the digital research infrastructure strategy will be deployed. New competition rules for third party research organizations are also not spelled out.
For now, many in the community are still reveling about how they finally got government to listen and respond. But after all that has died down, stakeholders know that there’s much work to be done. It’s up to them to follow through by remaining vigilant to what comes next.