It’s a fairly safe bet that — barring a dramatic change in voting patterns — Canada will emerge after January 23rd with another minority government. Whether that government is Liberal or Conservative could have a major bearing on the future direction and success of the national innovation agenda.
With the Liberals, it’s a matter of taking comfort in the devil that you know. The current government has made its intentions on innovation relatively clear, and the way forward was articulated in the latest policy document — A Plan for Growth and Prosperity (R$, November 25/05). While the Liberal timing and execution of its plans for R&D, S&T and innovation leaves much to be desired, it would be hard to deny their lofty status among government priorities.
The same can’t be said of the Conservative Party. With an all-consuming focus on alleged Liberal corruption and scandal, the Conservatives have been virtually silent on Canada’s R&D performance and the need to enhance innovation. Its views on business assistance and regional agencies are well known and largely negative, meaning there would likely be a major shake-up of the mechanisms for supporting and encouraging innovation.
There’s also the matter of unfinished business. Since 1997, the Liberals have built up Canada’s research base to world class standards and reversed the brain drain. The next step is to generate a return on that huge investment. If the next government fails to develop and implement an effective commercialization agenda, billions of taxpayer dollars will have been squandered.