The detail may have been missing but Paul Martin’s speech last week upon becoming leader of the Liberal Party amplified his remarkably consistent vision of S&T in the service of a strong and prosperous 21st Century Canada. Coming in the wake of his landmark September 18th speech in Montreal, Martin is giving notice that research, innovation and the wherewithal to derive economic and social benefits from technological advances lie close to the heart of his economic and social policy agenda.
Now it’s time for the government to show its cards on progress towards completing and beginning implementation of a national innovation strategy. Many contend that the innovation strategy has been delayed by the unprecedented — some say strange — focus on leadership issues that has gripped Ottawa in recent months. Understandable perhaps, but a poor excuse for inaction.
The billions that Ottawa has already spent on R&D in recent years has to be transformed into tangible benefits that touch all Canadians and make this nation a globally competitive powerhouse in select areas. Policies and programs that enhance and accelerate commercialization are long overdue. And Martin’s recognition of the importance of moving new discoveries, ideas and processes into the marketplace is reason for optimism.
Martin has already proven that he can inspire others to share a common vision. Realizing that vision with scarce resources will be far more difficult. But with the policy fundamentals in place, Canada will be in a far better position to build on its achievements.