Canadians convinced that science and technology hold the potential for unlocking the nation’s future prosperity and well being can be forgiven if they mistook Paul Martin for Santa Claus last week. On the very day that he took the reins of power, Martin unveiled a sack full of policy goodies and appointments, many S&T-related and all designed to leaving Canadians feeling good before the holidays.
Been hoping for a national science advisor to provide the PM with sage advice? No problem. How about reviving the languishing innovation agenda with an action plan and implementation time table? Consider it done. Want new investments to go further downstream and assist firms in commercializing their products and services? Watch and be amazed.
As Finance minister, Martin gained a reputation as a tough but fair taskmaster when it came to the nation’s finances and (then) ballooning deficit. With fiscal order restored circa 1997, he initiated a remarkable string of S&T investments that have continued to this day.
The Santa Claus moniker is therefore well deserved, but will it continue? The federal Budget surpluses of the past few years have dwindled, meaning a well-structured round of priority setting is in order. Those S&T investments that have performed well will continue, while those that have not lived up to previous billing may be trimmed or cut altogether. Such an exercise will be essential to implement the ambitious S&T agenda Martin and his team are now formulating.
At the beginning of Martin’s term, the future of S&T looks bright. Next stop is the throne speech and a spring Budget.